Specimen for two new typefaces

In late 2014 and early 2015, I worked on two Latin & Devanagari typefaces with Mathieu Réguer that you can have for free: Biryani and Martel Sans. Here are the first PDF specimen I designed for each of them; these PDFs really only illustrate the Latin-portions of those families.

As for the fonts themselves, you can get the Martel Sans fonts libre and gratis from Google Fonts or GitHub. The same is the case for Biryani: Google Fonts link and GitHub link.

Anyway, I hope that you enjoy looking at these PDFs. The text on most of their pages are reprints from three book reviews I wrote a few years ago. Biryani has How to be a graphic designer without loosing your soul, and Martel Sans has Counterpunch and José Mendoza y Almeida. That’s it! Hit me up with any questions over on Twitter.

Darmstadt workshop, April 2015

I have been teaching type design off-and-on at the Hochschule Darmstadt since 2009. Sometimes I offer semester-long courses there, other times I come in for a week or two straight. I almost never put the results together in any sort of final presentations, though. This April, I was in town for another six-day workshop. I got 12 hard-working graphic design students, and this PDF shows a glimpse at what they achieved in that time. I am pleased to show their results to you all.


Oh my heavens, this blog has not been updated since February 27, 2012! That is terrible. Since then, I have moved twice, and also gotten married. I finally have a dog, too. Fortunately, though, I am still doing exactly the same sort of work that I was three years ago. Today, my Twittersphere shamed me enough that I finally decided to kickstart this site’s post-frequency. I hope you like what I’ll be up to here.

TYPO TALK in Mainz in March

As part of their ON-TYPE exhibition, the Gutenberg-Museum in Mainz will hold a two-day lecture series entitled TYPO TALK on March 21 and 28, 2012. I’ve been invited as one of three speakers to present on the 21st. The series organizer, Marcel Häusler shared some information with today that I am pleased to translate into English for TypeOff. readers. Unfortunately, I will only be in Mainz for the first evening – on March 21st – but both dates are sure to prove interesting.

These days, there are more typefaces available than ever before. More and more typefaces are being designed every day. The TYPO TALK shines a light on the world of type design. The lecture series will help illustrate the work of type designers and their processes, all the way from the creation of new typeface concepts to their final uses on screen and in print.

During each of the two TYPO TALK evenings, three type designers will present their work. Each will use the example of one of their typefaces to communicate an image of themselves as designers, highlighting their personal ideas and intentions, showing what inspires and motivates them, and allowing the audience as much of a view into their studios as possible. The speakers all come from a variety of backgrounds and include, for example, a Linotype employee, a graphic designer who creates typefaces for his personal work, and a young designer only just beginning his career, but with a few typefaces already available.

The audience will have the ability each evening to talk to each of the speakers, and get to know them better.

This event is organized by the Gutenberg-Museum Mainz, together with Marcel Häusler, Arthur Ruppel, Alice Schaffner, Daniel Kalbfuß, the Fachhochschule Mainz, Prof. Dr. Isabel Naegele, and the institut designlabor gutenberg. Linotype GmbH is a partner, and Slanted is a media partner.

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The History of My Commute

Since January 1, 2012, Mark Simonson has been putting all other type bloggers to shame – his New Year’s Resolution was to post every day, and he’s been keeping pretty good on his word. My last TypeOff. post, in comparison, was on October 13, 2011!

Today, however, he moved me out of my complacency by posting a history of his commutes, from 1976 to the present. I can only go back to 1999 with this counter-post.

  • 1999: 45 minutes by car from Providence, Rhode Island to Taunton, Massachusetts
  • 2000: 20 minutes by car from Providence, Rhode Island to Pawtucket, Rhode Island
  • 2000: 30 minutes by El. train/foot from Chicago (Belmont) to Chicago (Navy Pier)
  • 2001: 20 minutes by car from Central Falls, Rhode Island to Providence, Rhode Island
  • 2001: 25 minutes by foot from Providence, Rhode Island (East Side) to Providence, Rhode Isand (West Side)
  • 2002: 60 minutes by train from Baltimore, Maryland to Washington, DC
  • 2003: 60 minutes by S-Bahn from Wiesbaden to Offenbach
  • 2004: 90 minutes by S-Bahn from Wiesbaden to Bad Homburg
  • 2007: 60 minutes by S-Bahn from Offenbach to Bad Homburg
  • 2009: 330 minutes by train from Berlin to Bad Homburg
  • 2011: 90 minutes by train from Berlin to Braunschweig

I win, Mr. Simonson!
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Course reading lists

Next week, three classes of mine will begin. Over the last couple of years, I’ve handed out a two-page list of books I recommend to students, or e-mailed a PDF around. Updating these has always been a minor pain, so I am moving the lists online.

This post isn’t a definitive list of books on the typographic subjects; it is not as good or as complete as longer lists I’ve seen compiled by Gerry Leonidas or James Mosley, for instance. I like my list a little better than Type Library’s list; but mainly because, well, this is my list. I recommend the series of book lists at Typefacts, too. There aren’t any general graphic design texts below, though, as my course offerings at the moment are rather specific.

I teach in Germany and expect all of my students read both English and German at a high level. There is no preference toward one language or another on my list. If a title has been translated from English into German, I try to mention both editions. On occasion, I have students who can also read Dutch, French, Russian, or other languages; there are excellent resources available in these, but I cannot read them (yet).

TypeOff.de is not currently involved in any affiliate programs, over Amazon or otherwise. Links to Amazon.de are listed as a convenience; feel free to purchase books wherever you like. For my own shopping, I search for out-of-print books via used.addall.com. If you live within travelling-distance of Berlin, I recommend purchasing books from the Mota Italic Gallery & Boutique, on Schliemannstraße 34 in Prenzlauer-Berg; you can also place orders via their online shop. Several of these books will be available in your university libraries, too.

There are books that I do not find particularly good, of course, and these books are not on my list. However, lack of inclusion on this list is not per se the opposite of an endorsement.

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May 2011 Burg Halle workshop


From May 9–13, 2011, I took a week’s vacation to conduct a type design workshop at the Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule in Halle. It was an honor to be invited, and I was glad to go. A number of friends of acquaintances of mine have studied design in Halle, like Nina Stössinger and Roman Wilhelm. Both Alessio Leonardi and Severin Wücher taught at the school recently. The school has a long typographic tradition: Herbert Post, one of Rudolf Koch’s Offenbach students, joined the school’s staff in 1926; he remained in Halle until fleeing from the GDR to West, in 1950. The workshop was made possible by Andrea Tinnes, professor for lettering and typography in Halle. It was Andrea who invited me the school, showed me around Halle, and planned out the week perfectly. I couldn’t have imagined a better short teaching experience.

My goal was was to tie into the Halle tradition a little bit with my workshop. I have it the title, Schriftgestaltung anfangen!, which means something like, “start designing type!” However, I was pleased to see that several of the students already begun just doing that earlier on in the studies, and so had some interesting experience with type design, calligraphy, or lettering. Before the week began, I emailed all of the participants, and asked them to go out into the streets of Halle and make photos of signage lettering. They should especially focus on older signs – be they painted, made of neon, cut out of metal, or carved into stone. The older the sign, the less likely it was to be based on a specific printing typeface.

On the workshop’s first morning, the students picked their favorite images. Over the course of the week, students vectorized these letters in FontLab Studio, FontStruct, or Illustrator. Then they drew additional letters, to match the outlines they already had. While very few students in the class had much prior experience with FontLab Studio, almost everyone was using it by the end of the week. Some students learned in the in’s and out’s of the program faster than I thought possible.

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Darmstadt type design update

In addition to my ongoing design projects – and my work and research in Braunschweig – I’ll be in Darmstadt once a week October–February, too. For the fifth time, I’ve been invited to teach an intro to type design course at the Hochschule Darmstadt. This semester, it will be two classes; the same course repeated back-to-back, due to the extremely high-level of student interest in the topic.

Thomas Phinney wrote to me once that, “offering a course type design in Darmstadt is like going to Jerusalem to teach religion.” This may indeed be so; to walk down the path a little bit, my students and I will spend our semester looking into more of Darmstadt’s typographic tradition. We’ll be visiting the rare books department of the TU Darmstadt library, where the Kleukens Collection is housed. And of course, we will also pay another visit to Haus für Industriekultur, to look at Monotype matrices and freshly-cast metal type fonts from the old Stempel and Haas foundries.

Thank you, Steve

I suspect that there will be a lot of reminiscing about Apple this morning. Yet, despite all of the items on my to do list, I’d rather ponder the moving example of Steve Jobs’s life and career. If it were not for Jobs – and the company he founded and led so well – I would unlikely be doing any of what I do today.

Although all of the computers in my elementary school were Apple products – color Apple IIs, I think – the PCs that my parents used while I was growing up were not. While I probably began to play rudimentary PC games around 1984, and I spent most of the 1980s with game–console–envy, it wasn’t before 1994 that I thought very much about the Macintosh. Since that time, I haven’t ever wanted to use anything else.

I was quite active in the Boy Scouts. In January 1994, I joined the team of local Scout newsletter from Baltimore, MD. This was produced on Sunday afternoons at a local pre-press studio. To this day, if I had to make a sketch of what heaven should look like, it would be the inside of this company. It was full of Macs – the best models of the day, of course. There was also oodles of other equipment, but only one Windows PC, which was relegated to a corner. I decided to study graphic design because of my experience with this newsletter. In fact, for many years, I thought that graphic design was DTP, and that wrapping text blocks around images and editing images in PhotoShop was the pinnacle of what graphic designers could do.

Of course, I learned in school that graphic design is a means of transporting narrative; that it is a system of visual communication with roots going back hundreds or thousands of years. I fell in love with typography and type design, and learned about the differences between both fonts and typefaces, and between the designers behind them.

At RISD, I only worked with Macs. Just before college, my parents bought a crazy Performa desktop machine for me; during my third year of school, I bought my first PowerBook. Another PowerBook followed this, then an iBook, and finally the MacBook Pro I type with now. I never worked with a company that was PC-only. I bought iPods in 2003 and 2006, am currently on my second iPhone and first iPad. I downloaded songs from the iTunes Music Store on the day that it launched. Their Podcast delivery system changed the fabric of my life; wherever I find myself, I’m never without music or other audio content anymore.

Jürgen Siebert has already written very effectively (in German) about the more concrete role that Apple and the Macintosh played in the development of DTP, publishing, and today’s system of font distribution. But Jürgen left one detail out of his article: Altsys Fontographer. This application was one of the first digital font editors available for any personal computer – although there were alternatives, including Ikarus M. Many of today’s type designers got their start with Altsys’s product, which was later sold to Macromedia and eventually to FontLab. I’m no different in this regard. I licensed my first copy of Fonotographer from Macromedia in 1999, while still a RISD student. All of my initial, terrible stabs at type design were done on a Mac in Fontographer. Only later, when I started working on commercial products in 2005, would I upgrade to FontLab. Today’s new UFO-based type design applications are all Mac-only. When I run PC software – like Microsoft’s VOLT – I do so on a Mac, in a Windows partition.

The products and the ecosystem that Jobs helped create struck me in 1994 as purely magical. Today, even if I understand them better, they still fill me with awe. Without Jobs’s vision, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am so thankful, then, for Steve Jobs (1955–2011).
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Now: type design and research

This month, I’ve switched jobs. Today, I took up a half-time position as research assistant at the Braunschweig University of Art, where I’ll soon begin my doctoral research into early 20th century German type foundries. Additionally, I’ve gone out on my own as type designer and font marketer in Berlin.

September was my last month as an employee at Linotype GmbH, and I’d like to thank all of my former colleagues at Linotype and Monotype Imaging for the wonderful opportunities and lessons-learned over the past seven years. When I look back at all of the work accomplished in that time, I am very proud; I look forward to watching the company grow and develop in the future. I first came to Linotype while studying at the HfG Offenbach. Working with the Product Marketing department, I wrote typeface descriptions and classified fonts for linotype.com. This position became full-time in 2006, and my responsibilities grew to include type design. I was also served on the editorial team behind all three issues of the Linotype Matrix magazine.

In October 2007, I took a year’s leave to study on the MA Typeface Design course at the University of Reading. After returning from England, I moved to Berlin and transferred into Linotype’s font development group. Over the next two and a half years, I had the privilege of helping bring typefaces to market from designers like Hannes von Döhren, Gerard Unger, and Jovica Veljović. I also worked on several custom projects for Linotype’s clients – including fonts for the Devanagari and Thai scripts. The most public project that I contributed to was the Carter Sans typeface, with Matthew Carter and Allan Haley.

Since 2009, I’ve used most of my vacation time to offer type design and typography workshops and courses at design schools in Darmstadt, Halle, Hamburg, and Saarbrücken. This makes my switch to a university position quite organic. As for the immediate future, I am looking forward to the additional typefaces that I’ll help bring to graphic designers, publishers, and device manufacturers, both from my own studio and from colleagues I’ll collaborate with soon.
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