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What do type designers look like?
January 26, 2011 9:47 AM   Subscribe

The Museum of Modern Art announced this week it would induct 23 digital-era typefaces into its permanent collection (Times coverage). But what do the designers of these fonts look like? Pics or it didn’t happen: first set; second.
posted by joeclark (34 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
They look like white men.
posted by theodolite at 9:48 AM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


But what do the designers of these fonts look like?

Is it bad that I imagine that question being shouted by Samuel L. Jackson while he points a gun in my face?
posted by The World Famous at 9:49 AM on January 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


From four countries. Diverse enough for you, Theodolite?
posted by joeclark at 9:50 AM on January 26, 2011


What?
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:51 AM on January 26, 2011


I'm going to say they look like white males, age 30-60. There will be a preponderance of eyeglasses.

::clicks link::

What do I win?
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:51 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


SAY WHAT AGAIN MOTHERFUCKER
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:52 AM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just flash your Mefi ID at the MoMa and waltz right in.
posted by The Whelk at 9:57 AM on January 26, 2011


From four countries. Diverse enough for you, Theodolite?

I was hoping for more interesting glasses, though I suppose there's a chance that Jonathan Hoefler's frames are a surprising color, such as yellow.
posted by theodolite at 9:57 AM on January 26, 2011


I expected the designers of serif fonts to look more like Dagwood Bumstead
posted by TedW at 10:07 AM on January 26, 2011


Picas or it didn't happen...
posted by Flashman at 10:09 AM on January 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


If this were a movie*, 2004's Matthew Carter would be the evil billionaire.

*All's Quiet on the Western Font
posted by Think_Long at 10:20 AM on January 26, 2011


Comic Sans
posted by gottabefunky at 10:21 AM on January 26, 2011


Great inductions into a "typeface hall of fame". The inclusion of Interstate and Gotham should satisfy American foundry diehards, with good mix of print, digital, and improved modern designs! And type designers, being interesting? Hell no. I always imagine them as complete squares...talented squares...and I've seen Helvetica, and they're all squares! I love squares! They make my layouts look pretty at the touch of a keyboard.
posted by Khazk at 10:29 AM on January 26, 2011


Zuzana Licko is not pictured, although she did have a typeface selected. I would expect that much more of her work will be added in time. She's the first name that comes to my mind when I think of digital era type designers.
posted by KS at 10:36 AM on January 26, 2011


There's a decade and a half chunk in that chronology of inducted fonts that amounts to "Emigre's Greatest Hits, plus a supporting cast".
posted by ardgedee at 10:36 AM on January 26, 2011


Well, they're not ALL white males - Zuzana Licko(Oakland) is on the list.

However, on a list where Matthew Carter designed 7 of the 23 fonts(deservedly, probably. the dude is prolific), the diversity conversation's not really worth it anyway.

I love that Neville Brody looks like OF COURSE he would have designed FF Blur. Rock star.
posted by sawdustbear at 10:40 AM on January 26, 2011


I'm a little disappointed that Brody's FF Blur was inducted, but not any of the fonts he designed while art director at The Face and spun off later. Blur helped define a certain parameter of the grunge aesthetic, but it's the angular, frequently ultra-slender titling he was coming up with at The Face that led to Industria, FF Gothic, and so on, and which heavily influenced the graphic esthetic of the era.
posted by ardgedee at 11:11 AM on January 26, 2011


If this were a movie*, 2004's Matthew Carter would be the evil billionaire.

Erik van Blokland and Just van Rossum from 1990 would be Bill & Ted.

[Erik and Just meet themselves]
Just: OK wait. If you guys are really us, what point size are we thinking of?
Erik, Just: 69, dudes!
Erik, Just: Whoa.
[quadruple air guitar solo]
posted by Kabanos at 11:14 AM on January 26, 2011


On "diversity": there are very few master type designers in the world, and nearly all of them are white males. That's just a sad fact. I think the selections were pretty good overall.
posted by Typographica at 11:17 AM on January 26, 2011


There is nothing “sad” about the true nature of “master type designers.” The typeface doesn’t know you’re a girl.
posted by joeclark at 11:51 AM on January 26, 2011


Some of those typefaces I recognize, and some I don't, but the majority were almost unreadable.
Until I got to Verdana, which is like a pool of warm water to my eyes.
posted by rocket88 at 12:15 PM on January 26, 2011


Do keep in mind, Rocket88, the distinction between text and display typefaces. You could probably read FF Blur if it were plastered on the side of a bus stopped at a red light. Verdana at that size would look disagreeably Ikean.
posted by joeclark at 1:16 PM on January 26, 2011


It seems a little ridiculous to me to honor Matthew Carter (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) alongside Jeff Keedy (1).

I mean, Keedy definitely looks like a nice guy and all, but that font should never have been coded, let alone encouraged.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:18 PM on January 26, 2011


Good grief. Keedy Sans looks like a rendering error.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:22 PM on January 26, 2011


Jason Kottke (mefi's own!) got to wondering about how a museum "acquires" a digital font, and got this great response from Jonathan Hoefler:

MoMA's adopting the fonts for their collection was much more complex than buying a copy online (and not only because Retina, one of our four, isn't available online.) I should start by stating that you can never actually "buy fonts" online: what one can buy are licenses, and the End-User License that surrounds a typeface does not extend the kinds of rights that are necessary to enshrine a typeface in a museum's permanent collection. The good news is that H&FJ has become as good at crafting licenses as we have at creating typefaces, an unavoidable reality in a world where fonts can be deployed in unimaginable ways. This was a fun project for our legal department.

It was actually a fascinating conversation with MoMA, as we each worked to imagine how this bequest could be useful to the museum for eternity. What might it mean when the last computer capable of recognizing OpenType is gone? What will it mean when computers as we know them are gone? How does one establish the insurance value of a typeface: not its price, but the cost of maintaining it in working order? Digital artworks are prone to different kinds of damage than physical ones, but obsolescence is no less damaging to a typeface than earthquakes and floods to a painting. On the business side there are presumably insurance underwriters who can bring complex actuarial tables to bear on the issue, but I think it's an even more provocative issue for conservators. 472 years after its completion, the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel underwent a restoration that scholars still find controversial. What might it mean for someone to freshen up our typefaces in AD 2483?
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 2:33 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Twenty-three inductees? (Unwraps fnord tinfoil hat.)
posted by chavenet at 3:00 PM on January 26, 2011


the End-User License that surrounds a typeface does not extend the kinds of rights that are necessary to enshrine a typeface in a museum's permanent collection

And what rights are these? That response did not really seem to answer the question to me.
posted by grouse at 3:05 PM on January 26, 2011


Beowolf? Beowolf? wtf?
posted by Thorzdad at 3:19 PM on January 26, 2011


I always thought Beowolf was a cool idea. Fun fact: co-designer Just van Rossum is brother of Python creator Guido van Rossum, and is a major Python contributor in his own right.
posted by grouse at 3:40 PM on January 26, 2011


Can I say, that is probably the best shot of Neville Brody I've seen. The man does not photograph well, perhaps by his own design.
posted by brisquette at 8:11 PM on January 26, 2011


Is Grouse asking a serious question, or is he for some reason unable to Google?
posted by joeclark at 11:16 AM on January 27, 2011


It's a serious question, but if you want to be a jerk about it, feel free to let someone else answer.
posted by grouse at 12:02 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I’ll rephrase my query: Why is Grouse asking this question when he can Google it?
posted by joeclark at 12:47 PM on February 12, 2011


joeclark, if you can provide a search term that will give me the answer to that question, I will be happy to use them. In any case, I stand by my previous statement that the Hoefler did not fully answer the question. I would like to know with specificity what rights the MoMA acquired that they would not in the case of a regular typeface license.
posted by grouse at 1:44 PM on February 12, 2011


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