Famous Quotes from Type Designers

Miss Tiffany's picture

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

Nick Shinn's picture

>As a result, their designs tend to look too much like each other.

That's a bit bizarre, coming from Les. He would go on to reuse the same skeleton a lot, doing different serif treatments, etc. After all, that's a productive, profitable way to work.

But he was right in a sense, in that if his AD clients liked the way Flange set, they would also like a version of it with more substantial serifs, or more contrast.

vinceconnare's picture

Kylie sang it. towa tei wrote it.

vinceconnare's picture

Kylie sang it so she said it. Towa Tei wrote it

vinceconnare's picture


a quote from a polititian but worth a look it's got ligatures and long s's ....

andi emery's picture

Will Burtin, in the Foreword to Ben Rosen's 1963 Type and Typography: The Designer's Type Book, says "Each typeface is a piece of history, like a chip in a mosaic that depicts the development of human communication. Each typeface is also a visual record of the person who created it — his skill as a designer, his philosophy as an artist, his feeling for... the details of each letter and the resulting impressions of an alphabet or a text line."

tIPODgraphic's picture

"La gracia en tipografía surge espontáneamente cuando el tipógrafo pone un poco de amor en su trabajo. Quien no ame su trabajo no puede esperar que le guste a los demás."

-- Jan Tschichold

"¿Piensas en letras o las letras te hacen pensar?"

-- odafonts

Eric_West's picture

Ok, I'm sure this issue is tired, i just remembered where i found the 'shagging sheep' comment.


This is where I got my info. Go fig.

Bonus Question.
Were you really told to “stop stealing sheep,” or is that a watered down version of what was said for letter-spacing all caps?
frederick goudy said that "men who would letterspace lower case would shag sheep', as that was (and is) considered a cardinal sin by typographers. Letterspacing caps, however, is done and should be done generously.

timd's picture

Strange that this should appear beneath a suggestion to track out copy set in less than 12pt.

Norbert Florendo's picture

In Erik's book Stop Stealing Sheep & find out how type works,
he admits to not knowing Goudy's exact wording, but that "it makes infinite sense" regardless of wording.

So let's not take Erik's versions as historically accurate, just rhetorical.

When Mr. Goudy made his statement, he obvioulsy knew it was a faux pas since apologized profusely by saying he says that about everything!

IMHO, the "blackletter" and "steal sheep" version seemed more likely since he was being presented an award (certificate with blackletter?) at a public forum.

Also, IMHO, "shag sheep" seems to be more of Welsh origin, and Goudy was American born and bred, so if he did ever used the term "shag," he more than likely got it from his father who probably told young Frederic to stop shagging sheep ;)

Joe Pemberton's picture

In 1998 our class was visiting Jonathan Hoefler's studio. I can't say this is a quote, more of a paraphrase, but it made the right impact at the time! (I'll try not to mess it up...)

Student's Question: "What do you think of experimental typography?"

Jonathan's answer: "People think they can open Helvetica and just f*** with the points and call it experimental. That's not experimental."

William Berkson's picture

At Typecon, Mario Feliciano said to me this lovely variation on Walter Tracy's quote:

"You want beautiful words, not beautiful letters."

ben_archer's picture

Aha! I knew I had one somewhere... only snag is that it's not actually from a type designer.

"Typography fostered the modern idea of individuality, but it destroyed the medieval sense of community and integration."

Neil Postman, in 'Amusing Ourselves To Death' 1985, as quoted in the introduction to Lewis Blackwell's '20th century type (remix)'

enne_son's picture

Tiffany, where is this going? is it still relevant to add things here? do the quotes have to be from practicing type designers? is the 'why' out yet? are you getting what you're looking for?

Wadim Kahlkopf's picture

A bit away from this topic (I`m not font designer), but I found my own quote in my designmagazin published online for about 6 years funny.
I must have been drunk as I that wrote:


Translated from german:

Typografie is the true kickass, believe me. It makes you crazy and compliant again and again. It plays "cat and mouse" game with you.
It, the science for itself, inspires you with its ability to transplantation and transfusion the thoughts. It never leaves you in the pass...

bieler's picture

Since there are several traditional ways to create emphasis with blackletter, including letterspacing, second color, substitution of a roman font, and, given the date of the award, 1936, my understanding is that Goudy's comment had to do with the growing anti-German sentiments of the time period.


bieler's picture

A further note regarding the possibility that Goudy's now infamous quote was at the time a slur on Germany made as a point for engaging his audience; this culled from The Book Collector's Packet of 1939. A boycott on "Nazi-made types" was undertaken in the U.S. by the Graphic Arts Forum, "a group of democratically minded graphic arts and advertising people." The banned typefaces included Bauer Bodoni, Bernhard Modern, Eve, Futura, Kabel, Neuland, Trafton, and Weiss.


Jem's picture

All typefaces are historical.
Jonathan Hoefler

Eric_West's picture

Quoting Leslie Cabarga from his Logo Font and Lettering Bible

"...Matthew Carter's Big Caslon is so scrumptious, I want to lick it. "

pg. 201

paul d hunt's picture

and from another Cabarga book, i think this one by Sumner Stone should become a classic:

"My ways are many. All mysterious. I have said too much already."
(Learn FontLab Fast, p. 9)

eriks's picture

“Men who would letterspace blackletter would shag sheep” - Frederick Goudy

That is the correct quote. E. Ginger did the research for "Stop Stealing Sheep", and she actually spoke to an old lady who had been to the event and heard Goudy say the "s" word. Patrick Ames, then publisher for Adobe Press, loved the quote, suggested it as the title for the book and changed it, for obvious reasons. The book was intended for typographic novices, and those were obviously not deemed grown-up enough for real four letter words. I always thought the titel way too obscure, but I do have a collection of model and toy sheep (too small to shag), because lots of friends think it very funny to give me sheep as presents.

eriks's picture

My favourite quote (for obvious reasons) is by Robin Kinross, in Baseline (I have it somewhere, but cannot be bothered to look for it – too many book shelves):

"Meta is the Helvetica of the 90s."

eriks's picture

Robin Kinross, in Baseline

Oops, I meant Blueprint. Perhaps I shouldn’t quote from memory at 2am.

Si_Daniels's picture

I updated the wiki to attribute the quote... http://typophile.com/wiki/FF%20Meta

You can click the 'edit' text if you want to fix errors in your posts - a useful feature.

david h's picture

From all these experiences the most important thing I have learned is that legibility and beauty stand close together and that type design, in its restraint, should be only felt but not perceived by the reader.

—Adrian Frutiger

superkhy's picture

as much as i love type, i've got to disagree with this guy:

“It is a rarer gift to lay words out properly than to write them”
Nicholas Barker, writing of Will Carter

Miss Tiffany's picture

I needed this for TypeCon this past July. However, keep them coming as I think others might find this a fun resource in the future.

Glad to see people are still posting.

dberlow's picture

Of all the achievements of the human mind, the birth of an elephant is the most momentous.
— Frederic Goudy

{what I read when I first saw the quote.}

dezcom's picture

That's an eary quote David, you must have truncated one of the words :-)


alfabet's picture

Down with Univers! Long live Gill Sans!
-- Leo Maggs
in Types Best Remembered/Best Forgotten , ISBN 1884606008

alfabet's picture

"By the year 2000 every secretary will have a favorite typeface."
(or was it font?)"
-- Roger Black (possibly at Type90 in Oxford, England)

alfabet's picture

"Typography? Aaah, lots of fun--no money!"
-- unknown passanger on a train from Gatwick Airport to London, England, after asking me what I do for a living. I was on my way to Type90 A.Typ.I conference in Oxford.

hrant's picture

David, spooky: although I think I'd never seen that exact quote before, I actually read alphabet for elephant! Only your qualification made me go back and see elephant. I guess being very familiar with Goudy's strong* affection for the Latin alphabet, the power of suggestion skewed the bouma to an extent I don't think I've ever experienced before. Wow.

* To me, overly so.


Miguel Sousa's picture

Somewhere around now my brain explodes, leaving a real mess on the dining room table where I do most of the work on my laptop.
Thomas Phinney

Miguel Sousa's picture

I mean, ωhat the fυck?
John Hudson

timotheus's picture

"The flood of print has turned reading into a process of gulping rather than savoring." -- Warren Chappell

roballoo's picture

This one has always stuck with me:

"To be married to a wife who can set type is happiness indeed."
~ Walter Tracy, Letters of Credit

I think this would be a great quote for the typographer matchmaking service I plan on starting :)

Robert Fripp's picture

And I'm grateful that Will Burtin imported Helvetica to North America in 1958, just a year after Max Miedinger developed it in Zurich. What a super font. Where would we be without it?

Robert Fripp's picture

And I'm grateful that Will Burtin imported Helvetica to North America in 1958, just a year after Max Miedinger developed it in Zurich. What a super font. Where would we be without it?

fontplayer's picture

"When a type design is good it is not because each individual letter of the alphabet is perfect in form, but because there is a feeling of harmony and unbroken rhythm that runs through the whole design, each letter kin to every other and to all." - F. Goudy

fontplayer's picture

Originally I thought this was quotes from famous Type Designers, and I'm not sure this is a famous quote, but I kind of like it. I couldn't bring myself to actually insert one for effect though.

Font is Cheapskate by Pat Broderick. Quote is by Susanna Sturgis

v-six's picture

I saw one of Gill's grumpy quotes in here, and figured that I'd add another from An Essay On Typography.

[Writing] is in fact an entirely outworn, decayed and corrupt convention whose chief & most conspicuous character is its monumental witness to the conservatism, laziness and irrationality of men and women.

I'm counting down the days until I turn into a didact!

hrant's picture

One of my favorite news items of the new millennium:


v-six's picture

Nice link hrant, I bet that would have made Gill all sorts of happy!

andi emery's picture

In anticipation of TypeCon2006:

"Typomania is curable but not fatal. Unfortunately."
— Erik Spiekermann, TypeCon2005

"Slikify it"
— Erik Spiekermann, TypeCon2005, in reference to the redigitizing of the FF Bau font

"We're very concerned with language and how language works. We're trying to engage people rather than dictate how they should be thinking."
— Neville Brody, TypeCon2005

"Its focus wasn't on the written word but how the word was written".
— Neville Brody, TypeCon2005, in reference to Fuse Magazine

pimentel's picture

"The Ardent Hymn that Unites Peoples"
— Pablo Neruda, Ode to Typography

not a designer, but quite typelover to put on.

acrobat's picture

"One of the many unforseen consequences of typography, the rise of nationalism is maybe the best known"
Marshall McLuhan

(but I can't find the source. I could be misquoting slightly)

Renaissance Man's picture

“Of the many unforeseen consequences of typography, the emergence of nationalism is, perhaps, the most familiar.”

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

Si_Daniels's picture

Marshall McLuhan, what font did he design again?

Cheers, Si

hrant's picture

Wasn't it WTC Our Bodoni or something?


dezcom's picture

Don't you remember? It only came in a medium weight, I think itwas called Message :-)


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