Tobias Frere-Jones

December 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

Figure 1 - Portrait of Tobias Frere-Jones by Clymer, A.

Figure 1 - Portrait of Tobias Frere-Jones by Clymer, A.

Tobias Frere-Jones (Figure 1) was born in New York in 1970. He was an artist from his young age. He was exhibiting sculptures, photographs and paintings in New York since he was 14. As a son of an advertising copywriter and print buyer he was surrounded with all forms of letterforms all his childhood. That was no surprise that he studied the Rhode Island School of Design. As is stated by Macmillan (2006, p.86) “An exceptional student there, he drew the attention of Matthew Carter, who directed him, after graduation in 1992, to Font Bureau in Boston.”

He spent seven years at the Bureau and he learnt his craft under the experienced eye of David Berlow. During that time at Bureau he created a successful typeface based on US highway signs called Interstate family (Figure 2). That was a successful font of 1990s. Also he created most of typefaces that are best known from Bureau like including Interstate and Poynter Oldstyle & Gothic. As is stadted by (Hoefler & Frere-Jones,2010) “He joined the faculty of the Yale School of Art in 1996, where he continues to teach typeface design on the graduate level.”

Figure 2 - Interstate family font face created by Tobias Frere-Jones

Figure 2 - Interstate family font face created by Tobias Frere-Jones

In 1999 he left Font Bureau and Frere-Jones joined his friend Jonathan Hoefler to his company. They met in 1989 while there were individually working. They renamed Hoefler’s company to a Hoefler & Frere-Jones Typography. The company creates a custom type font faces to satisfy all customers needs. They have clients from all fields like newspapers and magazines: The New York Times, The Guardian, The Sun, The Times, Esquire, GQ (Figure 3), Harper’s Bazaar, Newsweek, Premiere, Wired; Technology companies: Apple, IBM, HP, Kodak, Sony etc. They also work for Nike, Gucci and even for a President Barack Obama.

Figure 3 - Cover of GQ magazine

Figure 3 - Cover of GQ magazine

When Barack Obama started his campaign for a presidential election in 2008. All the signs and all the materials were using Gotham font designed by Tobias Frere-Jones in 2000. As is stated by Garfield (2010, p. 211) “Gotham replaced the Obama’s team original choice Gill Sans, which was discarded as too staid and inflexible.” The point of this sans serif typeface is that is solid and looks promising and trustworthy and everything what is written with this font is reliable. The choice of Gotham worked on signs “YES WE CAN” (Figure 4) or “CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN”. These quotes written in Gotham helped Obama to become a president of United States.

Figure 4 - Usage of Gotham font in Obama's campaign

Figure 4 - Usage of Gotham font in Obama's campaign

Try to imagine these quotes written in different typefaces. (Figure 5) They really don’t fit for the purpose of the message to “CHANGE”. In Comics sans it looks childish and funny, in Times New Roman it looks too official, in Futura it looks unstable, but in Gotham you can feel the strength of the message. The Gotham typeface was firstly designed for a magazine GQ, but later the company let it to buy through their website.

Figure 5 - Word CHANGE written in Times New Roman, Comic Sans, Futura, Gotham

Figure 5 - Word CHANGE written in Times New Roman, Comic Sans, Futura, Gotham

The great thing about Tobias Frere-Jones is that he is creating modern typefaces, which are successfully competing with traditional types designed at least fifty years ago such as Helvetica, Univers and Gill Sans, etc. There is not much successful typeface designers who could achieve to be respected and also their font would be popular and used in creative work today. One of them can be a Christian Schwartz who designed Amplitude and Neutraface. I like how these modern (Accessed: 7 December 2010). Successfully trying to create a new typeface, which always bring a fresh air and new possibilities for designers. He recently launched a new typeface called Vitesse (Figure 6) its a slab serif typeface of 21st century.

Figure 6 - Usage of Vitesse typeface designed by Hoefler & Frere-Jones

Figure 6 - Usage of Vitesse typeface designed by Hoefler & Frere-Jones

The font works, Frere-Jones explains, by “taking the unique feature of [each] letter—its essence, the thing that makes it this letter and not something else—and turning it up as loud as it can go.” (The Atlantic, 2008)

Due to (Hoefler & Frere-Jones, 2010) Tobias Frere-Jones is the first American who received te Gerrit Noordzij Prize, presented by the royal Avademy of The Hague in honor of his unique contributions on type design, typography, and type education.

References

Garfield, S. (2010) Just My Type. London: Profile Books.

Macmillan, N. (2006) An A-Z of Type Designers. Yale: Yale University Press.

Images

Figure 1
Clymer, A. (2010) Portrait of Tobias Frere-Jones [Online]. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/11/arts/11iht-design11.html?_r=1 (Accessed: 7 December 2010).

Figure 2
MyFonts (2010) Interstate family [Online]. Available at: http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/fontbureau/interstate/gallery.html (Accessed: 7 December 2010).

Figure 3
GQ Magazine (2009) Cover of September 2009 [Online]. Available at: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/magazine/2009/september (Accessed: 7 December 2010).

Figure 4
Hepworth, K. (2010) Varied but consistent campaign placards at a rally in Sumter, South Carolina. [Online] Available at: http://www.re-public.gr/en/?p=352 (Accessed: 7 December 2010).

Figure 6
The New York Times (2010) Vitesse typeface [Online]. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/11/arts/11iht-design11.html?_r=1 (Accessed: 7 December 2010).

Resources

The Atlantic (2008) Playing to type. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/01/playing-to-type/6570/2/ (Accessed: 7 December 2010).

Hoefler & Frere-Jones (2010) Biographies. Available at: http://www.typography.com/about/biographies.php (Accessed: 7 December 2010).

swissdot (2008) Gotham: Barack Obama’s favorite font. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow6ajKO0XsM (Accessed: 7 December 2010).

BrianASoto (2008) Jonathan Hoefler & Tobias Frere-Jones [Online] Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gd9zW5EuMtE&feature=related (Accessed: 7 December 2010).


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