Stephen Coles: A Typeface is a Chair

Stephen begins with the development of his interest in type, “How did I get here?” with the definition of synesthesia: the involuntary tying together of two senses. He then shows a series of type samples and into the microphone produces a series of unusual but fitting sounds. “When I see this, my mind hears this.”

Reviewing other influences, Stephen shares stories of his parents’ travels, taste for good design and of the bits of culture and furniture incorporated into his home as a result. The influence of the mid-century modernist furniture stayed on as an influence. Also a great influence was Stephen’s early interest in Birding.

Birders and Font Geeks have a lot in common. Both are quite detail-focused, and always considerate of concepts such as classification, anatomy, and of course, identification. An additional experience early on was had working for the college newspaper, where Stephen came across an old FontBook and began marking up and correcting the printed annotations in the margins. He was later able to add his annotations to the next edition of the FontBook in his capacity at FontShop San Francisco.

“A page is like a room. Type is the furniture.”

We don’t think twice about the chairs we sit on unless something’s wrong. And when something’s wrong, we may not even have the ability to explain what’s wrong.
Stephen then guides us through a series of chairs in the context of type releases and collections. One may take a dogmatic approach such as Massimo Vignelli’s famous six typeface limit, but there are certainly reasons for more type designs, just as there are good reasons for more chair designs.

Stephen Coles

Stephen Coles

Writer, Typographer (Oakland, California)

Stephen Coles is an editor and typographer living in Oakland and Berlin. He publishes Fonts In Use and Typographica, consults with type foundries on editorial content and with various organizations on typeface selection and licensing. Stephen is author of the book The Anatomy of Type (The Geometry of Type in the UK), and serves on the board of the Letterform Archive. He was formerly a creative director at FontShop and a member of the FontFont TypeBoard.
As type scholar Indra Kupferschmidt succinctly put it, “Customers have different applications, tastes, budgets and bottoms.”
Where to learn more about type and typography: Typographica and Fonts In Use both offer insight into great, new and old faces. And if you’re more interested in the chairs, check out Stephen’s other blog, the Mid-Century Modernist.

By David Sudweeks