Matthew Butterick: Rebuilding the Typographic Society

Matthew Butterick’s philosophy is about taking risks and making things happen.

Graduated from Harvard, being a typographer, a writer (‘Typography for Lawyers’) and a lawyer, he clearly and accurately raised the importance of the written word, within the graphic design industry. He asks us two main questions: what makes typography valuable and how can we rebuild the typographic society?

Photo © Gerhard Kassner

Written ideas have made communication far easier, it has also had a huge emphasis on our storage cultural system; we teach children to read and write. Typography is not only about ‘making things pretty’ but it is also about social interaction, where the best writing embeds the best human values. Matthew Butterick is not talking about social media such as Twitter and Facebook, which are only here to reinforce our ego and for marketing reasons, but it is about a face to face interaction.

“Writing is visual, it catches the eye before it has the chance to catch the brain”.

The writer William Zinsser perfectly expresses this thought about typography in his book ‘’On Writing Well’: ‘Writing is visual, it catches the eye before it has the chance to catch the brain’.

Nevertheless, nowadays technology is taking over, we’re not in the 1920’s anymore, where fonts were only about crafts and inspiration.

Almost as a challenge for the public, Matthew Butterick compares technology to Godzilla, who would burn the creative industry, but would also give the opportunity to rebuild.

So how can we give back social values to typography?

He offers us four principles he stands for: ‘sell possibilities’, ‘recruit typographers’, ‘practice what you preach’ and finally, ‘create difficult projects, but do it well’.

Don’t be afraid, believe and experience, and things will come to you.


Matthew Butterick

Matthew Butterick is a typographer, writer, and lawyer in Los Angeles. After graduating from Harvard, he worked as a type designer for David Berlow and Matthew Carter. He then founded Atomic Vision, a web-design studio, which was acquired by Red Hat. He attended UCLA law school and became a lawyer in 2007. Butterick is the author of the popular Website and book Typography for Lawyers. His fonts include Hermes FB, FB Alix, Equity, and most recently, Concourse.

By Héloise Jutteau