This year we had the pleasure of interviewing type designers, foundry founders, art directors, educators, calligraphers, graphic designers, hand-letterers, and more. Our 4 Questions 4 series showcased these ultimate typographical innovators and some of their stories. We asked each artist four questions, and they shared what led them to typography, which trends they were admiring, the projects in which they took the most pride, and their dream projects.
As 2016 draws to a close, we want to celebrate the project by thanking our 4 Questions 4 contributors, and sharing a few of their excellent responses.
1. How did you originally get interested in typography and design?
“I used to make little teen magazines as a kid – tiny folded spreads about the Jackson 5 and the Partridge Family.” – Gail Anderson
Many of our interviewees are like Anderson; they’ve been involved with art and typography since a young age. Going back through all of our 2016 interviews, we are inspired by the number of grandparents, teachers, and friends who encouraged our budding type-stars.
Roger Black’s dad was an architect. “While grounded in history,” Black said, “my father was an individualist, and he said that good designers should have their own styles.” Alejandro Lo Celso’s father and grandfather were architects, too, and his grandmother was a calligrapher. Of his early influences, he said: “it came naturally.” Even for those designers who did not necessarily have artistically inclined families, early exposures and positive encounters with art were important motivators. Dan Rhatigan recalled: “Although I thought I wanted to draw comic books when I was growing up, my time helping with my high school newspaper really exposed a much greater love for design and playing with type.”
2. What typography trends are you loving these days?
“Hand lettering…. We live in such a digital world nowadays that anything made with evidence of the human hand has become something special.” – Alexandra Snowdon
Many of our 4Q4 artists expressed a sentiment similar to Snowdon’s. The rise of hand lettering has been an exciting trend to follow, admire, and practice. Some of our interviewees explained it as a response to the internet boom; others cited improvements in web type and technology. “Web typography is no longer just trying to imitate print, but is developing into a culture of its own,” said Shoko Mugikura and Tim Ahrens. And Ludwig Übele rejoiced in aesthetic and functional typographic innovations. “The quality of use releases creative energies!” Übele exclaimed. Jackson Cavanaugh also acknowledged that graphic designers have been more committed to creative type. “Designers are looking for more expression and authenticity,” Cavanaugh said, “and this is opening the door for some people doing really interesting (and great) work.”
Our foundry founders and type makers chimed in as well. As a font creator, David Berlow considered his relationship with trends. “As a tool maker,” Berlow considered, “I love what I’m making for others to use, and when I let it go, I love the next one.” According to Berlow, trends are for those consuming his work to decide, while he moves on to the next creation. Alejandro Lo Celso summed up Berlow’s ideas saying, “A typeface you publish is like a daughter that leaves home and makes her own path. One day she comes back home with a boyfriend… and who knows if you’ll like him.”
3. Which of your projects are you most proud of thus far in your career, and why?
From window displays to experimental multicolored designs, our interviewees had ample projects to be proud of. The range of creations were impressive, and the reasons to consider them fondly were even more endearing. A few of our artists were proud of the project that most challenged them. Kyle Bean described a highlight of his career by saying: “It was an amazing experience, but also kind of terrifying.” Bean wasn’t alone in embracing fear to create an unforgettable product. Chank Diesel is most proud of his Liquorstore font, which was used on the cover of the Hunger Games and Zodiac Legacy books, “because it’s taken a long time to mature but it looks stronger than ever now.”
The struggle and the pride that comes with tackling a challenge were echoed throughout many interviews. Laura Worthington talked about Charcuterie, which she designed in 2013. “Very few collections were out at the time, and the concept of a collection was still very new,” Worthington said. She described Charcuterie’s launch as a huge risk, but one she continues to take pride in.
Artists are innovators, and innovation is driven not only by talent, but also by a willingness to take a risk, and step into the unknown.
4. Describe your dream project.
“Hi, it’s Costa Rica calling. Would you mind coming over for some weeks to design a new typeface for our tourist board? We have a beautiful apartment for you at the sea.” – Ludwig Übele
Our artists’ dreams ranged from redesigning the information system on Germany’s highway to working with the Detroit Red Wings hockey team. Other artists were nostalgic, dreaming of finishing the first typeface they ever designed. However, on the whole, most were either content in the present or eagerly looking forward to the future. Roger Black was especially enthused about his present work. “It’s always the current project!” he said proudly. Mark Simonson felt similarly saying, “I don’t think I have a ‘dream project.’ I’ve always tended to follow my interests wherever they might lead.” David Carson mentioned enjoying projects that give him creative freedom, or a new topic or audience, but he agreed that he’s done some of his “dream jobs” already. Our future-facing artists dreamed of working with large design-conscious brands and good-hearted non-profits alike; they were excited to produce work across a series of platforms, and to get into the details of typesetting.
Others dreamed of travel, guided by their passion for type. “My dream project starts with: ‘And so we’re sending you to Italy for a few months…’ Enough said.” We think so, too, Anderson.
We wish each of our 2016 interviewees good luck on their current projects, dream projects, and beyond. From those who felt “inside the dream” to the artists on the brink of the next best thing, we are grateful for your tenacity and creativity and look forward to all that you will accomplish in 2017!