Returning to Type Design After 20-Year Hiatus

Hello All! I'm a designer hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, making a mid-career transition. I escaped my toxic corporate job a couple years ago and am trying some new things. If there's one thing I got out of all the involuntary alone-time the past few years, it's that I want to pursue my one unfulfilled passion from my college days: type design. I've got a few typefaces in the works, both text and display fonts, and have recently had the privilege of receiving some expert guidance through the Type Crit Crew and Alphabettes Mentorship program.

I am also in the very early stages of starting two ventures that intersect with the type design and lettering worlds: and Psster gives me a chance to play around with many different styles of stencil lettering while engaging with important social issues and Bald Redhead Design Supply Co. will eventually sell some of my completed display fonts, in addition to a variety of stock art products.


  • Stuart Sandler
    Welcome back Michael! Our first intern  ;)
  • Igor Petrovic
    Igor Petrovic Posts: 264
    edited February 2023
    I am at the point where I am not sure what position type design will have in my future life, and I have that Blade Runner —"Tears in Rain" monologue sentiment.

    I am glad to read about your experience because even if I won't be able to design typefaces it will be temporary until the next opportunity for it opens.

    @Nick Shinn I am sure that all that sketches deserve to be seen and turned into typefaces. We should embrace agile versioning much more for type design, starting with
    "v0.1 — uc and lc test word" and then go from there.

    We got a conditioned reflex resulting in not even starting digitization, knowing how much time it would take until the finalized typeface, it soaked out much of our excitement and joy.
  • John Butler
    Twenty years ago I didn’t have the confidence or patience to actually draw the letters. I was good enough at programming OpenType features to catch some font engineering gigs here and there, before OpenType features became easier to program, but then in need of more stable income I ended up working full-time for a PC hardware vendor. I still bought retail fonts periodically, I bought the FontLab 6 upgrade, and I’ve got my eye on FontLab 8 this summer. The new stroke thickness tool is not the first of its kind, but putting it in FontLab is the tipping point for me. I have a few digitizations I’m aiming at this year.
  • Claudio Piccinini
    I often feel like I’ve stopped designing type, so much of my work in recent years has been updating designs from my most prolific era—20 years ago.
    Back then, pre-Opentype, It didn’t take very long to make a typeface, with only a basic Western Latin encoding, a few weights, and no “expert” features. A couple hundred glyphs, if that.

    However, I am always adding to sketchbooks full of type designs that are never made into fonts and published, so I guess you could say I haven’t really ceased. Perhaps I should publish some of them as 200-glyph basic Western fonts. 

    Since as you know I have been working with a certain continuity to get to release my own work, I can say that I have reflected on these issues quite a lot. And I have come up with the conclusion that "market expectations" are quite an abstract thing.
    Reasoning in terms of a potentially expanding family beforehand seems a good way to plan and save precious time (technically), but in the end it constantly risks to drain your creativity in a myriad of "planning concerns". And by "creativity" I do not mean just at a formal level. My conclusion is certain designs could be worth to have planned methods to approach a family design overall, but not many. Or at least, not each and every single one as it seems today.
    And, for one, for a simple reason: if I have the need to add, say, Cyrillic coverage, certain Math symbols, historically relevant glyphs, specific style, weight or optical cuts — you name them — these can always be added afterwards. Or even expanded in separate sub-families.

    I for one would be glad to see actual creativity. It seems very rarified, no matter the "visual flood" we have been experiencing for about 15 years now…
  • Welcome back Michael! Our first intern  ;)
    Thanks Stuart, I still have fond memories of that gig!