Design Feaster interview Chantra Malee about The Malee Scholarship

Design Feaster

Chantra Malee pays it forward through the Malee Scholarship for empowering women of color as they pursue

Design Feaster Malee Scholarship

What are you working on - on the side?

The Malee Scholarship is a not-for-profit organization that I started with Sharp Type, a boutique NYC type foundry that I co-founded with my business partner and husband, Lucas Sharp. Each year, the Malee Scholarship grants a $6,000 USD scholarship to a woman from an underrepresented ethnic group in the type industry, who is passionate about type design. Our goal is to empower these women, give them a platform to show their work, and through our mentorship program, teach them the ins-and-outs of designing type and running a foundry.

In addition to selecting and awarding an annual scholar, we also recognize 3 finalists who were top contenders for the scholarship that year and also announce a small selection of Women of Typographic Excellence who demonstrated incredible skill in type design.

How do you manage to work on your side project(s)?

It takes a village! The development of the organization was challenging and incredibly fun. Throughout the process, we made sure to work with individuals whose work we greatly admired. We first commissioned Tien-Min Liao to develop the logomark, which Sharp Type designer My-Lan Thuong later evolved into a sans and serif type system, which we use as the primary typefaces for the brand. What The Studio came in later and developed our branding, and designed our website, later developed by Default Value.Our team at Sharp Type all contribute, and I’m so grateful for their participation and hard work. Florence Fu and My-Lan Thuong have been integral to the running of our institution, and Lucas Sharp plays a big role in the mentorship program, meeting with the recipients weekly to critique their work. Together with Connor Davenport, Calvin Kwok and Justin Sloane, we’re able to pull it off.

Why have a side project?

I am from the United States of Thai, Spanish and Native American descent. I, myself, was a recipient of the Urban League’s Student Scholarship Program, which provides financial assistance to students from minority groups who are pursuing higher education. From a financial aspect, the grant was huge for me, but even more profound was being seen, and recognized by their institution. I’ll never forget their generosity. Now that I’m in the position to do so, I am paying it forward.

What I wasn’t prepared for when starting The Malee Scholarship was how much I would learn from the experience and the applicants whom we’ve met since we began. They’ve opened my eyes to global cultures and social issues around the world that I wasn’t quite familiar with. Many of our applicants have not only a passion in type design but in social justice issues as well. It’s awe-inspiring to read their stories. They encourage me to be better and I’m very thankful for them, and can’t wait to see them reach great success in type.