“Fonts are culture!” Support Independent Type negotiates the evolution of type specimens

Showcasing over 400 of the industry's most provocative and trendsetting type specimens, the new book published by Slanted celebrates type specimen culture and the independent type foundries which create them.

11 March 2021

In a highly anticipated tome for graphic designers and type enthusiasts alike, Support Independent Type is a new release which does exactly that. Published by Slanted, the book is designed and edited by Marian Misiak and Lars Harmsen. It acts as a manifesto for independent type foundries, showcasing the importance of their work and exhibiting over 400 of today’s most adventurous physical and digital type specimens. The publication shows how independent type design – contrary to corporate font giants – reflects the culture of the day in its experimental and trendsetting varieties.

Marian, who runs type foundry Three Dots Type, explains more on the evolution of the type specimen and how its purpose has changed with time. “The most interesting shift,” he tells us, “is in the content of the type specimens and the variety of media representing the typefaces today.” Originally, the type specimen existed solely to understand how a certain typeface works. Now however, type foundries have taken this concept to new adventurous levels, raising ambitions of the document to tell a story or explain a phenomenon as well as celebrate the new typeface. Support Independent Type highlights traditionally printed examples of type specimens as well as increasingly popular digital media including PDF’s or Instagram banners.

As type expert professor Gerrt Leonidas says in one of the essays in the book: “As the typeface market mutates further in a supply-side service, specimens evolve to reinforce the notion that typefaces are cultural objects, and their value is expressed in similar terms. Look no further than the resurgent market in collectable vinyl records for hints of what the next generation of specimens may looks like.” The topical discussion regarding the difference between corporate and independent typefaces has been going on for many years, and it was during a conversation along these lines (along with a few glasses of gin) when Marian and Lars decided to create a book delving into the subject.

Though the big monolithic font giants help support the type industry in general, Lars and Marian wanted to focus on the rapidly growing independent foundries as they believe “the independent type design community are the most vibrant spots for innovative fonts and tools.” Take Naipe Foundry, Mint Type, Heavyweight, Or Type, Rosetta, Pizza Typefaces, APFEL Typefaces, Charlotte Rohde and so on, the publication features a wealth of content from the emerging to the established. As long as the work is considered “forward thinking, trendsetting and provocative,” Support Independent Type displays “the spirit of innovation and how boundaries can be pushed further.”


Marian Misiak and Lars Harmsen: Support Independent Type (Copyright © Slanted, 2021)

Fundamentally, Marian and Lars want to shine a light on the global creatives producing this work too. As a community, the editors believe type designers deserve more recognition in the wider world. In nearly every industry, a written language is needed to communicate and a typeface is chosen to suit its purpose. But it’s not always clear to the user, just how much work goes into this design. While the industry is in need of more support if it is to flourish in the way we expect, there is also more work to be done within the community. For instance, as Marian points out, “it is not always clear for graphic designers or students how fonts are distributed and what stays behind the ‘independent type foundry’ term”.

Providing a whistle-stop tour of type specimens far and wide, the array of examples allow the reader to examine this culture objectively. Typography has been discussed to the point of over-exhaustion in many a case, but the book’s essays only add to the conversation in its detail. Graphic designer Filip Blažek delves into the typographic magazine as type specimen, citing Emigre, Muse, Druk and Linotype as just a few instances of this design choice. Gerry Leonidas – professor of typography at the University of Reading – on the other hand, elucidates on the type specimen as a learning tool in an informative essay questioning the function of type specimens.

Support Independent Type can be seen as a manifesto, compendium and tome of inspiration, but it is also a directory of sorts. “Support your local dealer!” Marian adds on the volume which is clearly designed and beautifully put together to support the weightiness of the content. The cover is wrapped with a poster calling out “FONTS ARE CULTURE” and all in all, it is a declaration of enthusiasm for the art form that so many of our dedicated readers come to It’s Nice That for, every day.

GalleryMarian Misiak and Lars Harmsen: Support Independent Type (Copyright © Slanted, 2021)

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Marian Misiak and Lars Harmsen: Support Independent Type (Copyright © Slanted, 2021)

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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