Which are the most appreciated small foundries as of today?

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  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,375
    I stay away from trends, ignore them. The only reason I got into type design was to design my own type, not to make a stab at repeating a trendy face. Might this be a lousy business model? Sure. Am I concerned about it? Never.
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  • I have no idea who is doing what in the type design world …
    How can one ever disagree to that?!
    If James says he ‘has no idea’ than he has no idea. Settled.
    I have always been convinced that, as an artist or creative, to pursue one’s own path is of the essence, whereas to look sideways, is not. Who declares from which sources I draw my inspirations? It could be anything, the work of contemporaries is but one option among a plenty of others. And as for the contemporary output inflating the font market nowadays, I fail to regard more than ~5% of it any inspiring at all. So there’s no need to waste time on this.

  • There's certainly something to be said for avoiding being dominated by the ideas of others.
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 132
    How can one ever disagree to that?!
    If James says he ‘has no idea’ than he has no idea. Settled.
    The disagreement may come from a different perspective though — surely anyone can do what they want. But how does an opinion of an experienced designer who is “growing tired of the type business” and doesn’t follow the industry anymore is somehow relevant or helpful to the topic’s question, for those who are still in the game and probably are in the beginning of their career? If the advice is to not follow anyone, some may click “disagree” for the reasons I mentioned.

    Sorry for misspelling James’s last name in the previous post, clicked a wrong auto-suggestion.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,763
    I don’t actively pay much heed to the contemporary type scene.
    However, as I do participate in social media with others in the design and type world, I’m exposed to a lot of new typeface designs.
    And I would have to say, from what I’ve seen, despite the plethora of corporate blandness, there have otherwise been a lot of fabulous, amazing, brilliant new typefaces published in the last little while.
    Perhaps it is a pandemic effect, with everyone hunkered down in their woodsheds fonting away furiously. Or perhaps the Variable format has opened up creative vistas, whether or not one uses the tech. Or perhaps…
    Whatever, keep up the good work!
  • Andreas Stötzner said:
    How can one ever disagree to that?!
    If James says he ‘has no idea’ than he has no idea. Settled.
    Of course nobody is disagreeing that James believes something (at least I hope not), as Alex says it's the implication that can be disagreed with.
    I have always been convinced that, as an artist or creative, to pursue one’s own path is of the essence, whereas to look sideways, is not.
    Ah but to me that's where Design deviates from Art; the former requires a concern with what the world at large is experiencing and needs, versus the latter's focus on self-expression.

    Time dedicated to society is the opposite of wasted.
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  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,375
    @James Montalbano Time for that beer ;-)

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  • Thanks everyone for the comments but… hey, I did not expect this to become so passionate…  :D

    I wish to try to explain the reason for which I started it, as I see good points in everyone comments: I agree a lot with Mark Simonson – as he makes a wise simple statement.
    The intention obviously was not about "trends", I think there is an important point being touched here on how commerce seems to work today. There are a lot of negative elements in economy, more than in the past, something specific which is also quite elusive, not healthy, hard to pinpoint.

    Since I am working to set up things to sell my typefaces, I was wondering, given the oversupply of digital typefaces we’ve been witnessing especially in the last 10-15 years, what is that people in the end actually recognize as useful and good in the long term.
    Something which for one reason or the other is solid, enough meaningful for the designer him/herself, with a degree of innovation and/or features aimed at actual uses, or simply artistically accomplished if we are speaking of titling typefaces.

    And since the parameters by which this evaluation can be done are many, I’ll try to give some hints listing a few typefaces whose positive impression lasted on me in time, very different in terms of conception and intended use, so maybe the discussion will become fruitful for everyone.

    1. Quadraat (1992-1998). I keep insisting that Fred Smeijers attained an incredibly solid goal with it, and I am surprised to see that after almost 30 years it’s not as widely used as I’d expect. What I always enjoyed immensely about Quadraat is that while not having a univocal recognizable lineage, it also manages to achieve a very good contrast between its three basic styles (Roman, Italic, Small Capitals) making it a very versatile and effective text type family (here I am referring mostly to the original Serif version). At the time, I did not consider Scala (also good) as much as original.
    2. IBM Plex Serif (2018). I really like how it works, especially the Regular and Semibold weights. It has something really fresh, it’s well balanced, has enough contrast – not too much, not too little — the Italic is solid and not excessively at an angle, it’s sober and doesn’t get lost in useless fanciness. I wonder why we do not have more explorations in text types with such qualities.
    3. Bluu Superstar (2018). Based on Jean-Baptiste Morizot’s previous Bluu Next, this family pushes a bit the boundaries of “type for immersive reading”, trying to incorporate angular elements which at times are reminescent of certain blackletter styles. Surprisingly, at text sizes, they are not distracting as one could fear, and the result is very fresh.
    4. Speaking of typefaces which push boundaries in “text face exploration” I cannot avoid to mention Nick Shinn’s Richler (2013), which initially was a custom typeface. It’s experimental, and in some way I find the Italic less daring than the Roman, but I wonder why it went so relatively unnoticed. I keep saying that some of Nick’s typefaces, if made more visible with some kind of promotion, would be a lot more used and appreciated. And I still think Preface (2003) is brilliant, same thing as Richler, a daring and clever exploration across linear/grotesque type (Nick graciously sent me Preface as a gift at the time, but I never had the occasion to properly use it: I still think it’s great). I’d wish people would venture more in the unexpected, even with "conventional" faces.
    5. Trickster (2018). Jean-Baptiste Morizot with his exploration across styles conjured so many influences that the result may not be easy to use, but I can’t seem to find many typefaces so challenging and not just "decorative" for the sake of it. Another is Digestive (2017) by Jérémy Landes, mostly in its original compressed cuts. Two great display faces, not for "general use", of course, but I wonder why there is so little imagination right now in venturing.
    6. Liguria (2014). Okay, not so easy to use, but I was quite impressed when this came out. An experimentation carried out in a convincing way, and the graphic display features tend to disappear at small sizes, so very interesting. Maybe it’s unrelated, but this typeface reminds me of Gerstner Original (1987), also very experimental and I seem to get very little used at the time.

    Of course this is just a very limited selection of what came to my mind quite randomly. As far as foundries go, one of the ones I find more interesting is Altiplano, especially their typefaces Millionaire and Dominicale (also for the idea in itself), and the decorative Nirvana.
    I hope this helps to foster a bit further discussion. :)
  • Claudio PiccininiClaudio Piccinini Posts: 605
    edited May 14
    Andreas Stötzner said:

    I have always been convinced that, as an artist or creative, to pursue one’s own path is of the essence, whereas to look sideways, is not. Who declares from which sources I draw my inspirations? It could be anything, the work of contemporaries is but one option among a plenty of others. And as for the contemporary output inflating the font market nowadays, I fail to regard more than ~5% of it any inspiring at all. So there’s no need to waste time on this.
     Of course, that is essential to produce original work. But I think it can be healthy here and there to see what is being created by others, private or published, not necessarily “commercial trends”.
    I have always been convinced that, as an artist or creative, to pursue one’s own path is of the essence, whereas to look sideways, is not.
    Ah but to me that's where Design deviates from Art; the former requires a concern with what the world at large is experiencing and needs, versus the latter's focus on self-expression.

    Time dedicated to society is the opposite of wasted.
    But to some degree that goes for art as well, self-expression as much as one wants, but it’s never alienated from reality.
  • Claudio PiccininiClaudio Piccinini Posts: 605
    edited May 14
    @"Alex Visi" said:

    The disagreement may come from a different perspective though — surely anyone can do what they want. But how does an opinion of an experienced designer who is “growing tired of the type business” and doesn’t follow the industry anymore is somehow relevant or helpful to the topic’s question, for those who are still in the game and probably are in the beginning of their career? If the advice is to not follow anyone, some may click “disagree” for the reasons I mentioned.
    That was the point, Alex. If I had decided with determination, I could have tried to make type design (fully or partly) my profession slightly after James started a few years before. But as an untrained type designer and self-taught graphic designer, I always felt in many ways "not enough focused". Actually I also felt not much encouraged.
    So asking myself the same relevant questions I started asking myself around 1991-92 helps. My interest in typefaces blossomed out of frustration not much of a lack of styles or weights, as in the case of James, but out of an excessive perceived homogeneity, and of course a lack of variety available digitally back then.
    In this sense, Emigre's effort risks to be underestimated in perspective. But so goes for FontFont, twenty years after.
  • Ah, and I forgot to mention the most recent typeface which left me in awe, and that is Etna by Mark Simonson. Amazing work under all aspects, and as he said «It takes a long time to make a good typeface. If you're following a trend, by the time you release it the trend may be over.». :-)
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,376
  • Claudio Piccinini said:
    But to some degree that goes for art as well, self-expression as much as one wants, but it’s never alienated from reality.
    Self-expression is unavoidable in any creative activity. To me the difference in Art versus Design is that in the former it's the intent, while in the latter in happens in spite of you. That said, no creative act is pure Art or Design, but always somewhere in between.
  • notdefnotdef Posts: 168
    Terminal Design have been a force to reckon with as long as I have been drawing, @James Montalbano. There is plenty to detract from the font business: from western-centric history and education to self-promotion, design celebrity, trend blogs, capitalism etc. I hope you won’t lose sight of the good things despite all of that. 
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  • Though I’ve been a bit saddened by some of this thread, it also made me think about how I find out about new font releases and older ones I might have overlooked. Mind you, my interest is largely in the setting of texts, often complex, multilingual texts. My work is in printed books, whose subjects could be broadly characterized as historical (including just yesterday) or connected to very old traditions (religion). I spent a decade working in metal type, but I embraced digital type early on in its history, pre-PostScript, and I had the opportunity to do some work for a major type manufacturer in an effort to improve the quality of their offerings. Then, in early 1987, I began working with Fontographer, which had been released a few months earlier. And on from there. My fonts have always been made for specific clients and specific projects, never for retail sale. About twenty years ago, as new designers came up and everyone gained experience, I found that I no longer needing to apply myself to Latin type, but concentrate instead on Biblical and liturgical Hebrew, which became a significant part of my work. OpenType made this possible. With Latin type, I’d rather buy fonts than make them—there’s a lot of excellent work out there.

    So, closer to the point of this thread: How can one know who is appreciated? What’s the measure? Sales? Press? All I know is what I like. How do I find out about fonts? For one thing, I have some well-placed friends whose work and opinions I value, and who often send me things to look at. I used to look forward to seeing the yearly round-up in Typographica and would often explore other work by the designers who showed some spark. I joined various foundry’s mailing lists. Every day I get an email from one or another Monotype unit showing the latest goods. There’s a depressing repetitiveness to much of it (or a particularity that once was the province of hand lettering), but occasionally I see something terrific and I’ll buy it whether I need it or not, just to support the effort. In the last year, I acquired Charles Nix’s new Walbaum series and Steve Matteson’s Futura Now (the version we’ve been hoping to see for more than 50 years!); I was so charmed by TypeType’s TT Marxiana that I simply hit “buy,” without the slightest regard as to whether I’d ever use it. A year or so earlier, I was delighted by the revival of the designs of Berthold Wolpe.

    Which of the small foundries make a difference to me? Mark van Bronkhorst (incl. his ATF fonts), Mário Feliciano, Fred Smeijers, DTL, Hoefler, Stormtype and, of course, Carter & Cone. I should add Cyrus Highsmith and Oded Ezer, whose work makes me smile. And there are many others, a little here and a little there. Don’t feel left out—this is just a reflection of one person’s interests. I try to keep current, as best I can. Threads like this are a help—they push me to pay more attention.

  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 132
     «...If you're following a trend, by the time you release it the trend may be over.»
    By the way, if I may ask everybody who is against trends — what trends in type design do you see or mean? Any examples? Just curious whether I understand it correctly :smile:
  • @Frode Helland There are things that detract from the font *business*, then there are things that detract from the font *culture*, and often they're opposed... The best example? Support of under-served scripts.

    @Alex Visi The most recent clear example I can think of (which might already be winding down) is sans fonts with gratuitous "ink" trapping.
  • Alex Visi said:
     «...If you're following a trend, by the time you release it the trend may be over.»
    By the way, if I may ask everybody who is against trends — what trends in type design do you see or mean? Any examples? Just curious whether I understand it correctly :smile:
    The phrase was written by Mark, but personally I mean "trends" in terms of "fashion": things that in the end last for a limited time and influence a plethora of imitations and derivative products without much originality or substance.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,375
    "Trends" to me are when there becomes a certain oft-repeated tendency to model a typeface on another original one which has achieved popularity. They become "fashionable" rather than just admirable. I most admire originality but not for its own sake. That means when someone, through working within themselves, creates an original typeface without setting out to do so. This is "extremely" rare. The questions that the designer asks themselves are about what forms interact with each other in symbiotic way, solving the design of a typeface. The emphasis is on solving a problem without looking for ready-made or traditional sources. When a designer asks themselves "What forms are different looking" they are going astray and are in the "fashion" business instead of in the design business.
  • Yes, "trends" meaning "fashion", not generically "tendencies", that was the intended meaning and I think it was quite clear since the beginning.
    Although I do not know to which degree the search for different looking forms can end up in "fashion" and products without much substance, as you say.
    And yes, it’s rare, I consider Quadraat a good example of that. Also Australis by Francisco Galvez Pizarro, although it’s more delicate, lighter in its basic weight, and has subtleties that make it a bit less of a "workhorse" compared to Quadraat. Both are truly outstanding in the sense you say, to my eyes.
  • So, closer to the point of this thread: How can one know who is appreciated? What’s the measure? Sales? Press? All I know is what I like. How do I find out about fonts? For one thing, I have some well-placed friends whose work and opinions I value, and who often send me things to look at. I used to look forward to seeing the yearly round-up in Typographica and would often explore other work by the designers who showed some spark. I joined various foundry’s mailing lists. Every day I get an email from one or another Monotype unit showing the latest goods. There’s a depressing repetitiveness to much of it (or a particularity that once was the province of hand lettering), but occasionally I see something terrific and I’ll buy it whether I need it or not, just to support the effort. In the last year, I acquired Charles Nix’s new Walbaum series and Steve Matteson’s Futura Now (the version we’ve been hoping to see for more than 50 years!); I was so charmed by TypeType’s TT Marxiana that I simply hit “buy,” without the slightest regard as to whether I’d ever use it. A year or so earlier, I was delighted by the revival of the designs of Berthold Wolpe.

    Which of the small foundries make a difference to me? Mark van Bronkhorst (incl. his ATF fonts), Mário Feliciano, Fred Smeijers, DTL, Hoefler, Stormtype and, of course, Carter & Cone. I should add Cyrus Highsmith and Oded Ezer, whose work makes me smile. And there are many others, a little here and a little there. Don’t feel left out—this is just a reflection of one person’s interests. I try to keep current, as best I can. Threads like this are a help—they push me to pay more attention.

    @"Scott-Martin Kosofsky" Thanks much for spending the time to write this, it’s insightful.
    I wish to clarify a thing: the thread title that I used may be misleading, the work of the great professionals and well-established producers that you listed was a sort of a "given" for me. While everyone can recognize the quality of, say, Carter’s work, often it’s less obvious when we consider people like Bronkhorst and Feliciano, and so it’s important to underline the care put into the work. That’s the route to build a criteria, useful to discern. While it’s clear that we always have an element of taste when we choose, there are certain functional, technical and aesthetic assets that we can ponder and consider to look for quality from an objective angle.

    Nice that you mention Oded Ezer, at the time (early 2000s) when personally I was still considering to put more effort in type design, we had many occasions to exchange ideas and test new ground. At the time Oded designed Systeza, which is the Hebrew version of Fabrizio’s Schiavi groundbreaking Sys type family. When Oded designed Systeza, Fabrizio had yet to design the Bold weight, and I recall we had an email exchange where Oded suggested a rounded treatment for the Bold terminals. Fabrizio in the end went into a slightly different direction with the Bold, so Systeza departs a bit from Sys.

    Below: Oded's Systeza, Fabrizio's ad page for Emigre magazine, and how the final Bold version departs from the rounded terminals.





  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 659
    edited May 16
    When I started as a graphic designer in the 1970s, it was possible to know all the fonts and foundries. Today there have been 35 new typefaces published at MyFonts so far—not even Stephen Coles can keep pace.
    This is (maybe) the death of the old model, yes, but actually perhaps 90% are poorly made, so we can become font repair technicians for the next decades and be paid handsomely when HR realizes in the last possoble minute that the font has to be fixed ASAP. I see no way this particular kind of service can be replaced by machines or AI, so we're set for life! :smiley:
    Recently I had to do a stencil version of a company font (for their outdoor advertising) and the coding of the original was so poorly made that I got triple or quadruple what I had initially asked for. They had contacted the creator, he had no clue at all how to fix his own font, and he had over 200 sales. Not to mention the tons of parasitic points all over his abysmal Beziers and the kerning unconsistencies - an O with different sidebearings and in a kern class, and so on. 2000 kern pairs! Non-typograpers have no clue the can of worms they could be buying from the sea of fonts that came to be in the last 10 years or so. Imagine the tsunami of angry complains he will get from the release until forever. Yikes!

    I hereby coin the term "foret" for the bold term above.
  • George ThomasGeorge Thomas Posts: 591
    edited May 16
    foret == noun - In gun-making, a gimlet or drill used for boring the touch-hole of a piece of ordnance.
    In French, it is a forest; woods; woodland
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