Hello from the East of England

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.

https://www.ulga-type.com/rahere-sans-typeface-cancer-experience.php

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).


Comments

  • Hello Mr. Gills, thanks for letting us know and Welcome to this place! 
    First I’d like to express my good wishes for your health … I really like your designs. Keep on going your own path. The business side of the moon is a dark one nowadays, so clear up for yourself, what is your priority: design or business. Maybe the greatest potential is in your freakish display designs? Don’t let the business issues spoil your joy in designing fonts.
  • Welcome, Michael! 
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,145
    Welcome!
  • Welcome, Michael! Your work is impressive.

  • Welcome back to type, Michael!    :)
  • It’s an honor to have you here! I always liked your Letraset text fonts from the 90s. I remember staring at a feature about Elysium, Charlotte and Gilgamesh in U&Lc, as I recall. I quite like your latest designs as well.
  • Hi Micheal, welcome.
    Did you know Philip Kelly?
  • Thank you everyone for the warm welcome and nice comments.

    @Miles Newlyn Yes, I remember Philip Kelly. He was at the manufacturing plant in Ashford and I was based in London, so I only saw him very occasionally.

    @John Butler Thanks! Apart from Charlotte Sans & Fling, I'm not sure I like the stuff I did then (plus Monotype gets all the money from my old fonts so I don't really mention them). At that time, my style was heavily influenced by Hermann Zapf, Berthold Wolpe, W A Dwiggins and Oldřich Menhart (in no particular order). I was also more pre-occupied with calligraphy & texture, so I probably had a spontaneity that I just don't have anymore. As my confidence grows, hopefully, I'll loosen up again (I feel my shapes are still quite stiff, almost forced, if that makes sense).

    @Andreas Stötzner Thanks Andreas. Design, fun & experimentation are definitely my priorities this time. But until all my pensions kick in (5 years), I'd like to earn a bit more from type design so I can spend more time on it rather than doing the day job. 
  • Good to see you here Michael. I'm an old guy too.

  • Great to see you hear, Michael! As you know from my FontShop days, I’m a big fan of many of your designs and appreciate your range and versatility.
  • Oh hey, you did Charlotte Sans! I quite liked that, a nice humanist sans serif, before we had nearly as many of those as we do nowadays. The tall ascender on the lowercase t was quite lovely.
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