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Kris Holmes grew up on a fruit ranch in California. She attended Reed College in Portland where she studied calligraphy under Lloyd Reynolds. At Reynolds' suggestion she took up modern dance, eventually studying under Martha Graham in New York. She took a lettering class with Ed Benguiat and eventually received her B.A. from Harvard University. In 1978 she began working with Charles Bigelow, another student of Reynolds. She took a job with Compugraphic Corp. where she learned the Ikarus software.
Her only formal training in type design was a two week course with Hermann Zapf in 1979. Shortly thereafter she went to work for the Heil Co. in Germany as a type designer. In 1982 Charles Bigelow got a job teaching type design at Stanford University. Bigelow and Holmes began doing contract type design which resulted in the Lucida family of typefaces, originally designed for Scientific American magazine, as well as Apple Chancery. Approximately 150 million fonts designed by Bigelow & Holmes are in circulation and have been issued with several operating systems including Macintosh and Windows.