Join Kristin Ellison for an in-depth discussion in this video Monotype and the future of typefaces, part of Allan Haley on the Evolution of Typeface Design.
- 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 the same degree of marketing and promotion exposure.
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 gonna 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. There are 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, 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 also get a different kind of promotional suite.
And then there are what are called library releases. 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.
You know, scores, every month, come in. - How large is your internal team, or Monotype's internal team? - Internal designers, I'm going to make an educational guess. I know it is the largest internal design 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 that 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.
"It's for my company. "I want 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. And maybe initially a typeface family is released for western and eastern European languages. And if I will... You know 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 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. (laughs) 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, "You know, what are we going to do here? "What am I going to do? And she was a very wise woman and said, "You got to 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 any more, 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." 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, things they want, "back to you, "will outreach to the graphic design community." And they bought it.
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. - [Kristin] What are you working on now? - I'm working on a lot of things. (giggles) 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. So I looked around and 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? "Well, what are they doing that I can do?" And I thought, "They're consulting, "they're freelance." And that was the ah-ha moment.
So, in answer to your question, I'm continuing to write. I still do 99% of the educational content for Fonts.com. I write for CA magazine. There's a article coming out in December/January. I collaborated on a book with (mumbles) just the first part of this year. 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, 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.
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 trans-media type? - Trans-media type? - 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, 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. 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 Warde, 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.
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 were a company, like International Typeface Corporation, building this photo type 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. One of the things that Monotype has done, has taken and added to the emotional side. Type, you know, is like music. It's like 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 the business side. 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? Ask all those... 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 a difficulty is that I wish designers didn't go to the process. And internally this doesn't happen so much, but to 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. (laughs) Publisher just says, "No, I don't think so." And that's one of the things they encourage.
Send us a couple of weights, send us some design showing us the typeface in use. We're smart, we can look at sketches and we know what's gonna come from that. We'll guide you through that process. But don't make an investment of, you know, 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 it just on spec. In fact, one of the things that helps that in the 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 it, 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 if fulfills the following needs, or anything like that, that would lead somebody in that position? - [Allan] 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. But 150,000 fonts out there, (laughs) there aren't a whole lot of gaps. The charisma part is very important. Serif typefaces are an issue unto 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. It's sort of like, you know, 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, you know, the skinny, Bodoni-like serifs.
Maybe three, four years ago, slab serifs all of a sudden have seen this tremendous comeback because somebody looked at it and said, "Well, that was a gap in the marketplace." You know, you're using all these old, you know, 30-, 100-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 home 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 to 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? What's coming? - (chuckles) There's a quote by Saul Bass. Somebody asked him what the future of design was. He basically said, "I don't have an idea what the," expletive, "future of design is." 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, font's 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 wearables. 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 that are 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 technologies 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 help 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 should go out on a limb, I'd say that, in the 1970, there were some pretty good text typefaces developed for photo typesetting.
And they were exclusive designs, absolutely original, and exclusive to the manufacturer of the photo typesetting equipment that 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 will 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. The other might be listening.
No, I do not have a favorite typeface. (laughs) - All right. Well, Allan, thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure chatting with you. - The pleasure's been mine. Thank you.
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