HOW TO DESIGN A TYPEFACE

Mark-Simonson

This is an excerpt from a profile that was originally published in INSPIRE magazine. Read the full post.

The path to success as a type designer isn’t easy. An aspiring type designer must walk the line between artist and technician, have business savvy, and carry a crystal ball to boot. Making fonts that look good and work well for print and screen takes time, talent, and an infinite amount of patience.

Good type designers are fascinated with letterforms. Some fall in love when they take a typography class in college. Others, like Mark Simonson, are swept away at a more tender age.

TYPE FUN WITH DICK AND JANE

Mark can’t remember a time he wasn’t interested in letters, down to noticing the typefaces in primers when he was learning to read. “I remember clearly enough that I can tell you the typefaces, like Century Schoolbook from the Dick and Jane series,” Mark says. “I would focus on details like, why is there this ‘fl’ thing, and why does this ‘g’ not look like what we learned to write?” He would obsess about details like that—and he would draw letters.

Mark practiced lettering and design at every opportunity, from laying out the school paper to creating a custom hand-lettered cover for the yearbook. After a stint at community college, he was hired by a Minneapolis advertising studio on the strength of his portfolio.

Eventually, Mark moved into art directing publications, although type design was always in the back of his mind. He submitted a typeface to International Typeface Corporation (ITC) in the late 1970s, but it was rejected. Undaunted, he began noodling with the idea of a type that would be geometric like Futura without the old style proportions. He named his concept Zanzibar and worked on it every now and then.

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