20 most important type designers of all time

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Brown Fox's picture
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20 most important type designers of all time
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I'm trying to compile a list of the 20 most important [[designers|type designers]] of all time. Which one would they be? I know this is personal, so I just wrote down what came to my mind, odered by living and dead. I know this is by no means complete or correct yet. Please feel free to add / edit!

V.3 —

Dead:
- [[Claude Garamond]]
- [[William Caslon]]
- [[Frederic W. Goudy]]
- [[Francesco Griffo]]
- [[John Baskerville]]
- [[Morris Fuller Benton]]
- [[Giambattista Bodoni]]
- [[Emil Rudolf Weiss]]
- [[Edward Johnston]]
- [[Eric Gill]]
- [[Stanley Morison]]
- [[Rudolf Koch]]
- [[Nicholas Jenson]]
- [[Paul Renner]]
- [[Roger Excoffon]]
- [[Herb Lubalin]]
- [[Max Miedinger]]
- [[Chauncey H. Griffith]]
- [[Evert Bloemsma]]

Living:
- [[Herman Zapf]]
- [[Edward Benguiat]]
- [[Gerrit Noordzij]]
- [[Adrian Frutiger]]
- [[Bram de Does]]
- [[Mathew Carter]]
- [[Erik Spiekermann]]
- [[Gerard Unger]]
- [[Frank Blokland]]
- [[Kris Holmes]]
- [[Carol Twombly]]

Marc Oxborrow's picture
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Surely there's a place for [[Frederic W. Goudy]]?

I know he designed Avante Garde, but isn't Herb Lubalin known more as a typographer than a type designer?

Patricia Fabricant's picture
Joined: 23 Mar 2004 - 9:40am
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You might want to limit it to the dead as some of the living frequent this site...

Besides it's subjective who is the most important.

Tim Ahrens's picture
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You might want to make a further difference between designers that have created "several designs" and the older ones that are known for "one style". It might be hard to draw the line, however. Bodoni has produced quite different fonts whereas Renner is almost only known for one design.

If you add Bodoni, you definitely need Didot, they were more important imho. I am missing Zapf, Slimbach, possibly Porchez.

John Boardley's picture
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Gerard Unger should be added to the list of the living.

David R.'s picture
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I am not sure where to draw the line & who should be in the 20, but two of my favourite type designers are missing: Cassandre (for Peignot, Acier, etc.) & Xavier Dupré (I need not mention why, I suppose?). I am surprised to see how long it took to name Baskerville and Fournier!

Steve Marston's picture
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Kent Lew for Whitman

Jos Buivenga for Calluna

James Montalbano for Clearview [Highway] in all it's forms

Adrian Frutiger for Frutiger, Univers, and Avenir

Jean François Porchez for Parisine/Plus

Luc(as) de Groot for TheSans

Were it not for the screwed-up naming conventions, I'd nominate Joshua Darden's Freight Text

Roger Black's picture
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And . . .
Robert Hunter Middleton
Aldo Novarese
Chauncey Griffith

And . . . also among the living!
Jim Parkinson
Christian Schwartz
Richard Lipton

Next, a list of type development directors!
Aaron Burns
Mike Parker
Stanley Morrison

Simon Daniels's picture
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Type directors get a club, we don't need a list :-)

Steve Marston's picture
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I forgot Miklós Kis

Reynir Heiðberg Stefánsson's picture
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Wouldn't whoever was the first type designer be the most important one?

matt yow's picture
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Brown Fox, in your original post you've misspelled Matthew Carter with 1 /t/.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Hmm, my entirely subjective list of Most Important Type Designers of All Time only runs to six members:

Nick Shinn
N.W. Shinn
Nicholas Shinn
Nicholas William Shinn
Nicky Shinn
Mr Shinn

sandro emanuel martins lopes's picture
Joined: 16 Sep 2005 - 7:49pm
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I believe that there's a problem in the criteria of selection. If you think of work of a life time, names like Frutiger, Zapf or Fuller Benton may appear, but if you're thinking about contributions that may have influenced largely in the history of typography and typeface design and innovation, then names like Jenson (first "roman"), Griffo(first italic), Garamond (First slanted caps), Eric Gill and Hans Meyer(humanist sans) Sumner Stone (family), Benton(again)(gothic style and family), Otl Aicher (family), Frutiger (again)(grid and family), Miedinger/Hoffmann (most popular) would make sense. Stablish the criteria first, otherwise you'll have preference and speculation. Some may agree with with quite a few, but the number 20 will become a problem...

Tiffany Wardle's picture
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Some people are list prone. I don't think this is a bad thing. And there is no reason each person can't keep their own list with their own number.

And keep in mind this thread was started in 2007 way before all of the "top 10 most inspiring typography sites" started boring us all to tears. ;^P

Tiffany Wardle's picture
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More importantly, do we have the authority/perspective to forge such doctrine?

Of course this list is subjective and open for debate. This is Typophile. ;^)

Simon Daniels's picture
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Top 10 typophile threads that should stay closed?

Tiffany Wardle's picture
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LOL

danielle scher's picture
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paula scher

Mike Diaz's picture
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Isn’t Manfred Klien more prolific than Larabie?

****Tobias Frere Jones and Jonathan Hoefler

Sorry 20 isn’t gonna cut it.

Toby Thain's picture
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Seriously, give up now. Your list will never be 'right' whether it's 20 or 200. Just make a list of those who are important to *you*; top-N lists always suck (just look at imdb.com's best movies of all time for an example).

Toby Thain's picture
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@Choz - I think some of Smeijers' work would fit (Quadraat) or Majoor's Scala. Jan Middendorp's book is probably the ultimate reference to the 'style'.

Thomas W Phinney's picture
Joined: 3 Sep 2002 - 11:00am
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No Robert Slimbach, really?

There are a number of younger type designers who could die tomorrow and be named to the list, yet somehow we don't name them now. Funny that.

Tiffany Wardle's picture
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Oops. Danielle, Paula isn't a type designer.

E.Jacobson's picture
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Questions:

Why 20? Why not 64? It's a big world. Why are we obsessed with lists which deify? It's an unrealistic/idealistic act. What is the standard by which we may deem one more important than another? What is the determining process by which I may conclude that one person is a type designer and another is not?

More importantly, do we have the authority/perspective to forge such doctrine?

Apologies for the angst-like deconstructive criticism. But damn if I don't feel like "Top-10 syndrome" is the heartbeat of the internet.
This thread is very troll-able. Hope I'm not doing so. :)

Justina Bailey's picture
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Im new here, but a top 20 would have a lot of subjective picks. I see many greats on the list and some people have mentioned below. It would be good if there was a more open list.

Russell McGorman's picture
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.

Toby Thain's picture
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"Of course this list is subjective and open for debate."

The problem is that there can be no list that satisfies the criteria; the objective is futile. Top-N lists do not reach consensus and have very little value.

Change the criteria and the problem is ameliorated. For example, "my top 20 favourite type designers," or "the 20 type designers I consider most significant" are quite achievable lists. Do that instead.

@bleachmilk - it's a perpetual-motion troll machine. I too have succumbed :-(

Claudio Piccinini's picture
Joined: 11 Jan 2003 - 9:32am
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Basically, I don't think it makes sense to think about such a list when you are considering typefaces coming out of such different eras of print, and thus out of radically different views and technologies.
Today we can talk of "a Garamond" or "a Bodoni". There were no such things at the time of Garamond and Bodoni. And there shouldn’t be neither now. :)

Robert Trogman's picture
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Please don't forget Jan Van Krimpen (deceased)

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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Evert Bloemsma.

hhp

John Savard's picture
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I could conceive of a list of the 20 or 50 greatest type designers of all time.

After all, if one writes a book on the history of typography, one is exercising a process of selection.

But a list of the most important type designers of all time as distinct from a list of the greatest type designers of all time... that raises a new question.

Does it mean a list of the most influential type designers of all time? If so, clearly Jenson and Aldus get to be on the list, as well as Caslon. Paul Renner would make the list as well.

But if one actually wants to draw a distinction between most important and most influential...

The BAMS codebook used by British merchant ships in World War II was set in the roman designed by Alexander Phemister. Did this result in a saving of eyestrain that helped win the war, making him one of the most important type designers of all time?

That is a facetious example, but I think you can see what I'm getting at. If one is defining "importance" in an open-ended way, to include impact on the outside world, one is venturing into very uncharted territory.

James Tung's picture
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I vote for the turkey's leg.

david h's picture
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[[Robert Slimbach]]

[[David Berlow]]

[[Cyrus Highsmith]]

[[Jean Francois Porchez|Jean François Porchez]]

[[John Hudson]]

[[Hermann Zapf]]

[[Jeremy Tankard]]

[[Akira Kobayashi]]

Andrew Sipe's picture
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What about ol' [[William Addison Dwiggins]]?

- 20 seems like such an arbitrary number why not 10 or 25?
- How would you categorize THE GREATEST TYPOGRAPHERS OF ALL TIME? What are the determining factors: Quantity, Quality, Influence, Contributions that changed type design forever, Techniques?

paul d hunt's picture
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[[Nicholas Jenson]]
[[Adrian Frutiger]]

Bruce Schneider's picture
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Another vote for Jenson.

As for the living, while he is still young yet, I'd make an argument for Jonathan Hoefler.

David Thometz's picture
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I second all those already nominated above.

- For additional consideration (all dead):
Ludovico degli Arrighi
Richard Austin
John Baskerville
Morris Fuller Benton
William Caslon
François-Ambrose Didot
Firmin Didot
William Addison Dwiggins
Johann Michael Fleischman
Pierre Simon Fournier
Robert Granjon
Francesco Griffo
François Guyot
Victor Hammer
Jean Jannon
Nicolas Jenson
Miklós Tótfalusi Kis
Giovanni Mardersteig
Oldrich Menhart
Alexander Phemister
Friedrich Poppl
Vojtech Preissig
Rudolph Ruzicka
Georg Trump
Hendrik van den Keere
Christoffel van Dijck
Jan van Krimpen
Justus Erich Walbaum

- And (all living):
Frank Blokland
Chris Brand
John Downer
Tobias Frere-Jones
Jonathan Hoefler
Kris Holmes
Günter Gerhard Lange
Zuzana Licko
Martin Majoor
Hans Eduard Meier
José Mendoza y Almeida
Peter Matthias Noordzij
Sumner Stone
Carol Twombly
Gerard Unger
Rudy VanderLans
Jovica Veljovic
Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse

Also, Pietro Bembo was a Venetian Poet and historian, not a type designer. The Monotype typeface Bembo is named for him, but Bembo Roman was based on a roman font designed by Francesco Griffo in 1495. Bembo Italic was based on Blado, which was, in turn, based on a font used by typographer Antonio Blado of Rome, but designed by Ludovico degli Arrighi about 1526.

David Thometz
(who still hopes to make the list someday :) )

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Absolutely Max Miedinger. Hard to believe only one person in this discussion has mentioned him so far. Helvetica was the most popular and useful typeface of its time. It still is one of the most useful, despite its having fallen from the graces of the avant garde.

Mike Patrick's picture
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I don't see how it can be only 20 and complete by any means, but I was sure expecting to see Zapf on the list.

Getting more into the 21st century, a few that come to mind are Carol Twombly and Ray Larabie.

Simon Daniels's picture
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How are you defining 'important'?

Tiffany Wardle's picture
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Ooh. Simon, before I made it to your comment I had the same exact thought. I think for those who come after us, who will run across this thread, it might be more useful for all to include a reason why they should be on the list.

Mike Patrick's picture
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I was defining 'important' as simply designers whose work -either individual designs, or as a body of work- I felt was relevant during the time it was created (or is now relevant today).

Hermann Zapf: Palatino, Optima, Zapfino... those are good reasons, I don't see a need to go any further.

Carol Twombly: because of Trajan, Charlemagne, contributions to Myriad, etc. Carol's name and work was one of the first I became associated with when I began with digital type (My first college text on type design was "Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works", and Carol was one of several featured within, IIRC). Also her Association Typographique Internationale award- it's always stuck in my mind she was the first woman to win it. I'm not sure if she is still designing today, but her work with type certainly lives on.

Ray Larabie: I would bet some would be surprised to see my mention of Mr. Larabie, largely because his past work was not quite so "original" (considering the freeware fonts he created based from existing corporate logos). Love it or not, I think quite a bit of that became an underground movement in itself, spurred "non-designers" to experiment with type a little more, and indirectly drew more serious attention towards reproducing typefaces not yet digitized.

Since going commercial & focusing on more original work, some of it's become quite popular- I see Neuropol X in the media quite a bit these days, and quite frankly, I think it's a good face for the times.

Does this explain the reasoning behind my choices a little better? I will admit my choices are a little more biased towards my personal taste rather than leaning towards what some may deem more historically significant. I really think this post's question is impossible to answer, but fun nonetheless.

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I was surprised that Lubalin is on your list - and yet Benguiat seems to be overlooked...

And please, don't forget Phil Martin
he had so many original faces - and a great sense of
type design. RIP Phil.

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(designers from the USSR area code)

Tagir Safayev

Vladimir Yefimov

George Everet Thompson's picture
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Maybe it's just late and I'm being curmudgeonly BUT: Bembo isn't a type designer by any measure. Poor Mr. Griffo always gets ignored when he invented a whole genre of typefaces. Where I come from not mentioning him is a hanging offense. And Johnston wasn't really a type designer--disagree all you want, he was a calligrapher who designed some signage. How on earth could you compile such a list and not mention Goudy, Dwiggins, and Cooper! And how could you make such a list and not mention any WOMEN designers?

Renner belongs even if he only designed Futura since it was one of the most popular and influential faces of the 20th C. and he has the distinction of having been persecuted by the Nazi's for having designed it in the first place. How many other type designers can say that?

And did anyone mention Menhart? The list isn't merely for western europeans is it? How many type designers have been commissioned to design a face for their country's constitution?

And where's Baskerville and Caslon? And if you mention Bodoni (my favorite) you must mention Didot, and not just Firmin, but all of the type designers in the bunch. And where's Fournier??? Vincent Figgins??? Doesn't inventing slab serif types mean anything? William Caslon IV maybe? And where did all those 19th C. advertising faces come from if not for Mr. Thorne? Doesn't that rate? Darius Wells who invented wood type??? Shouldn't he be one of the top guys on the list? And I have to mention Augereau even if he isn't one of the top 20 since he is the only type designer executed for heresy.

Of course there's Jenson, and one could make a case for Sweynheim and Pannartz. But the most glaring omission is of course the most important type designer of all time: Johan Genzfleisch zum Gutenberg who invented it in the first place.

George
I felt bad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no Bodoni

Simon Daniels's picture
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>Where I come from not mentioning him is a hanging offense.

Nice! ;-) reminds me of the other typographic joke...

"Griffo's brother in law walks into a bar..."

George Everet Thompson's picture
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Oh, and I forgot to mention Benton, one of the most prolific, and Weiss whose work can be seen in print nearly every day. And Griffith shouldn't be in the top 100, much less the top 20.

I'm avoiding picking up a specimen book since it will only result in more names. I don't think the list can be narrowed down to 20 or even to 100. I think this is like "what typefaces would you want on a desert island?" The correct answer is all of them, every last one.

George
I felt bad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no Bodoni

George Everet Thompson's picture
Joined: 8 Oct 2004 - 11:00am
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“Griffo’s brother in law walks into a bar…”

The way I heard the joke was "Griffo's son in law walks into a bar."

George
I felt bad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no Bodoni

Simon Daniels's picture
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That will teach me for believing everything I read at MyFonts...

http://www.myfonts.com/person/griffo/francesco/

Wiki seems to have it right...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francesco_Griffo

...also someone should put together a list of the top 20 reasons why writing a list of the top 20 things is a complete waste of time.