Top 11 Typographers You Should Know
Typography is the art and science of arranging text for use in various digital and printed documents. You will notice the effects of typography all around you whether you are in the shopping mall, browsing the web, or creating content on your computer. The characters that appear in these documents were created by countless typographers — some dating back hundreds of years. Check out this article to learn more about the people behind the fonts and characters used in brochures, advertisements, and online documents.
Carter is a legend in the typography community. He is one of the few typeset designers to work with multiple technologies including physical, photo, and digital typesetting. Originally from London, he is currently based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He helped create the type foundry Bitstream with another typography legend, Mike Parker. He worked with Microsoft to make on-screen fonts more clear and improve the reading experience for longer-term viewing.
He is known for a number of character sets found on the web and word processing software including Georgia, Verdana, and Tahoma, which was used for the Windows OS. Since these fonts are widely used both online and offline, Carter has been called the "the most widely read man in the world." In addition to everything else, Carter is a MacArthur Fellow.
Jackson Cavanaugh has created many different fonts including the popular Alright Sans. Cavanaugh earned his degree in design from the College of Creative Studies and is based in Chicago, Illinois. After working for the graphic design agency VSA Partners, Cavanaugh decided to start his own business, Okay Type.
Besides starting his own company, Jackson Cavanaugh has been featured in two documentaries: Helvetica (2007) and Typeface (2009). Cavanaugh is also active on Twitter where he shares his design perspectives. According to a recent interview with Chicago magazine, Cavanaugh enjoys combining aspects of previously designed typefaces. For example, he created his best selling Harriet font by utilizing "what works about Century and the personality of Baskerville."
Cavanaugh is very thorough with his designs and likes to take his time. As a result, his projects move "very, very slowly" and involve processes that are "very iterative."
Hannes von Döhren
Hannes von Döhren is based in Berlin. He has created several different fonts and has been praised by fellow designers for his creativity and various styles. He made a spash with the release of Brandon Grotesque which was a geometric typeface. It has been very popular — some would say too popular. But it is hard to argue with such success.
Döhren currently has his own foundry, HVD Fonts. He is a very active designer having created several fonts including ITC Chino (PDF) and Livory (PDF) as well as the FF Mark and Basic Gothic (PDF) font families. Hannes von Döhren is also active on Twitter and Facebook where he posts updates about his designs.
Döhren espouses a unique design philosophy of spontaneity. He loves to experiment and come up with ideas at the spur of the moment. In an interview with ArtfulClub, Döhren said, "I simply respond to my impulses..." He also said he likes to "experiment and devise new forms."
Maria Doreuli is an up-and-coming typeface designer based in Russia. Educated at the Royal Academy of Arts at the Hague, Doreuli has designed several well-regarded fonts including Chimera and William. She is very active in the community having earned prestigious awards, hosted several workshops, and presented at exhibitions. Doreuli has also created designs for many clients throughout the United States and Europe.
When Doreuli designs a typeface, she likes to following a creative process that starts out by sketching. In fact, one of her popular fonts, Chimera started from a drawing exercise. Once she completes the sketch, she uses software to complete the font. Initially, Doreuli used Fontlab but now uses Robofont. She tries to avoid using software to design typefaces so she can come up with her own solutions and "avoid cheap decisions."
Dave Foster, a typeface designer based in Sydney, Australia, has designed numerous fonts for clients around the world. These include foundries such as the well-known Frere-Jones Type as well as major corporations including Toyota. His designs are well-known and recognized professionally. He won a Morisawa Award Gold Prize in 2012 and has been twice honored by the Type Directors Club in 2013 and 2015.
Foster is very active on the design scene. He has his own website in addition to maintaining blog. He has also participated in several design events including the 2016 Ludlow Exhibition. Foster has used his expertise to help develop many fonts including Marr Sans and Blanco.
When coming up with his own designs, especially for digital fonts, Foster tends to start a project using software. He comes up with fonts using his knowledge of graphical design and calligraphy. Foster also likes to use an iterative process where he modifies small parts of particular typeface until he reaches a point where he is "happy with it." He also believes that designing type is not an individual effort but requires the input of others and the use of tools.
Tobias Frere-Jones, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, is another important font designer. He had worked on several typeface designs for many well-known organizations including Martha Stewart Living and The Wall Street Journal.
Tobias Frere-Jones used to work closely with Jonathan Hoefler (see below). The two were known as "the Beatles of the type world." Together, they designed several fonts widely used today including Vitesse and Landmark. But they have since gone their separate ways.
Frere-Jones runs his own typeface design agency Frere-Jones Type. He also maintains a blog and has a presence on Twitter where he outlines his projects and inspirations. All told, Frere-Jones has created hundreds of typefaces, and has earned awards including the Gerrit Noordzij Prize.
Many of Frere-Jones ideas appear to be inspired by the world around him. This is evidenced in many of the names he gives his designs including his recent Retina typeface. He also draws inspiration from fonts used on public buildings and even currency. Frere-Jones also conducts a great deal of research and attempts to modify existing designs when creating his own typefaces.
As a designer based in the United States and educated at the Rhode Island School of Design, Hoefler has created many character sets that have been used in important publications such as The New York Times and Rolling Stone magazine. He has also created many different typefaces including Hoefler Text and Sentinel. Hoefler Text is especially well-known, since it has been used on the MacOS since System 7. Hoefler approaches font design by first considering how the typeface will be applied instead of relying on historical designs.
Hoefler runs Hoefler & Co. The website features many fonts which can be used in mobile phone apps and incorporated into Microsoft Office documents. He also has an active Twitter account where he introduces newly available fonts and information about typeface designs. Hoefler is also an active speaker, appearing at things like An Event Apart, which was sponsored by Adobe and Vitamin T.
Cindy Kinash, a font designer based in Vancouver, is a rising star in the typeface world. Educated at the Northern Institute of Technology, Kinash started her design career creating typefaces for clothing. Later on she decided to apply her talents to her own foundry, Cultivated Mind.
Kinash is an active designer and has created many typefaces including Hello I Like You, Happy Cloud, and Cocobella. Many of her fonts were best sellers and one of her fonts, Cocobella, was used in the movie Mood Indigo. Kinash is also active on the web with regular updates on Twitter and Instagram. Kinash also updates her Journal where she gives readers insights into her design process.
Many of Kinash's fonts appear to have a natural look. Many of the typefaces designed by Kinash are handwritten which arose out of her "becoming obsessed with hand lettering." She designs her fonts by improvising on handwritten "vintage" fonts she encounters in a "fun and playful" style. Kinash also keeps with up the latest trends.
David Jonathan Ross
Ross is a very respected and active font designer originally from LA. His interest in typeface design was piqued while he was studying at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. There he designed font faces for the school newspaper as well as his university project. Ross eventually got hired on at The Font Bureau, a foundry which designs typefaces for the retail industry as well as major publications such as The Wall Street Journal.
Ross is known for a number of fonts including Condor, Input, and Bungee. The Input font was especially designed for software developers while the Bungee font was sponsored by both Google and The Font Bureau. Because of the sponsorship, the Bungee font is open source and freely available for download. After working for The Font Bureau, Ross went on to create his own foundry, DJR.
In addition to running his foundry, Ross has presented at many different conferences including ATypI Warsaw 2016 and TYPO Berlin 2016. He has also created a few software tools to help facilitate the font creation process including some available on GitHub, one of which is called fbOpenTools. Ross is also active on Twitter where he posts various design techniques and updates on his own fonts.
When designing fonts, Ross tries to draw inspiration from various items in his own environment. For example, when designing the Bungee font, Ross took note of design details from vertical store signs and started taking pictures. Ross also believes that "fonts are software" and good fonts "solve an interesting or unusual problem" and can be created with "attention to detail."
Söderström, a graphic designer based in Sweden, started designing fonts in 2006 and has created a number of typeface designs used by a wide variety of companies including Tele2, ICA, and Acne Studios. In addition, his commercial typefaces have been used by many different companies like Apple, Red Bull, and New Republic. After working for several different companies, he founded Letters From Sweden.
Söderström approaches font design in a unique way. Instead of basing designs on previously made fonts, he first sketches the designs on a paper. Later on, he vectorizes them and turns them into an actual font. Söderström believes the best way to create fonts is to start from scratch and not build on existing designs.
Göran Söderström is very active in the font design community. You can find him on his website. He is also active on Twitter where he posts comments on various typefaces he sees in newspapers and corporate logos.
Nina Stössinger is another one of today's most important typeface designers, working out of Switzerland. Though she was initially on track to complete her education in film and history, she later switched to Multimedia Design. She is currently a designer at Frere-Jones Type and has designed many fonts including Nordvest.
Stössinger is very active on the font scene and posts regular updates on Twitter and her website. She has also taught a course at Yale and was a speaker at the Adobe Max 2016 conference. When Stössinger designs fonts, she likes to draw from several areas of knowledge. She encourages people interested in a design career to learn as much as they can. Stössinger is also very detail-oriented since she uses software, takes extensive notes on her own designs, and streamlines her own design flow with her own software tools.
Typography is a lot like music in film: hugely important to a work's impact, but largely unnoticed by most people. All of the typographers listed here are expanding the art and creating tools that expand the power of web and print design alike.
Further Reading and Resources
We have more guides, tutorials, and infographics related to web design:
- Composing Good HTML: this is a solid introduction to writing well-formed HTML and using HTML validator software.
- CSS3 — Intro, Guides and Resources: this is a great place to start learning webpage layout.
- Fonts For Web Design: a Primer: learn the basics of fonts and their use in web design.
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