Allan Haley of Monotype fame talks to Kristin Ellison about typography: how the evolution from metal-set to digital type has impacted interest in type, how the Fonts.com library was developed, why certain types endure, and more.
(upbeat music) - [Voiceover] Allan Haley is a consultant and storyteller who's spent his entire career in the typographic arts. Formerly, Director of Words and Letters at Monotype, Haley was involved in all aspects of building and maintaining the company's typeface library. He was also an important link between Monotype and the graphic design, and design education communities.
Haley is a past president of the Type Directors' Club, and was executive vice president of the International Typeface Corporation. Along with hundreds of articles to his credit, he is also the author of six books on type and graphic design. - So, we're here in New Orleans at the AIGA Conference, and I have the distinct pleasure of speaking with Allan Haley. Allan, thank you so much for being here today. - It's a pleasure. I was really looking forward to this. - So, typography is a topic that elicits great passion in people.
And I mean, you look at, like you for example, you've dedicated your life to the typographic arts. You look at people's opinion of Comic Sans, lots of passion there. What do you think it is about typography that causes this passion? - I think there's really two kinds of passion about typography. There's always been the Cognizanti who have used type. You can go all the way back, probably go all the back to Gutenberg.
I'm pretty sure the scribes didn't think his fonts were so great. But moving forward to maybe the 18th century, people hated Baskerville's type. Hated it. They said that you would go blind, literally, you would go blind if you read Baskerville's type. And you move forward, people in the 40s and 50s, people hated Lydian. I think it's people who use type, and today graphic designers, interactive designers, it's easy to have a strong opinion. About something that you can say, "Yeah, this is bad." Or, ?If you use this typeface" "you're really not a good designer.? It's kind of hard to say that about a color, or other kinds of things.
The other part of it is, it comes from the democratization of type, in that, just folks on the street now know fonts. They know Times New Roman, they know Arial, and they can have an opinion about it, just like they can have opinions about music. Because it's out there in the mass market. Everybody is dealing, virtually everybody, is dealing with fonts and type. And as we get more sophisticated about that, as they get more sophisticated about that, that media, they form opinions.
And I think that's probably what happens there. - And it hasn't always been that this sort of type geek was cool. (laughing) - No. - It's really blown up in the past couple of years. Do you remember when that shift happened, and do you have any idea why that might've changed? - I think it started in the mid-1980s, and as we got into the 90s, it really became kind of cool to be a type geek.
And I think part of that was because so many people were able to become a type geek, to work with type, to design typefaces. That goes back to 1985, it was sort of a perfect storm of innovation when the Apple LaserWriter, the Adobe PostScript page description language, and PageMaker software came together, had an announcement.
It was staged, obviously orchestrated. But that was the moment when type went down to the masses. If you had a few hundred bucks, you could start setting type. You didn't have to send something out to a typesetting house. If you were working in an office environment, you had fonts available to you. Prior to that, there was laser typesetters, laser printers, but they were huge things. They were like the size of a railroad car, and they were several million dollars, and were made by Xerox and IBM.
And only big corporations had them. But with that announcement, all of a sudden, it democratized type, and all those people who maybe thought type was okay, or was already tending to geek anyway were able to start using type, and were able to start making their own fonts. And we started looking at that, the design community looked at that, and realized that these are some pretty special people. Deserving of being a respected geek. - So, do you feel like the democratization of type has caused type to become better, or worse, or wider? What has that leveling of the playing field caused? - Well, clearly wider.
I mean, if you have a computer you have a printer. You have fonts on your hard drive, and you're using them. Every time that there's been sort of an evolution, or a revolution of that kind, the purists of the community always complain. When phototypesetting came into being, they said, "Oh, this is terrible." "It's never going to replace metal type." "It's never going to be as good as metal type." And more and more people were using phototype, and they turned out some crap.
I mean, some really, really bad typography. But people want to learn. People want to know what's good, what's right, what's beautiful. And they started creating really truly great typography, great typefaces for phototype. Digital type came in, and the same hue and cry went out. It's going to ruin typesetting. We're never going to be the same. Look at all these horrible typefaces that are coming out. And granted, 150 fonts and counting that are out there, not all of them are good, but there are some truly, truly wonderful typefaces that are being created today.
So, it's an evolution. And the first part of a technology maybe isn't so good, but people learn. - What are the qualities of a great typeface? - Charisma and versatility. The really great typefaces have a presence. Whether it's a Baskerville, or a Bodoni, or a Garamond, or a newer design, they have a presence, and they work. They work everywhere.
They work in big sizes, in little sizes, in one application, or another application. They've got their street creds. - So, we have new typefaces everyday, hundreds of new typefaces all the time, and we're still using typefaces that were created hundreds of years ago. What are the ones that you feel have really endured, and why do you feel that they've endured? - They've endured because somebody brought them into the future.
We can't use Fred Goudy's fonts today. We can't use John Baskerville's fonts today. They're in metal, they're handset, but somebody saw fit to say that's a great design, that's a versatile typeface, that's really a good tool. Let's make it available for a machine set metal typesetter, let's make it available for phototypesetting, let's make it available, and you keep going on and on. Let's make it available for digital type. Because they are the classics. They are like classical music, they live on, but you need to bring them forward.
- For the person who's interested in designing their first typeface, what advice would you give them? - Same advice the guy said when a question was asked, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" Practice, practice, practice. Your first typeface isn't going to be very good. It's a learned craft. I mean, I've seen the first typefaces of Herman Zapf, Matthew Carter, and the very first ones well, probably wouldn't have put into one of the libraries that I was involved with, but they matured, they honed their craft.
You need to do that. You need to understand what makes a typeface. Most typeface designers sketch today, but they don't draw letters, and then turn them into digital. They work. It's a gestalt where they're working on screen making the typeface, but they have that background in them. They know how to draw, they know what makes up a good character of well proportions. That doesn't jump out on a page, that works with all the like 26, 52 other letters, and combines in perfect harmony with them.
That comes from study, it comes from practice. - Do you think that hand-drawing letter forms is an important of that process? We look at people like Doyald Young, who's just an absolute craftsman. Is that an important part of that process? - Absolutely. It's unfortunately a process that is being lost in our educational institutions, although it is coming back.
There are schools that are teaching people to be typeface designers, or giving them the information they need to really understand what it takes to make a typeface. And the very basics of that is, you're drawing letter forms. I know Doyald quite well, and I knew his attitude toward drawing letter forms. And yes, you absolutely have to do that. - And now the hand-lettering craze. I mean, that's a really interesting thing. - That's the wonderful part of it, the maker aspect that's happening today where a lot of type designers are saying, "I'm not a type designer. I'm a type maker." Which means, it used to be there were type designers, and then the drawings would go off to somewhere in the company, the foundry, and somebody would make a metal font of them.
They're part and parcel. You can't break them apart, making a font and making a typeface, anymore. So, again, many people are saying, "I'm a type maker." And what that's done because the tools are there, more and more people are doing it, and a lot of people are just doing a really good job of it. And yes, I think that's, the whole maker movement, is helping to drive what's happening with typeface design today. - It's neat that it's really touching sort of an artisanal space.
- Yes. - You know, it's each letter is becoming its own thing. People are incorporating paint and traditional medium. So, do you have any thoughts on that and how that is touching the more typeface designers who are living in Fontographer and those kinds of programs? - Most of them are using other software to develop fonts today. But yeah, I think, again, the maker aspect is very much a part of that.
And even if you look at some of the traditional typefaces that are being revived today. There's a big resurgence in looking at early 20th century Sans-serifs, Grotesques, that came out of Germany originally, and typefaces like Ideal and Venus. And there was sort of a grouchiness, a handmade quality to these designs. And what they're trying to do is bring these designs forward so that work in a current environment, but they don't lose their personality.
That's very important. - What are the biggest challenges typeface designers are facing today? - Overpopulation. There are 150,000, 200,000 fonts out there. You can only see so many, if you're a type user. It is very, very difficult to get the exposure that you want for your design, and everybody thinks their design is the best, and gets upset if they're not promoted by the distributor, or the foundry.
That's why so many are starting their own foundries, small boutique foundries. But there's a sea of typefaces out there. There is thousands of typeface designers, or people calling themselves that. And it's just really, really hard to get that exposure. - Do you have any advice for people in terms of promoting their own fonts, ways they can go about doing that that might be beyond the norm? - The best ones are showing their fonts in use, and are people who are naturally promoters.
If they were graphic designers, primarily beforehand, and now they're type makers, they were used to promoting their work, advertising their work for themselves. One of the nice things that a lot of distributors are doing is they're saying give us an image, give us images of your fonts in use, a and we're going to put them up on our website. And there's some really great banners up there. The other thing is the back story. If you can get your back story on the typeface design in front of designers, everybody loves a back story.
Loves to know what the thought process was, why you did this, why you think this is a good design. If you can get that story in front of people with great image wrapped around it, that's the thing to do it. If you do it yourself, you can do it for yourself, you can do it through distributors. You can work with foundries that will take your typefaces in on an exclusive basis, and they will do that for you. And they've got more money to spend, quite frankly. - And designers spend tons of time creating these fonts, they are in typefaces, they're a huge labor of love.
And then you put them out into the world, and they get pirated. It's a big problem. Is there any way for us to combat this? - Education. And I've worked with a lot of the more important design schools in North America, and I know that this is happening, is that educators are telling their students, there's something, somebody behind this, this is intellectual property like it's music. You can't just, as easy as it would seem to be in a digital environment, a web environment, it's there, it's digital, I can pull it down, I can use it, it's my music.
Somebody's behind that typeface. What's helping this is also, when those students get out into the marketplace, they're either working in a large company, or they're doing work for companies, businesses, and businesses are getting hip to this. They understand what intellectual property is all about, and if you bring in a pirated font, or a ripped off font, into a corporation, the IT group's going to say get the thing out of here, we can't afford that kind of stuff.
Even if you're working, you?re a small studio, and you're working for smaller clients, that becomes the norm. What happens is the larger companies have legal departments, and they're not going to go after small font pirates or some small studio, but if there's a large corporation out there that's using their fonts, and they don't have a license, you can bet they're going to go after them. And they don't lose. If you're a smaller foundry, an individual, you can keep records.
You know who's using your fonts, and it's a matter of staying on top of those things. And basically what most people believe, on my side of the fence, the type community side, is that most people would rather not be a pirate, rather not steal things, and if you point these things out to people that, you know, it's going to cost you 50 bucks, but then you're legal, and you're doing the right thing. You wouldn't want somebody stealing your design, would you? And nine times out of fourteen, people will say, ?Yeah, you're right, you're right.? I think people are inherently good. It's just education.
You need to let them know what's the right thing to do. - What do you think of all the free font sites? - I don't think they're good or bad. I think they're just free font sites. There's a purpose for them, they're a purpose for free fonts. It is one way that some of these smaller design studios, and independent typeface designers are able to get their typefaces out there. They'll say, here this is one way to my family it's for free. If you like it, come back, and you can buy more.
That I think is a good thing. Yeah, there are bad font sites that are from Eastern Europe who are basically ripping off libraries. And if you think about it, why are they giving those fonts for free? Why is somebody from Eastern Europe saying to you, or someplace in Asia, I want to put something in your computer, and I'm not going to charge you. You have to think about that a little bit.
Anyway, they're inherently not good or bad, it's what you do with them. - Right, but they could, potentially, be dangerous. - Yes, they could. Absolutely. They could put malware in your computer. There could be bad fonts in there. You go to do a job, it's 12 o'clock at night, and your font blows up. What are you going to do? As you know, that's not with all free font sites, but it is something you have to be aware. You have to be a good consumer. That's what it really comes down to. And you have to know why you're getting a free font, and be smart enough to figure out if it's a good free font.
- For many years, web designers only had a small handful of fonts, and in 2012 Monotype introduced Fonts.com with 7,000 web fonts. - Yes. - There are now 150,000. - Actually, there are 40,000. There are 150,000 fonts available from Fonts.com, and that includes both web fonts and desktop fonts. It's right around 40, 50,000 web fonts. But it's still bigger than a bread box.
- Huge. - Yes, huge. - And that was a herculean effort on your guys' part. Can you talk about what went into doing that, and what your role was? - It was one of the most exciting times for me being in that side of the typographic community. A little story. The first job I had I was a type designer, I was a kid, and I worked for a company called Compugraphic. And it was a time when, it was this explosion in computer technology, and people were fighting for resources, and there was so much growth, and so much activity going on.
It was just a marvelous time to be involved in it. Read Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine, if you get a chance. That's kind of what happened at Monotype with web fonts. That whole company, now it wasn't that big a company then, it was maybe 100 people, 150 people. Everybody in that company was involved with that. Marketing was involved with it, engineering was involved with it, font productization was involved with it. There were product managers, in fact I was the product manager for a long time on that project.
And to see everybody come together on that was just it was magical. It was crazy. Because they were sort of doing things trying to fix things on the fly. Finding out that, oh you could just put a font up on the web and expect it to work because all the hints are stripped out, so what are we going to do about that. And what they had to do was a lot, on a smaller scale, like what Apple has done with iTunes. You have to go in, and touch every one of those fonts. Somebody looked at them, somebody ran it through, at the very least, an optimization program so that it would work at a certain level in a web environment.
People looked at it and said, this font's not going to work there's nothing we can do with it. It's not going to work in a web environment. Fine, take it out of the web environment. It was magic, it was absolutely. It was a two and half, three year really project, closer to, but it was just terrific. - How did you chose the first 7,000? - That was easy. The first 7,000 were primarily fonts that Monotype owned. At that point, they had purchased the Linotype library, they had purchased the ITC library, and there was the Monotype library.
And in looking at them, what they did is they looked at all the agreements they had with external designers, internal designers, and designs that were done by employees, that was their job. And they chose those typefaces, that they had the legal right to do that with. Beyond that, they reached out to the design community, and said this is what we're doing we'd like you to be involved with it. This is an agreement that will allow us to do these kinds of things.
- Did you get any push back? - Sure, absolutely. There are always skeptics. There's always a certain amount of fear out there with a new technology, and it's understandable. I mean, these designers it's their babies. They've worked on them, and they take care of them, and all of sudden somebody comes along and says we're going to put it in the cloud, isn't that a great idea? And they say, I'm not so sure that it a great idea.
It's turned out that it was. But yeah, of course there was push back. - And as a product manager, what were some of your days like? What kinds of things were you doing? (laughing) I'm sure it was a lot of different things. - Well, one of the things I learned was that I do a lot of things well, but being a product manager wasn't one of them. I was delighted to be a part of the project. I worked with the rest of the team, and we succeeded in meeting our goals.
It was difficult. And both, myself and the VP I reported to, realized that maybe you ought to do something different next year, Allan. And I was able to do other kinds of things. But it was the first time I'd done that, and it was difficult. It wasn't my skill set. - Right. Well, you were the Director of Words and Letters. - I was. - What does the Director of Words and Letters do? - What did the Director of Words and Letters do? It's a made up title, obviously.
I looked at what I was doing at the company, and I wasn't a typeface designer, but I was very much involved in determining what typefaces went into the library. I wasn't a marketing person, but I was very much involved in the marketing effort. And I produced a lot content for the company, a lot of hard copy content, print content, and a lot of digital content for the websites. And I thought about that and I said, well, words that's the content part of it.
And letters, that's working with the typeface designers, and helping to choose those faces. And then, actually working with the designers as a type director, in fine tuning the designs as they were developed over a period of time. - History, and education, and writing, would you say that that's kind of where your skill set lies? Is that fair? - Looking back on it, I realized that I've always been a type advocate.
And for the lion-share of my career, I've been an educator. I've tried teaching. That's really, really hard work. But I'm an educator in a different way, the pieces I write, the content I produce, the presentations I do, the things I do at educational institutions, that's all part of education. And it's something I really, really like.
- In 2013, Monotype designer Toshi Omagari, took Dwigginstypeface Metro, and gave it a face lift, and it became Metro Nova. - Correct. - And this was a typeface that had fallen out of fashion, for lack of a better description. What was it about this that made you guys want to invest in it again? - Let me give you a little bit of back story.
When, the precursor to what is now Monotype, was Agfa Typographic Systems, purchased Monotype right around the turn of the last century, and five years into that there's this feeling among the people in Monotype that they were perceived as being old. This was this old dusty, fusty kind of company that really made metal typesetting machines, and they kind of looked down on themselves.
They didn't have a real good corporate image, personal, internal corporate image. And then something happened, younger designers came into the company. They started looking at the archives, and they said you know what, there's some really great stuff here. Why are you turning your back on that? There's some terrific stuff here. There's also some stuff that really needs to be updated. One of the first revivals was a revival of the Bodoni family.
Bodoni was always sort of one of the pillars of the library of Monotype. And when they brought it into phototype, the mistake that was made, was made by most foundries, is they said, well we've got to all these fonts for phototype, well let's go back to the drawings for metal type, and we'll just make those be the basis for phototype fonts. What they didn't realize, or they didn't think about, was that those drawings were actually skinnier the typeface strokes were narrower than what was perceived when the metal type was pushed onto the paper.
Designers knew that ink spreads, and there's a thing that happens there. So, when that first Bodoni came out it was lighter, and it didn't look good, and people complained about it. It took getting into the digital age for one of the internal designers to say, you know that's not right, and they came out with a typeface called Bodoni Book. Which is a more robust version of that beautiful 1920s typeface. Metro Nova was one of the first. The company now is looking at a lot of older designs, and bringing them forward with great success.
A dear friend of mine, Rod McDonald approached me, probably goes back three years ago, and said, I want to do something with these early 20th century Grotesques, and we talked about it. And I said, yeah let's do that. And he came out with the Classic Grotesque family that is wildly successful. They're adding to the weights now, it's going to be a very large family. Recently, they looked in the archives and found this sort of typeface that was drawn to be a reaction to both Univer and in Helvetica, it was drawn in the phototype era, it's called Neue Haas Unica.
And they said, let's release that, let's bring that forward. Actually, it was Haas Unica. It was released by Monotype as Neue Haas Unica. They are currently in the process of pulling the final stages together for a very, very large series basically called the Gill Nova series, where they're looking at the Gill designs. They're looking Gill sans. They're looking at Joannna, which was his slab serif typeface. And they've made some experiments with that, and they're coming out with this full suite of revived Gill typefaces.
So, now they're doing new designs, and they're also looking back, and really rejoicing in the heritage of the company which is the right thing to do. Earlier on we said that's how those classics move forward, you've got to bring them forward into the new technology, and have them perform well in the type imaging environments that people are using of the day. - And will those be marketed as a group? - Yes. They'll come out in November of this year, 2015.
And it'll be a full campaign that will probably run the better part of 2016. To talk about these designs. - How many new typefaces does Monotype come out with a year? - They like to release at least one exclusive design per month. Family. They are broken up into categories. A while back we realized that what was happening, a typeface would be worked on, would be released, and it would be promoted.
And every typeface got sort of the same degree of marketing and promotion exposure. And we sat back and looked at it, and said, ?You know some of these typefaces? ?are more important than others.? We know it going into it. We know that there's more investment in it, or it's going to satisfy a particular need, and there are other typefaces that are good to have, nice to have, but they're not long term as important. So, there are I think three really different kinds of designs. They're what internally Monotype calls round table designs. And these are designs that a group of external and internal people are involved in choosing what typefaces these are going to be.
These are going to be very important designs to Monotype. This Gill Nova series is the first of that. Then, there are library releases, which are, studio releases which come from designers within the Monotype studio, within Monotype design offices. There are several around the world. Those are very, very, important to Monotype. Maybe not as important, as these round table releases, and they get a different kind of promotional suite.
And then there are what are called library releases, and these will come from external and internal designers, and they get a different kind of promotion and campaign suite around them. So, it's very important to promote the internal team, it's very important for these round table designs, and yet it's also very important for the other typefaces that come into the library. In the meantime, Fonts.com which is one of the distribution arms of Monotype, is continually taking on new typefaces, scores every month come in.
- How large is your internal team? Or Monotype's internal team? - Internal designers, I'm going to make an educated guess. I know that it is the largest internal designs studio within a company in the world. There are probably. I'm thinking maybe 30. - Wow. - Now, they're not all sitting down drawing exclusive commercial typefaces. Some of them are working on custom typeface designs.
A very important thing that's come out of this type geek democratization of type, is that yeah commercial fonts graphic designers can use are important, but for a lot of people the mainstay is these custom typeface designs for corporation, custom typefaces for branding. So, many, many companies will come to them, they will come to Monotype and say, I want this huge suite of typefaces for my company, I want it in different languages, I want this, I want that.
It's got to work on the web, it's got to work in hard copy. And they have people that do that. They have people that work on these exclusive designs. They have people that fill out typeface families. So, maybe initially a typeface family is released for Western, Eastern European languages, and they find that there is Cyrillic, there's Greek that there's a need for. Maybe there is some traits in that that ought to be put into an Indic typeface, ought to be put into an Arabic typeface.
So, there are people within the company that take those existing designs, and add into them. - Sounds like a dream job. - It's the best, second best, I've always said I had the second best job in the type community. - How does somebody get that job? - You make it yourself. (laughing) When I was young, and I was working for this company called Compugraphic.
I was kind of at a low place, I didn't know what I wanted to be. And two things happened. I was struggling. I asked my wife, what are we going to do here? What am I going to do? And she's a very wise woman and said, "You gotta do what makes you happy." And I reached out to a guy in New York, who was then a type director. There aren't very many type directors anymore, if there are any. And I talked to him about sort of the same thing, and he said, "Do what makes you happy." "Follow your bliss." And it all started with I wrote a proposal for this company called Compugraphic, and said you need a typographic consultant.
You're struggling with your type image. You need somebody that kind of appears to be outside the company, and will be an ombudsman to the design community, will bring that information of things they want back to you. Will outreach to the graphic design community, and they bought it. And from then on I always did a lot of different kinds of things, Director of Words and Letters. - And you left that role last year to do consulting.
- Yeah. - What are you working on now? - I'm working on a lot of things. (laughing) The interesting thing is, it didn't happen overnight, but I came to realize that I had to leave Monotype. And it's not that terrible. But I had to leave them. I was getting of an age, Monotype is a publicly held, high technology software company, and people my age don't work for those companies.
Unless you're a CEO or something, you don't work for them. And so I looked around I thought, but I'm not done. And I looked around at my friends in the design community, the type community, and I thought what are they doing that I'm not doing? Or what are they doing that I can do? And I thought, they're consulting. They're freelance. And it was the a-ha moment. And so, in answer to your question, I'm continuing to write.
I write. I still do 99% of the educational content for Fonts.com. I write for CA magazine. There's an article coming out in December, January. I collaborated on a book with Graphice just the first part of this year, and we're talking about doing another one. I'm doing a lot of writing. I enjoy that tremendously.
I'm still doing presentations. One of the loves of, that I really, really hated not being able to do as much as I was able to do it, was working with the educational environment. I'm not working with them as much as I would like to, but I still am. Sheridan College is the largest design school in Canada. I'm working with them on a major, major initiative. I was fortunate to be part of a round table meeting yesterday, as a matter of fact, for the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography that Art Center is putting together.
So, education is very, very important to me. I'm still doing type quizzes, which is fun. I'm still doing presentations. I'm doing a lot of the things and I'm still inputting into what typefaces Monotype comes out with. I sit on the company's typeface review board as a consultant. So, I'm doing a lot of things I always was doing. - What do you think about all the transmedia type? - Transmedia type? - So, the type that is moving and 3D, and becoming more of an environmental experience.
- Monotype was working with 3D type four years ago, five years ago. I think it adds to the palette of designers. I think, as we were speaking earlier, when it comes out there, and it's commercialized, and anybody can use it, a lot of crap will be produced. But then people will get smart, and they'll use it well. It's like when we first realized, oh we can do animation on our websites, great.
And there's all these buttons, and things bouncing around, and distracting things. That's the danger in that kind of type. The message is still the most important thing. And the whole Beatrice Ward crystal goblet thing, where you enjoy the thing that's inside the goblet, not the goblet itself. Is really what's more important. So, yeah, if that helps the message, helps the reader, then it works. If it detracts from it, it's not such a good thing. - So, when a designer comes to Monotype, and has a serif type that they want to present.
There are countless typefaces out there. - [Allan] Yes. - How do you know if this is going to be a good new addition, or yet another typeface redundant, we don't need it? - When, you're starting out building a type library whether you're were a company like International Typeface Corporation building this phototype library, or Monotype.
When you're starting out, if you make intelligent decisions, come back to that in a minute, but if you're making intelligent decisions you kind of can't go wrong. You need certain kinds of typefaces. The first ones have a really good success rate, or the potential of it. When you get to be very, very large it becomes more difficult making those choices. And one of the things that Monotype has done has taken and added to the emotional side.
Type, it's like music there's an emotional side to it, there's a heart to it. And that doesn't go away. But you need to temper that with a business side. So, there's a form actually that's filled out, and it's talked about at these review board meetings. What need does this typeface fulfill? What's the basis for it? Why did you do it? It's like a three page form. Why did you do this? What's the back story on the design? Based on that, based on the emotional part, decisions are made.
One of the things that, at least for me, that it's always been kind of a difficulty is that I wish designers didn't go to the process, and internally this doesn't happen so much, but they'll create a whole alphabet, a whole typeface. 14 weights, and italics, and it's a huge amount of work, it's like writing a novel, and giving it to a publisher, and the publisher just says, no I don't think so. And that's one of the things they encourage.
Send us a couple weights, send us some design showing us the typeface in use. We're smart we can look at sketches, and we know what's going to come from that. We'll guide you through that process. But don't make an investment of nine months of your life on this thing, on spec. And that's really what it comes down to. They need to get to a place where they're not doing just on spec. In fact, one of things that helps that in these small studios, and larger ones, is that a lot of custom typefaces will filter down into the library.
So, you're really not doing it on spec. Somebody's paying for that typeface design, contractually in there it says five years, X number of years, either you pay a little bit more money, or that goes back into the ownership of whoever did the work for you. So, the design is kind of paid for already. - If I wanted to design a new serif face, is there something that you could say to me that as a guiding principles, such as you should look at the Monotype library, or other libraries and look for gaps? Or you should make sure it fulfills the following needs, or anything like that, that would lead somebody in that position? - Well, there is that.
I mean, if you can fulfill a gap in the marketplace you're helping yourself out. That's a leg up on things. With 150 fonts out there, 150 thousand fonts out there, there aren't a whole lot of gaps. The charisma part is very important. Serif typefaces are an issue onto themselves. Too often what will happen is a designer will say, ?I'm going to create this wonderful text,? ?serif typeface, that people are going to use? ?for books, or publication design.? Well, it's all well and good, but not very many people buy fonts for books.
It's a relatively small market. If you're designing a typeface for that, it's sort of like writing poetry, you're doing it because you kind of have to, it's inside of you. Look at what is out there, look at the good designs that are out there. Bring a vitality to the design, to the family. Something that maybe isn't offered, isn't quite seen the same way. For a long time, all you would see was regular serif typeface, and maybe Didones with the skinny Bodoni like serifs.
Maybe three or four years ago, slab serifs, all of a sudden, have seen this tremendous come back because somebody looked at it, and said well that was a gap in the marketplace. And yeah, you're using all these old thirty hundred years old types that are slab serif, maybe there's something new we can do with slab serif typefaces. See what's going on out there. Look at the whole maker thing, where people are doing hand-lettering, and doing printing.
The chromatic fonts where they're layered, it picks up on what was done with wood type, and some degree metal type, of picking up colored layers. Those are the kind, you need to be an observer. - What are the new developments out there for typography? So, what's coming? - There's a quote by Saul Bass. Somebody asked him what the future of design was, and he basically said, I don't have an idea what the expletive future of design is.
And I know what's happening today with design, and with technology, which gives me an idea where it's going. But I'd be a fool to tell you what's going to be happening, especially, there are two parts to it, there's the design part of it, and there's the technology part of it. The technology part of it is, fonts are everywhere. Type is everywhere. They're in dashboards of automobiles, they're in white goods, refrigerators. We all know they're in smartphones, they're in wearable.
And that keeps growing, wherever there's a need for textual content, fonts are being developed for it. And they're being developed around a technology, that will allow them to be used in those environments. Fonts on a very, very tiny screen, say for a wearable, there's not much digital availability there, not just dots on a screen, but memory inside there. How do you get a font to perform well there, what do you need to do with the design, and working with the technologist to make it work well? So, that's going to increase.
There's going to be more digital displays in automobiles, more and more all the time. Because they do two things, they'll brand the product, both inside and outside, and if done right, they can help in a safety aspect. There's more information coming to you today, and you're glancing away from the road, and the more that you can reduce glance time and provide designs that are highly legible, you're really helping the driver do his or her job which is driving.
The other is trends. It's easy to identify a trend, it's much more difficult to predict a trend. I don't think we're done seeing these 19th century Grotesques, they're still being developed. Script typefaces are still being designed. Typefaces that have that feeling of a maker quality to them. If I was to go out on a limb, I'd say that in the 1970s there were some pretty good text typefaces developed for phototypesetting, and they were exclusive designs, absolutely original and exclusive to the manufacturer the phototypesetting equipment they went with.
And I think people are looking at those designs because there are some good ones out there. That might be something that would be coming down the pike. - So, one last question. - [Allan] All right. - Any favorite fonts? - That's sort of like asking somebody, a father, who his favorite child is. (laughing) The others might be listening. No, I do not have a favorite typeface. - All right. Well, Allan thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure chatting with you. - The pleasure's been mine.
In this interview, a partnership between Lynda.com and AIGA, Allan talks to Kristin Ellison about typography: why typography inspires a passionate response from cognoscenti and laymen alike, how the evolution from metal-set to digital type has impacted interest, and why certain typefaces endure. They also discuss
- The qualities of a great typeface
- Advice for typeface designers
- The impact of craftspeople like Doyald Young and the Maker movement
- Marketing typefaces and combatting font piracy
- Developing Monotype's Fonts.com library
- Why Monotype reinvests in fonts like Metro and Gill Sans
- Leaving Monotype to consult
- What makes a good addition to a font library
- How to design a font to fulfill a gap in the marketplace
- What's on the horizon for typography