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This is my first post, but anyway, I was thinking that House Industries makes a darn good living doing what they do. What is it five, or six guys. My customer number is in the 28,000s and their boxed sets, love them or hate them, seem popular among people I know. I’ve bought four of them.

[Anonymous #1]

Anonymous's picture
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I’m a teenager who designs band crap for my friends. I buy quite a few fonts from Mr. Chank Diesel. I heard that he was listed as a ‘young millionaire’ by a business magazine, but then I saw when he went in the hospital, they had a picture of him and he looked like he was desperate for cash to pay his medical bills. I’ve also heard that his ‘Chank Army’ pay him royalties, but I cannot verfy.

[Anonymous #1]

Anonymous's picture
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What’s this nonsense, of “individuals” vs “firms”.

HTF is now a “firm” because TFJ joined a couple of years ago?

HTF has had three or more employees for a long time.

And this:

::Hoefler/Jones (they work together now) are in a
::special category because a substantial portion
::of their income is certainly from their
::respective corporations (foundries) consisting
::partly of designs other than their own.

!?

What designs does HTF have that aren’t credited to Jonathan or Tobias?

::Quay and Sack would be back on board.

What is it that either of these do other than design type?

:…and Wolff Olins?

A design consultancy that has never been known for designing type, always subbed it out to others!?

Why are you trying to make some distinction between “lettering” and “type”. If you’re going that way you may as well wipe Zapf off your list, and Roger Black!? C’mon.

[Anonymous #2]

Stephen Coles's picture
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> there’s the bloke and his two helpers, the
woman in the west…

I have no idea what you mean here, but it’s
very entertaining.

I can dig your desire to withhold your name
on the Web. Still, it appears pretty shady to
go Anonymous here where everyone else
goes by name. (Maybe shady is your game.)

As it is, people are dismissing your points
because you come off like a tough guy with a
pantyhose over his head. You have some fine
insights, sir/ma’am — show thyself.

Stephen

Jared Benson's picture
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The anonymous posts require the rest of us to focus on the merits of his/her argument, and not on the credibility of his/her name. I’m not dismissing any points yet-

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This thread is all over the place b/c the premise of ‘making a living from their **own** type designs’ has become 10 other things. Maybe the word ‘freelance’ is what originally was meant. And what does ‘making a living’ mean? Supporting one’s self? Someone single, a student, could live at home with mom and sell $10,000 worth of fonts and be living high on the hog, ‘making a living’ Certainly anybody with a foundry and multiple employees is ‘making a living’ — for themselves and their employees. What’s the point? What if only 20 percent of the sales at their foundries were ** their fonts **? Do they qualify for the list?

Certainly the proprietors of smaller foundries — Font Diner, FontHead, DincType, are ‘making a living’, mostly from their font sales. If they are scraping by or doing freelance design or working part-time at Taco Hut, we don’t know. Is Jeremy Tankard making the ** majority ** of his money from his nice type or his design work? Doesn’t Chank Diesel have three or four employees? Aren’t the guys at House Industries making a living…primarily from ** their own ** type? Don’t you see…this list can never stand or never be agreed upon b/c the parameters change and ** WE DON’T KNOW ** how some of these people are doing.

two cents.
L)


/attach -adnausea.hqx

[Anonymous #3]

Martin Archer's picture
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Stephen: I agree with you. Anonymous makes some interesting points, and it is nice to see criticism with some teeth for a change. It does tend to be a little soft in some of the critique forums, although people here seem to be very astute on purely typographical matters, and the level of expertise in many discussions is very high indeed. Personally I refrain from posting negative comments on designs I don’t like. I’d rather just keep out of it, and I don’t want to pretend my taste in design is better than anyone else’s — so I guess I’ve been adding to the softness of the critique here. But let’s at least keep it amicable.

Anonymous's picture
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Here’s 52 names off the top of my head. Quibble away.
(submitted by Anonymous #2, Professional Type Designer)

1. David Berlow
2. Cyrus Highsmith
3. Jill Pichotta
4. Jonathan Hoefler
5. Tobias Frere-Jones
6. Jesse Ragan
7. Josh Darden
8. Kevin Dresser
9. John Downer
10. Matthew Carter
11. Zuzana Licko
12. Christian Schwartz
13. Ken Barber
14. Tal Leming
15. Jim Parkinson
16. Jeremy Tankard
17. David Quay
18. Freda Sack
19. Dave Farrey
20. Jean Francois Porchez
21. Petr van Blockland
22. Erik van Blockland
23. Just van Rossum
24. Martin Wenzel
25. Luc(as) de Groot
26. Ole Schafer
27. Brazo Fuerte
28. Martin Majoor
29. Hans Reichel
30. Bram de Does
31. Christoph Noordzij
32. Gerrit Noordzij
33. Mattias Noordzij
34. Fred Smeijers
35. Paul van der Laan
36. Hannes Famira
37. Akiem Helmling
38. Bas Jacobs
39. Sami Kortemäki
40. Lars de Beer
41. Bruno Maag
42. Clive Bruton
43. Nick Shinn
44. Adrian Frutiger
45. Herman Zapf
46. Hans Eduard Meier
47. Gerard Unger
48. Steven Gibbs
49. Robert Slimbach
50. Carol Twombly
51. Marco Ganz
52. Robert J. Smartner

Stephen Coles's picture
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I doubt Christian Schwartz earns most of his keep
from type design. But even if he did, he doesn’t now.
Now he breeds Alpaca…

http://www.orangeitalic.com/

Anonymous's picture
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Frantisek Storm?
Chank Diesel?
Spiekermann?
DeLora Tim¿n?

Martin Archer's picture
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Anon: it would help if you qualified these with url’s and other sources to refer to. There’s a lot of people I’ve never even heard of. And anyway, if you’re prepared to go to these lengths, then how would you define the parameters?

Anonymous's picture
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There’s at least two anons here:-)

My point about the “woman in the west etc”, is that in quite a limited geographical area, ie within five miles of where I’m now sitting, are at least 11 professional type designers, who have 80-90% of their income from type. If they’re doing “other things” it’s because they’re between projects or they want to do other things.

Paul Schliesser's picture
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Robert Slimbach has done some serious bestsellers for Adobe — Minion, Adobe Jensen, Utopia.

What about Frutiger? Univers has been a steady bestseller for decades, and I’d guess that the ‘Frutiger’ typefaces are earning substantial royalites.

Anonymous's picture
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Just to expand on this, those that doubt the numbers put forward are just not on the “inside” of this business. That’s not to say it’s exclusive, but you need to get to know the people in order to know the business.

I’ve worked hard at getting to know the people, even though I’m mostly an anti-social grouch (aha, now you know me), because there is a commonality between those on the inside — we’re just real typo nuts (and you might be on the outside too, but it’s of a different kind).

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Guys, focus.
What’s the point of this thread? Of course it’s different for each of us, but practically speaking to me it’s a way to measure (albeit informally) the viability of physically spending time doing type design (which does not include lettering, logo design, oriental calligraphy, etc.) This necessarily means we can’t factor in what “making a living” really means; each of us would have to skew the “results” of this list based on his/her own lifestyle/circumstances. Once we have a good (never perfect) list, each of us can look at it and say, for example: “From what I know, about half of those 20 people seem to live too modestly for my tastes, so for me the list is actually around 10”. No absolute list is going to work for everybody: so it has to be inclusive, but not imprecise.

The only way I see that this thread can have any real value is if the list is defined somewhat narrowly, by simplifying the parameters: so I think the list should contain the names of individuals who currently earn enough money directly from their own personal time spent designing type to substancially sustain a lifestyle they consider satisfying. It doesn’t have to be 100% of their income, but it does have to be enough on its own to maintain the person in a relatively happy state. Yes, this is all subjective, but that can’t be avoided, and picture this thread if we tried to factor in more parameters…

If there is a better way to make this thread *productive*, please explain. If not, that list of 52 for example holds no water at all, I’m sorry to say. There are people on it who no longer design type, a person I know for a fact has had to start working as a waiter because he couldn’t make a living in type design, a person who has released for sale a single -and unpopular- font in his entire “career”, and a bunch of others who aren’t even close to making any such list.

Let’s agree what the list *is* before we argue for the sake of confrontation…

hhp

Anonymous's picture
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Hey look, I’m in the top 50!

I’d disagree with a few of those names earning most of their income from type, definitely me anyway, at the moment.

What some of you seem to be concentrating on is retail sales of fonts. I don’t think that’s a really major feature of many people’s incomes. I’ve never put out a retail font, but I’ve certainly paid more than a few bills through my type work. I’ve never flown on Concorde, but I’ve been to the US and Canada 6 or 7 times in the past five years, all over Europe and even as far as New Zealand.

I’d say that the type business supports around 3-400 people world wide on a full time basis, excluding those working in retail sales which probably comes to around another couple of hundred.

The 3-400 is probably comprised of 600 or so actual bodies who drift in and out over time or as they are completing other projects. Most of those I know and have contact with directly, on a regular basis would agree that sitting down and drawing type 100% of the time would drive us nuts.

So we all do things “on the side”.

You can believe what you like, but I’m certain that those throwing around figures like “10” are very wrong.

I’d also say that for those trying to separate type design, lettering and even straight up typography, that’s a losing game. Anyone with an “eye” for it is going to be moving between the three all the time.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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I agree that the list should include custom type work.

> So we all do things “on the side”.

Do accountants do things on the side? Why not? Doing things on the side is fine if you enjoy it (and I do). But if I do things on the side because doing more of what I really want to do (type design) doesn’t pay *enough* of the bills (not just a few), then I’m not on the list.

As for the difference between type and not:
It’s not just an “eye” for it. Type design involves things that lettering or any other letter-related art/craft does not (and the other way around too). Moving between them is fine, and people have different reasons for doing so, but the distinction is important, not least in coming up with a “list”.

hhp

Joe Pemberton's picture
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Joined: 8 Apr 2002 - 3:36pm
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Welcome Anons. You both raise some
interesting insights. (Please, get yourself a
pseudonym and stay awhile. Even Anonymous
1 and Anonymous 2 is fine.)

Clive, great points. And congrats on being in
the 50. (Heh.)

Ok, seriously, I wonder what the real value of
that name list is. Clearly we can knit-pick till
the next Star Wars sequel comes out. But
what’s the point? It seems a little futile.
(Whether it’s 30 or 200 doesn’t really prove
anything—just that it’s not thousands.)

Which gets at my next point: Namely,
the point made early in this thread, that
relatively few people make a living SOLELY as
full-time type designers.

But, if that’s the point, what are we
meant to conclude?

//joe

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Well, you’re right that it’s not the number, it’s the conclusion. I myself agree with your conclusion, but my impression is that the people behind the “revival” of this thread don’t. The only real problem with our disagreement is that it might affect the life-choices of the undecideds.

BTW, forget thousands: if it is/were even close to 300, I’d be happy.

hhp

Anonymous's picture
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Actually, at the moment, I’m pretty much an accountant that does a bit of type on the side. :-)

I think to be on “the list” you have to be able to make the “choice” about what you want to work on. My current choice is not to be doing much type, however I know that if I want to I have plenty of opportunity to be doing it, I probably will be doing a “bit on the side” over the next six months. Not sure I deserve to be on the list anyway. :-)

But I do think there are a lot more people involved than has been stated here.

As to what is/is not worthy of the list. I’ll basically stick with what I wrote previously: type design, lettering and straight-up typography are all of a mix to me. I will qualify that in stating that I’m really looking to the higher end there.

I’ll discard my own input for a moment, because i think otherwise it’ll look really subjective. However, all of the people I know pretty well, working at the higher end, are all first rate typographers as well as being type designers and or letterers. People have mentioned Roger Black and Erik Spiekermann, despite initial reactions I’d say that both of them are really better known for their typography. That flows throughout the higher end, people have the “eye”.

Even if you look at Erik van Blokland and Just van Rossum, two people definitely known for their type design, they’ve always done some really neat typography to go with it — and the way they do that is sometimes shocking, but they really can pull it off.

You know, type was a sideline for Eric Gill, but didn’t he make something of it?

Martin Archer's picture
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We might as well just pack up and go ‘ome…

Font design always was a labor of love, and personally that’s all it will remain for me. I think it’s safe to say that a graphic designer who doesn’t enjoy type could not be forced at gunpoint to design a four font family with complete character sets. There again, I’ve never met a graphic designer, even a bad one, who didn’t like fonts.

Anon’s list is not valid in my opinion if they can’t back up the names with other points of reference to assess their validity, notwithstanding the supposed subjectivity of the “making a living” parameter. I always understood the definition to be someone whose main income was from font design. We already went over this, though. Side work does not invalidate a candidate, but it does factor into the hypothetical question of if you took that away from them, would they soon become bankrupt on font design income alone.

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Martin, the short answer is, if those practising type design were to do so exclusively, then the market would be able to support less of them.

However they choose to go with the flow of work as it comes and goes. I do believe that there is enough work to keep 300+ people working full time, but as i wrote before, that’s a subset of a group that’s quite a bit larger.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Clive:
> I think to be on “the list” you have to be able to make the “choice” about what you want to work on.

That’s a cool way of looking at it.

> You know, type was a sideline for Eric Gill, but didn’t he make something of it?

Man, if Gill were a full-time type designer…

hhp

Martin Archer's picture
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Paul! You’ve pointed out two great designers we overlooked in this discussion so far. To my embarrassment I thought Frutiger wasn’t still with us, but here he is at the Linotype site:
http://www.fontexplorer.com/isroot/FontStore/content/00_home/content/home_05b_fdesigner_f/frutiger/frutiger.html
(This is a frame from their slow-loading frame-ridden site.)
Check out his birthday pix.
And here is Slimbach at Adobe:
http://www.adobe.com/type/typedesign/slimbach.html
I wonder if these guys ever troll through the web and read stuff like Typophile…

Anonymous's picture
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Sorry, the conclusion is what?

“There are relatively few people working full time in type design”!?

Compared to what? There are relatively few people that win gold medals at the olympics, or are world class concert pianists, or who give birth to sextuplets.

And?

There are relatively few people who show their faces on bigger budget films, who can make records when and where they choose.

It’s relative to the market that class of person can support.

Anonymous's picture
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Anonymous #2 coming back for more…

The point of my list was not to be **THE** list. It was a response to the RIDICULOUS assertion that there are no more than 10 people who earn a substantial part of their living from type design. These were simply the first 52 people that I thought of, in no particular order (sorry Clive). Indeed, my list is flawed in a few instances… there are countless glaring omissions, several individuals probably would not even describe themselves as

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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> It’s a completely different story if you want to narrow the list down to people who SOLELY design type.

I personally don’t think it should be that narrow. We should simply try to include people who make *enough* money from type design (and only type design — that’s the topic here) to keep them financially stable with no other income. If you spend weekends restoring the lettering on rich people’s tombstones to support your lifestyle, then you’re not on the list.

So I think your list is way too inclusive.
Many of the people on there are *way* off, come on.

> My other point is that a list is pointless, a red herring.

I might agree with that.

> If someone is considering

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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I just thought of this spin-off question:
To be a full-time type designer, is it better to be single, or at least not have kids?…  :->

If there’s a strong correlation between being a type designer and having no dependents, maybe that’s another indication that there’s not enough money in the field.

Or maybe it’s just a matter of type designers being generally too bullheaded to have a “partner”?  :-)

hhp

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Now *there’s* a tangent I can relate to.

It’s not type design, but graphic design (deadline-based schedules) that puts the strain on a relationship. No matter how you try to spin it, staying late night after night to make a deadline makes it real hard to be an effective husband and father.

On the other hand, sometimes I am glad that I’m done with the whole dating scene, because I certainly would not have time to do it now.

When you run your own shop (type design or otherwise) you can call your own shots, scope projects with plenty of time to get them done, and stay as late (or not) as you’d like.

Working at HTF was a pleasure and such a contrast to my other design studio experiences. It was rare that we had to stay late. Why? No client-driven deadlines.

proud dad,

jb

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» 1. To be a full-time type designer, is it better to be single, or at least not have kids?… :->

» 2. If there’s a strong correlation between being a type designer and having no dependents, maybe that’s another indication that there’s not enough money in the field.

AS A FATHER OF TWO, I would assume that question 1 is asked by someone who does not have kids. :)

If you are a type designer or any occupation, and have nothing else going on in your life, you will of course be more prolific in your chosen endeavor because you will have hundreds (thousands?) more hours of free time in year. Is that better? Any parent would say No. Someone obsessed with a career may put off a family or love interest because they have goals to fulfill, or even type libraries to build. These are choices that individuals make every day. But the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You just have to strike a balance. You are not working on your typefaces when you are teaching your kids about volcanos or answering questions like, ‘Why can’t humans live on Jupiter?’ When you have kids, the best time to work on type is after the kids go to bed.

2. Just an outsider’s evaluation: There is money in the field, but only for those who can consistently apply themselves to the craft and learn HOW to make money. Everybody knows it’s long hours hunched over a computer moving around anchor points. The people who have a career in type (some of them on the Typophile 50) :) have learned that you can’t just make brilliant faces, but you have to network, market, have some good timing and act smart when big companies come calling. :)


bj

p.s. does anyone care for the word ‘hobby’? Not a good word. Designing type, or even just eyeballing type, might better be described as a ‘passion’ or a side interest’ , depending on the severity of your condition.

Anonymous's picture
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One more to add to the list…

Jonathan Barnbrook

Why no-one has mentioned this guy yet is unbelievable! Worth checking his stuff out!

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Real quick t’philes — I never cared much for the whining/complaining in this thread so when it went off on the ‘blokes and pantyhose’ tangent up a ways on the thread, I was irritated and wrote a reply (Wednesday, December 05, 2001 — 10:39 am —This thread is all over the place…) and clicked on the ‘anonymous’ radio button. I shouldn’t have clicked on anonymous but I did. Sorry. This isn’t how I live my life so it has been bothering me. I won’t be anonymous again, I’ll just say what’s on my mind and live with the consequences.


bj

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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BJ da man.

hhp

Tiffany Wardle's picture
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I could not resist this one.

What if one married someone that was as passionate about type as oneself? This could help, no?

Paul Schliesser's picture
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Hi Mart,

Thanks for the links. What a grouping at Adrian Frutiger’s party — I was especially impressed at the shot of Frutiger and Zapf together.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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You’re kidding, right?
Considering what most type designers are like, I would predict a murder/suicide deal within a month.  :-)

hhp

Anonymous's picture
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I pretty much agree with Anon #2, BJ and Jared.

As to Tiffany’s question, I think that there’s certainly some benefit to having a partner who understands why you’re doing what you’re doing, even if they don’t understand what it is. And/or is similarly involved in their own “thing”.

Have we now established that there are more than 10 type designers in the world?

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No. If one partner were more of the designer and the other perhaps more of an historian, let’s say, this could be a wonderful thing.

As for this list. Is it mandatory that one of the designs be from 2001?

Joe Pemberton's picture
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For what it’s worth Zuzana and Rudy seem to do
well together…

My advice: just look for someone who could
appreciate your Emigre XYZ pajamas. Heh.

//joe

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Clive:
Full-time *type* designers? No we haven’t. For one thing, that list of 52 is much more than half wrong, using any decent benchmark. However, I no longer think 20 is too high. But 300 is completely lala-land.

hhp

Anonymous's picture
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Yeah, well you should know.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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Nah, but I *am* objective.

hhp

Anonymous's picture
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Tiffany, I’m with you, people with strong feelings/commitments/interests don’t need to bounce off each other, they can be complimentary — in the same or different fields.

Ditto for Joe.

Anonymous's picture
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It seems to me that, while certainly not everyone who tries will make a living for her-/himself designing fonts (as is true for any profession), those names listed who HAVE made it did so by a combination of finely honed skill, business sense and tenacity.

And I’m not even gonna touch Clive’s “bounce off each other” remark…. >:]

Anonymous's picture
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David, you’re about right.

I think I can probably put this to bed right now. Hrant, you’re not objective, you just don’t know, or even acknowledge, what you don’t know. Maybe you meant “objectionable”?

People making their living full time from type, just in London:

Businesses (more than one person):

HouseStyle: Dave Farey, Richard Dawson

Foundry: Freda Sack, Struart (can’t remember his surname) and another woman work there on type

Dalton Maag: Bruno Maag, Vince Connare (former MS), Dave Marshall and… Ron Carpenter.


Individuals running their own businesses:

Shelley Winter

Jason Smith

Jeremy Tankard


This list excludes people who would usually be in London: David Quay is currently living in Amsterdam, Chris Fynn is on a two year contract in Bhutan.

So, excluding those whose names I can’t remember that’s 11, just in London. Including the two outside the country that’s 13, and the other whose name escapes me 14. If I wanted to scour the rest of the UK I’m sure I could easily get up to 20 or 25.

Joe Pemberton's picture
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Did you see the pic of “Univers” in the fireworks display? It made me smile.

The Lesson: Never mix pyrotechnics and modern gothics.

//joe

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Clive, with every post you make it becomes clearer that you’re counting something different than [most of] the rest of us — only ~3 of the people you’ve just named fit the bill, and the fact that that’s in *London* works against your argument…

You’re intelligent enough to figure things out, so there
must be another reason for your drowsy judgment.

hhp

Anonymous's picture
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I think we’re counting people who earn most of their income from type design, right? I don’t see that negates anything I’ve written above, if you’d like to state what it is you think you know that I don’t please do.

What you seem to want to count is anything that supports your initial assertion that there were 10 full time type designers in the world. I just counted 12 (added Satwinder Sammy, but didn’t show up) and I didn’t even get outside London.

So, please, tell me what it is that excludes those I’ve listed. How does London form part of the basis of your argument anyway!? I’m just indicating that in a small geographical area I can exceed what you keep stating.

Anonymous's picture
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Martin Archer:

>The number of type designers in the world that
>make enough money to call it their sole
>profession (that’s not the
>best definition, but hopefully you understand
>what I mean) is probably less than twenty.

Hrant:

>Way less than 20.

I just named 12 in London, and two more who would usually be in London, so your figure is easily proven to be complete bollocks.

Now to exceed your 20:

Jonathan Hoefler
Tobias Frere-Jones
David Berlow
Matthew Carter
Rich Roat
Cyrus Highsmith

That’s twenty

Erik van Blokland

QED: you are wrong.

Martin Archer's picture
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Joined: 5 Sep 2001 - 12:31pm
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Clive: No need to get shirty about it. Let’s keep this civilized.

My assertion was part guess, part assertion, part provocation to discussion. I don’t think I know the real answer any more than you do. And I certainly don’t think you’re right based on my understanding of the parameters. But I don’t think we’ve successfully established the parameters, let alone agreed on them.

Perhaps someone might start a project: Contact all those in the biggest list that was up for argument here and pop the question to them. If successful, it might serve as the basis for some sort of “State of the Profession” report.

I don’t know. If I think about putting myself in their position, then I can imagine that I’d be quite straightforward with the answer and not pretend either that type design was more or less financially rewarding to me. Some people might just say “mind your own business”, but we might get enough data to form a more precise answer to our question here.

brian jaramillo's picture
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Joined: 3 Nov 2001 - 11:00am
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Random thoughts to help push this thread into 2002.

(Theater of the Absurd 1)

During the past 15 years, TENS of THOUSANDS of typefaces have been digitized, a lot of them by foundries working from their existing ‘paper’ libraries. Somebody did (is doing) all that work. They are making a living at it. So should we at least acknowledge major foundry ‘house’ designers that ‘fontify’ in the shadows with no credit ever given to their ‘work’. I’m not talking about Adobe. I’m talking about Image Club, E & F, DsnHaus and that ilk.
Can anyone pinpoint how many major foundries this involves?


(Theater of the Absurd 2):

There are dozens of companies that digitize handwriting and make it into a font. These are not type designers buy they make a living designing, er, compiling type.

(Theater of the Absurd 3):

Hasn’t every major profession been featured in a film or movie or book? Are there any instances of a type designer being portrayed in any of these mediums? What about a lettering artist?


“I am not a type designer, but I play one on TV.”

bj

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