Mark Boulton

Type Specimens

When I sold my design agency to Monotype in 2014, one of the first projects I initiated was a piece on understanding the processes by which designers make decisions on which typeface to buy and why. I mean, for a type foundry, that's pretty much central to driving higher sales, right?

As is often the case at large organisations, the project was shelved as we pivoted to higher priorities. But some of those unanswered questions stayed with me. How do designers make decisions on type? What are the lines of enquiry? What factors are at play? Where do they start?

Well, today, I'm pleased to announce that I'm embarking on a long term project – supported by Google Fonts – to really start to dig into these questions with renewed enthusiasm.

Type Specimens is part publication – a newsletter, journal, and more to come – a feed of type specimens that grab my attention, and most importantly, a design and research project. You can sign up to the newsletter today, and subscribe to the RSS of the specimens.

Over the coming months, I will be doing a lot of research to understand the processes of how designers use type specimens. I'll be speaking with typeface designers to see how they use their own tools, like type specimens, to help them in creating their typefaces. Hopefully, some patterns will emerge. It's then that I will take these and produce some exemplar design patterns and guidance on how the industry at large can produce more useful specimens (whilst, of course, inspiring designers to choose them!). I'm sure this is an undiscovered seam of information that all but the largest foundries don't have access to. The type industry is comprised of many small independent foundries and individual designers who would benefit from a pattern library to help them quickly build the skeleton of a specimen that performs well.

So, today is the first day of the project. For me, typography has been a constant in my career. It ebbs and flows in its priority, but when it comes strongly to the front of my mind – as it has with this project – I get the same excitement I first felt in university over twenty years ago.

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