You probably don't know the name Tyrsa, but you've likely seen his work. Childish Gambino's much-discussed music video "This Is America" starts with the name of the song written in scrawled cursive. Tyrsa, a French typography artist, designed that lettering and many others. He worked on the branding for House 99, David Beckham's grooming line created in partnership with L'Oral. He has designed typographic work for brands from Nike to Met & Chandon. He even appeared in a McDonald's TV commercial in France, sketching logos for a burger line. His work ranges from refined to graffiti-inspired, and some of it has the retro vibe of advertising posters from the '20s, '30s and '40s.
Tyrsa, a 33-year-old Parisian whose real name is Alexis Taeb, says he does 95 percent of his work by hand. His tools are brushes, Sharpies and spray paint, and he moves to a computer only at the end of the process. "When I sketch, I feel more free compared to working on a computer, which blocks my creativity," he says.
Taeb started as a teenage graffiti artist; the name Tyrsa is a slangy adaptation of Satyr, his graffiti name. (In France, it's common to switch around syllables in a kind of pig latin-esque street slang called Verlan.) Graffiti isn't necessarily meant to be readable to the uninitiated, and when Taeb studied graphic design, he says, "I realized it was more interesting to write legibly, where you can be understood by everybody, not just by other graffiti artists." He began his career as a freelance web designer at agencies including Havas Group-owned BETC. When it comes to typography, he's self-taught.