Font Wars

Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones were the boy wonders of the design world when they joined forces to form the type foundry Hoefler&Frere-Jones. For fifteen years their partnership seemed charmed, until it dissolved, with $20 million at stake.

Among those who draw letters for a living, Gotham is most notable for being the crowning achievement of two of the leaders of their tribe, Frere-Jones and Jonathan Hoefler. The two men seemed to be on parallel paths since the summer of 1970, when they were both born in New York. Hoefler and Frere-Jones were already prominent designers when they began operating as Hoefler&Frere-Jones in 1999, having decided to join forces instead of continuing their race to be type design’s top boy wonder. Each would serve as an editor for the other, and they would combine their efforts to promote the work they did together.

Colleagues still struggle to explain what a big deal this was at the time. Debbie Millman, president emeritus of AIGA, the major trade organization for graphic designers, begins by comparing them to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, then stops. “They were famous before they got together, so that’s how they’re not like the Beatles. It’s more like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young,” she says, before pausing again. “You know what—I’ll tell you what they were like. They were like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.”

Source: Businessweek
Published: Apr 8, 2014
Length: 15 minutes (3,758 words)
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