Hi all, my name’s Michael Gills, a designer based in the UK. I’ve been rummaging around TypeDrawers for a while, so I thought I should introduce myself.
I started out as a type designer, I’m currently a graphic designer and as I approach retirement, I’m attempting a comeback as a type designer. If you don’t mind a quick read, I’ll join the dots in a bit more detail.
If you’re not into reading and just want to see what my work’s like, there’s my website or my Behance page, which also features a couple of work-in-progress designs: Kingly Roman Display and Portnall Sans.
Way back in 1988, I joined Letraset as a trainee type designer, where I produced other designers’ typefaces and converted analogue artwork to digital. I also designed around ten of my own typefaces. Sadly, after seven years, I took redundancy.
I loved working in the Type Studio (we still meet up in London twice a year) so the redundancy hit me hard and my enthusiasm nosedived. I stepped away from type design, intending to pick it up again in a year or two, and switched to graphic design instead.
However, for reasons I don’t even understand, I couldn’t reignite the spark. Apart from a few sporadic releases (which were unfinished designs left over from my Letraset days), I didn’t complete any new typefaces until 2019, when I released Rahare Sans on MyFonts.
I wrote an article explaining why I started again. Ditto, if you don’t want to read – essentially, I went through cancer twice and the experience shook me back into lettering and typefaces.
Since then I’ve released fourteen more designs and Rahere is growing into an eclectic superfamily. My new designs are a mixed bag: some are OK; others are a bit flaky. Realistically, I don’t think I can (or want to) ever fully escape from my Letraset-ephemeral-display-font mindset.
More importantly, I’m getting my groove back. On the downside, there are a few stumbling blocks:
Time: At the moment, I can only spend one or two days a week on type design and some evenings. I’m hoping to take some of my pension next year and that will give me an extra day.
Sales: They’re abysmal, literally non-existent. I realise that earning money from type design is a totally different beast these days – I’m still grappling with the changes in technology (OpenType, Variable fonts, AI, etc.) and the shifting industry landscape – plus there are so many good designs out there already. Releasing a new design feels like trying to get on a London tube carriage in rush hour when the doors are closing. No excuses though; I need to put some serious work into the marketing and business side.
Direction: I find myself at a crossroads. With the limited time I have, do I carry on expanding my library or do I pause for a while to concentrate on marketing/business skills and raising my profile?
As I shuffle along the path to old age, my ultimate aim is to have a small type foundry, releasing a modest output of display and text designs, mixed in with the occasional lettering project. I don’t have big ambitions, but I’d like to get off the bottom rung of the ladder if possible.
Thanks for reading (a bit longer than I planned).