Type (Mis)Treatment: Hoefler & Frere-Jones

I love fonts almost as much as I love words. In fact, fonts are some of my favorite objects – whether digital or analog. While they may not give language meaning, they certainly give it style and flair. One might even say they are the impeccably tailored formal wear on an otherwise drab character, if one were so inclined. When I heard that Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones were parting ways, while I wasn’t devastated, I was definitely bummed. Since 1999, these guys have been the Rodgers and Hammerstein of typeface design, creating iconic fonts like Whitney, Gotham, Knockout, Tungsten and dozens of others.

Font Men, a wonderful six minute short produced by Dress Code for the American Institute of Graphic Arts is the last recorded interview with the designers, filmed just months before their split earlier this year. In it, we see the designers as if nothing is awry, literally zero indication that the company they had built together for more than a decade was just weeks away from imploding. It’s a fascinating look at both the allure and the minutiae of type design, and the passion for craft of two of the top designers in the world of creating them. “We do this because we love this,” Frere-Jones says. “This is really fun. It’s really really hard, but it’s really fun.” Hoefler adds “It’s not impossible that typefaces made by living designers today will still be in circulation in decades or centuries to come. I hope we’re that fortunate.”

Regardless of the outcome of the pending court case, I would wager that each of them will be meticulously crafting objects that help bring the personalities buried in the bars, bowls, serifs and ascenders to life for quite some time.

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