History of type communities, and its future?

I'm looking for resources that might document or give an overview of the way communities and networks form among typography enthusiasts and professional type designers. I run my own community for it on Discord, and while it's doing pretty well with a decent amount of active chatters, newcomers often feel like they pop out of nowhere. It feels like their interest in type has been a personal thing for a long time and that when they join the Discord server, it's the first time they interact with others like them.
I've seen some overlapping sources of members, with some coming from graphic design corners, which is a very popular and active community nowadays on the internet. But that seems to be the most definable source of new people.

What has your experience been with finding fellow type lovers, and how have you seen it evolve? Where might the new generation of type come from, and how can we foster it so it doesn't become the last?


  • Craig Eliason
    Web forums like TypeDrawers (and, originally and importantly, Typophile) have been more important for me than type-related social media, in part because the discussions generate knowledge that is archived and more easily searchable (at least, as long as the site is properly maintained). Threads on a forum also feel more substantial than reply-chains on social media, in addition to being easier to find and follow. 
    I do suspect, though, that forums are attractive to me and designers like me, but social media sites feel more comfortable to others whose absence here is to the detriment of this site's quality and future. 
    When I can manage to get there, TypeCon has been a terrific in-person opportunity for connecting. With some initiative more local get-togethers are possible in many cities. (I ran a Type Tuesdays here in the Twin Cities for many years, which has recently been revived.) There's something quite fun about actually talking to real people about this thing that you do so solitarily. The "kindred spirits" feeling is satisfying. 
    It's worth mentioning tool-specific discussion forums. I frequent the glyphsapp.com forum, and when messing with drawbot I found their forum really helpful. 

  • Typofactory
    Out of curiosity, what is your Discord server called? (Or, at least, can I join it?)
  • John Butler
    In the 90s we had comp.fonts. In the 2000s we had Typophile and the Typographica comments section. Today we have this, and typografie.info in the germanosphere, and typo.social for more twittersome discussions.

    My fondest memories in earlier years were of international travel to annual type conferences to meet all those online type-folks in person—ATypI, TypeCon, Robothon, the OpenType jamboree. It’s been a while since Prague 2004, but I hope I can still make a few more of them someday.
  • Mark Simonson
    Besides the ones @John Butler mentioned, there were also several email lists, some going back to the '90s: TYPO-L, TD-LIST, and the OpenType list (which is still operating as far as I can tell, but not very active). There was also the Typography forum on Compuserve in the late '80s and '90s, which was the first online typography community I was aware of.
  • Ray Larabie
    Ray Larabie Posts: 1,400

    This takes me back to the late 1990s, a time when resources and communities for type design were not as readily accessible as they are today. During my commutes to work, I used to lurk in the Typo L community through my Palm Pilot. I recall it being a newsgroup or a mailing list (the exact format eludes me now) but it was a significant window into the world of type design for me.

    Before the advent of font forums and the wide availability of digital resources, gaining insight into typography and font design was a challenge, especially for those not already embedded in the graphic design industry. For instance, the only book about type design software I knew of (Fontographer Type By Design) was already out of print and seemingly impossible to procure.

    Immersing myself in the discussions on Typo L was not just educational; it was transformative. It helped me find my footing in the typeface design community, and also brought into sharp focus the skill gap between a novice like me and the seasoned professionals. Those early experiences were instrumental in shaping my approach and commitment to the craft.

  • Thomas Phinney
    Thomas Phinney Posts: 2,800
    edited December 2023
    Like @Mark Simonson and some of the other posters, I would not have gotten serious about type, if not for the early online communities.

    In my case, the CompuServe DTP forum and later also the Typo-L mailing list were my gateways. Info was hard to come by, and community doubly so!

    My first real specimen book was The Electronic Type Catalog (Byers, ITC). My first type books other than specimen books were Letters of Credit (Tracy), Anatomy of a Typeface (Lawson) and The Elements of Typographic Style (Bringhurst). I also got a copy of Fontographer: Type by Design (Moye) while it was still in print.