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The Font Men

It would appear that type designer relationships can be rather toxic. The above video is a great little film on the partnership between Jonathan Hoefler (Hoefler font) and Tobias Frere-Jones (Whitney, Gotham fonts), whose firm Hoefler & Frere-Jones developed iconic type settings for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Esquire, HP, Nike, the Obama campaign and more. Since this video was made, the two have been engaged in a $20 million dollar lawsuit after Frere-Jones accused Hoefler of not giving him equal stake in the firm as verbally promised before joining the firm. According to Frere-Jones, the fonts he created prior to joining the firm, Whitney and Gotham, were worth over $3 million dollars and sold them to the firm for $10 as part of the equal equity promise.

Another toxic typesetter relationship from 100 years ago was recently reported by The Economist magazine. English typographers Thomas Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker founded Doves Press that produced the legendary handcrafted Doves font. When the partnership went sour, also in a large lawsuit between the two, Cobden-Sanderson threw the entire typeface into the Thames river. Cobden-Sanderson wrote of Walker:

“Nothing on earth will now induce me to part with the type. I am what, he does not appear to realise, a Visionary and a Fanatic, and against a Visionary and a Fanatic he will beat himself in vain.”

Considering that fonts today are created via computers and not by hand as they were prior to the arrival of the personal computer, I can sort of feel sympathy for Cobden-Sanderson. But still, typographers seem to have fiery personalities.

The font has since been revived by typographer Robert Green after years of painstaking work to recreate the lost font.

Published on March 11, 2014