Typography I – Typographer of Week 9: Tobias Frere-Jones

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In his seven years in Font Bureau Inc, Boston as a senior designer, Frere-Jones created many of Font Bureau’s best-known typefaces, including Interstate, and Poynter Oldstyle and Gotham. He began work with Jonathan Hoefler and formed a company operated under the name Hoefler & Frere-Jones,  collaborated on projects for Martha Stewart Living, GQEsquire, Nike, Pentagram, Hewlett-Packard, the New York Times Magazine and the Wall Street Journal.


Frere-Jones wanted to give something to the community, and to users, that would set a precedent. Like his past work, Mallory looks and is timeless, utilitarian and reliable. It’s able to do the heavy lifting for a range of uses, and is intended to be, according to the designer, “an asset to users” and “durable.”

Mallory typeface

Mallory began as an experiment in mixing typographic traditions, building a new design with British and American traits. The family offers a broad range of voices, from the prim and austere Thin to the loud and gregarious Ultra.

Mallory was built to be a reliable tool, readily pairing with other typefaces to organize complex data and fine-tune visual identities. This release also marks the debut of the MicroPlus series.

Till this day, Frere-Jones is still drawing new designs on typefaces and looks forward to designing condensed versions of Mallory.

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Gotham typeface

Gotham typeface is a distillation of the “letters of paint, plaster, neon, glass and steel that figure so prominently in the urban landscape,” create under his collaboration with Jonathan Hoefler.


“Typeface design can be artistic expressions and cultural artefacts if they are…properly executed, they can be a solution to every problem” – from the video in ‘Tobias Frere-Jones: Break Things Deliberately’

I reaaally like this presentation of his in the video. It’s interesting to see this point of view of Frere-Jones where he sees problems as an opportunity because then he can use typefaces as a form of a solution. He taught us to learn to see the beauty in taking risks. Frere-Jones explains that in order to do our best creative work, we must not just permit moments of confusion, but actually, go chase them. Hence how I see this as: see if you can make your typeface worse, then if there is a problem, you sorta know how to fix it. Break it down to know how to make it better. I guess it’s like reverse-manipulation. It shows how a structure can really describe itself as it falls apart and I think this really is something thought-provoking, something I would start thinking about immediately when trying to improve my works/designs.

“In all of that mess, in all of that wreckage, you can find something pretty amazing.”