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Famous Quotes from Type Designers

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Miss Tiffany
This topic was imported from the Typophile platform

Alright fellow Typophiles, what are your favorite quotes from famous type designers. Can't tell you why, it is a surprise. However, we could also put these in the wiki. I'll start:

"Anyone that would letterspace blackletter would steal sheep." Frederic W. Goudy

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Stefan H

I've tried to find the english translation for this quote by Giambattista Bodoni, but without luck I try to do it myself (from the Swedsih book I have)...

"The letters don't get their true delight, when done in haste & discomfort, nor merely done with diligence & pain, but first when they are created with love and passion."

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John Hudson

Tiffany, are you sure you have that Goudy quote correct? It is normally cited as 'lowercase', not 'blackletter'. Letterspacing blackletter is actually a well established convention to indicate emphasis, in the absence of italics, which has been practiced in Germany and other countries with long blackletter traditions, for at least two centuries.

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I believe Tiffany got the quote all right.
When Goudy in 1936 recieved a handlettered certificate of excellence set in a heavily letterspaced uppercase blackletter, those were the words he uttered.
The reason why it has changed over the years is not as much a mis-quotation as sometimes is suggested but rather a sort of evolution. I mean, it has a good punch to it, and lower case are easier to relate to.
My guess, for what it's worth.


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"Typography has one plain duty before it and that is to convey information in writing. No argument or consideration can absolve typography from this duty." --Emil Ruder


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"After I came up with the idea to write a book that would, I hoped, become the standard, a sensation and win me the Nobel Prize for Literature, I started to feel uneasy." --Alessio Leonardi


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Norbert Florendo

A type of revolutionary novelty may be extremely beautiful in itself; but, for the creatures of habit that we are, its very novelty tends to make it illegible, at any rate to begin with.
Typography for the Twentieth-Century Reader
Aldous Huxley

Type design moves at the pace of the most conservative reader. The good type-designer therefore realizes that, for a new fount to be successful, it has to be so good that only very few recognize its novelty.
First Principles of Typography
Stanley Morison

Type well used is invisible as type, just as the perfect talking voice is the unnoticed vehicle for the transmission of words, ideas.
Printing Should Be Invisible
Beatrice Warde

If you remember the shape of your spoon at lunch, it has to be the wrong shape. The spoon and the letter are tools; one to take food from the bowl, the other to take information off the page... When it is a good design, the reader has to feel comfortable because the letter is both banal and beautiful.
Keynote Speech/Type90
Adrian Frutiger

When we experience disappointment with the relationship with letters let's not be afraid to do what come naturally to us: Let's draw.
Graphis Typography 1 (1994)
Gerard Huerta

As we say in Berlin, there are many ways to bake a parrot.
Rhyme & Reason
Erik Spiekermann

Yes, I'm old, but I'm back in style!
Typophile Forum (2005)
Norbert Florendo

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Tiffany, John and Fredrik

"Men who would letterspace lower case would shag sheep" - Frederick Goudy

I noticed the discrepancy in the quote a while ago, so i had looked into it. Thats what I came up with. I wonder if there is a definitive source for this.

I saw some letterspaced lowercase the other day. Blarg. I'm sure letterspaced blackletter is equally hideous, never tried it, thats a good thing right?

Tiff, I've actually never heard that version before. I've heard the ' lowercase would steel sheep.' I prefer the 'sheep shag' version myself, but it'd be nice to find out for sure. It makes more sense if you think about it. Other than being theft of personal property, what is so disgusting about 'stealing' sheep anyway? So, if stealing sheep isn't exactly looked upon as repulsive, the shagging makes a little more sense. But I'm no goudy expert.

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John Hudson

I’m sure letterspaced blackletter is equally hideous, never tried it, thats a good thing right?

The keynote speaker at the ATypI conference in Copenhagen referred to a lovely typographic metaphor in one of Søren Kierkegaard's books. In the original, blackletter edition approved by the author, who took a keen interest in the typography of his books, the metaphor relates a feeling of existential alienation and disconnection to being l e t t e r s p a c e d. In a later edition, typeset in antiqua (roman) type, the typesetters interpreted the letterspaced blackletter as italics, as was normal in resetting in antiqua from blackletter originals, and then, since the metaphor was now lost, actually changed the text. So in this later edition the existential alienation was bizarrely likened to being italicised.

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Of all the achievements of the human mind, the birth of the alphabet is the most momentous.
-- Frederic Goudy

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Miss Tiffany

Yes. Hmm. I think we need to provide bibliographic information as Norbert has done. This will keep me from using quotes that are actually mis-quotes. So, if you can supply bibliography please do, if not still share your quote, maybe someone else will know.


I've heard that particular quote so many different ways that I'm not sure which is correct.

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The restrictions of two-dimensional communication appealed to my need for structure and my desire to have my work speak for me. The challenge of communicating an idea or feeling within the further confines of the Latin alphabet lad me from graphic design into type design.

Carol Twombly

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James Grieshaber

This one was used on the TypeCon2001 materials:

"We are type designers, punch cutters, type founders, compositors, printers and bookbinders from conviction and with passion. Not because we are insufficiently talented for other, higher, things, but because to us the highest things stand in the closest kinship to our own crafts." - Rudolf Koch

I can't remember the bibliographic information on this one.

About the Goudy quote - I thought it was "leterspace lowercase" and "bugger a sheep". But I don't have any bibliographic information to back it up.

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“Typography has one plain duty before it and that is to convey information in writing. No argument or consideration can absolve typography from this duty.”
Emil Ruder. page 6, "Typographie", 1967.

“After I came up with the idea to write a book that would, I hoped, become the standard, a sensation and win me the Nobel Prize for Literature, I started to feel uneasy.”
"From the Cow to the Typewriter", page 8—Alessio Leonardi


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"Type production has gone mad, with its senseless outpouring of new types… only in degenerate times can personality (opposed to the nameless masses) become the aim of human development" – Jan Tschicold; The New Typography; 1928
"All the old fellows stole our best ideas." – Frederic Goudy; date unrecorded
"The shapes of letter do not derive their beauty from any sensual or sentimental reminiscences. No one can say the O's roundness appeals to us only because it is like that of an apple or of a girl's breast or of the full moon. Letters are things, not pictures of things." – Eric Gill; Autobiography; 1940
"I fought linotype and montype for some time because it would not justify as well as handset could be made to do; but at last, as always happens, the machine outdid the hand, and got all the best types on it." – George Bernard Shaw; Letter to Ruari McLean, 28/3/1949

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Norbert Florendo

Losing Sleep
by Ephram Edward Benguiat

The following passages are taken from an undated typewritten manuscript. It's very likely these were used as notes for one of Ed's speaking engagements. There is no known date of publication.

"To me designing has never been a job or profession. It's a way of life, like a priest or rabbi."

"Doing something a long time does not mean you're good. It only means you've done it a long time."

"Doing something and getting paid for it doesn't mean you're doing it well. It only means you're doing it."

"I don't think that success is the premise to what is good or bad."

"The contributions that one makes in typography, design, and art in general cannot be, and must not be measured on how much money is involved. That would lead to total chaos. The word itself (contribution) is to give to a common purpose."

Yes, I'm old, but I'm back in style!

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andi emery

Some of my faves:

"People who love ideas must have a love of words. They will take a vivid interest in the clothes that words wear." - Beatrice Warde

"Perfect typography is certainly the most elusive of all arts. Sculpture in stone alone comes near it in obstinacy." Jan Tschichold, Homage to the Book, 1968

"Each letter should have a flirtation with the one next to it." Mac Baumwell

"Writing is not a series of strokes, but space, divided into characteristic shapes by strokes." Gerrit Noordzij

"The most popular typefaces are the easiest to read; their popularity has made them disappear from conscious cognition. It becomes impossible to tell if they are easy to read because they are commonly used, or if they are commonly used because they are easy to read." - Zuzana Licko

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