Tobias Frere-Jones

Last updated
Tobias Frere-Jones
MK48955 BeyondTellerrand Tobias Frere-Jones.jpg
Born (1970-08-28) August 28, 1970 (age 53)
Occupation Typeface designer
Notable work Gotham, Archer, Whitney, other

Tobias Frere-Jones (born Tobias Edgar Mallory Jones; August 28, 1970) [1] is an American type designer who works in New York City. [2] [3] He operates the company Frere-Jones Type and teaches typeface design at the Yale School of Art MFA program.


Among his typefaces are Gotham which was used by the Obama 2008 presidential campaign, [4] and Archer which has been used by Martha Stewart Living and Wells Fargo. [5]


Frere-Jones grew up in Brooklyn and became interested in letter design while attending Saint Ann's School. [6] [7] [8] He is a son of Robin Carpenter Jones, who wrote for advertising agencies, and his British wife, the former Elizabeth Frere, daughter of Alexander Stuart Frere. [9] [10] His brother is music critic Sasha Frere-Jones and his great-grandfather was writer Edgar Wallace. [11] [12]

After receiving a BFA in 1992 from Rhode Island School of Design, Frere-Jones joined Font Bureau in Boston, becoming Senior Designer. [6] [13] He created a number of the typefaces that are Font Bureau's best known, among them Interstate. [14] [15] He joined the Yale School of Art faculty in 1996, and teaches type design there alongside Matthew Carter and Nina Stössinger. [6] [16]

In 1999, he left Font Bureau to return to New York, where he began working with the company of Jonathan Hoefler, renamed Hoefler & Frere-Jones in 2005. [17] While working together, the two collaborated on projects for The Wall Street Journal , Martha Stewart Living , Nike, Pentagram, GQ , Esquire magazine , The New Times, Business 2.0 , and The New York Times Magazine . In 2014 Frere-Jones ended his work with Hoefler and filed a lawsuit against him which was resolved in an out-of-court settlement later that year. [18] [19] [20] [21] He then established his own company, Frere-Jones Type, which released its first retail family, Mallory, in 2015. [22] [23] [24] [12]

In 2006, Frere-Jones received the Gerrit Noordzij Prize, an award given by The Royal Academy of Art (The Hague) to honor innovations in type design. In 2013 he received the AIGA Medal and won the National Design Award for Communication Design from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in 2019. [25] [26]

Frere-Jones married Dr. Christine Annabelle Bateup in 2006. [27]

Typeface design

Frere-Jones' typeface Gotham became well known for use by the Obama 2008 presidential campaign. Final pre-election visit by Barack Obama to Iowa. (2989469431).jpg
Frere-Jones' typeface Gotham became well known for use by the Obama 2008 presidential campaign.
Several of Frere-Jones' best-known typefaces were designed for Martha Stewart Living. FrereJones typesample.svg
Several of Frere-Jones' best-known typefaces were designed for Martha Stewart Living .

Several of Frere-Jones' designs in the 1990s, notably Reactor, were highly expressive in the "grunge typography" style of the period; some were created for Neville Brody. [29] [30] However, he commented in a 1994 article that "grunge has firmly dated itself and many are already tired of it." [31] A 2012 review by Christopher Hamamoto described Frere-Jones' later work as generally based on "formality and practicality", [32] and a Businessweek article commented that Frere-Jones' later type design generally preferred "a cleaner style based on historic typefaces". [21] Frere-Jones' popular font family Gotham was based on lettering on New York public buildings, and his later sans-serif family Mallory was intended to be conceptually "autobiographical", referring to his British family and intended to amalgamate characteristics of British and American typography. [33] [34] [35] [23] [24] [14]

In a podcast interview, Frere-Jones described his order of work:

I think of a typeface's design as being less about the specific letters. It doesn't begin with thinking that the bowl on the lower-case 'g' ought to look like this, or the tail on the 'q' ought to do this…it's more about the theme that runs through all these shapes, the kind of strategy that helps them work with one another…I think secondly, for a typeface designer the alphabet is not a linear sequence…it's a bunch of, almost like little tribes of, like-minded things...the first three letters that we often draw are the capital 'H', as a representative from the camp of square things, the capital 'O', as obviously something round, and then the capital 'D', as something that's a kind of hybrid form. And just in those three letters there are all kinds of decisions to make about how heavy things are, how much contrast they have and the difference between heavy and light within a single shape, how wide they are. If there are serifs in there, what kind of shape and length that they have, and also how much space is allotted to each side of these shapes. Because that's a really critical part of making a typeface work, is not just drawing the shapes but drawing and designing the space in between the shapes, and also inside them.

So it's not uncommon to spend the whole day or several days on just these first three letters and to come back to these first three letters and try something differently and see what the implications are. That would often be followed by a corresponding trio of letters in the lower-case…'n', 'o' and 'p', the same idea of something square, something round, something mixed. And after those three get coordinated with each other, it's then time to get the caps to work in some consistent way with the lower-case…and then from there I build out the character sets on the lines of these initial camps of square and round and diagonal…I try to get onscreen as soon as possible because so much of the strategy and so much of the success of the design is in how successfully these shapes can combine with one another, and if they're digital I can rearrange these shapes in any order. [36] [37]

Many of Frere-Jones' typefaces are extremely large families designed for professional users, for instance Mallory which as of 2019 had 110 styles. [38] Organisations that commissioned work from Frere-Jones have included GQ magazine, the Whitney Museum, [34] the Wall Street Journal , [39] Martha Stewart Living [40] and the Essex Market. [41] [42] In 2014 German type designer Erik Spiekermann, who published Frere-Jones' first typeface, described him as "one of the two or three best type designers in the world". [20] [43] [13]


Tobias Frere-Jones' typefaces include:

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Monospaced font</span> Font whose characters occupy the same amount of horizontal space

A monospaced font, also called a fixed-pitch, fixed-width, or non-proportional font, is a font whose letters and characters each occupy the same amount of horizontal space. This contrasts with variable-width fonts, where the letters and spacings have different widths.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Typeface</span> Set of characters that share common design features

A typeface is a design of letters, numbers and other symbols, to be used in printing or for electronic display. Most typefaces include variations in size, weight, slope, width, and so on. Each of these variations of the typeface is a font.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Italic type</span> Font style characterised by cursive typeface and slanted design

In typography, italic type is a cursive font based on a stylised form of calligraphic handwriting. Along with blackletter and roman type, it served as one of the major typefaces in the history of Western typography.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hoefler Text</span> Serif font by Jonathan Hoefler

Hoefler Text is an old-style serif font by Jonathan Hoefler and released by Apple Computer Inc. in 1991 to showcase advanced type technologies. Intended as a versatile font that is suitable for body text, it takes cues from a range of classic fonts, such as designs by Miklós Kis and Jean Jannon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Counter (typography)</span>

In typography, a counter is the area of a letter that is entirely or partially enclosed by a letter form or a symbol. The stroke that creates such a space is known as a "bowl". Latin letters containing closed counters include A, B, D, O, P, Q, R, a, b, d, e, g, o, p, and q. Latin letters containing open counters include c, f, h, s etc. The digits 0, 4, 6, 8, and 9 also possess a counter. An aperture is the opening between an open counter and the outside of the letter.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jonathan Hoefler</span> American type designer (born 1970)

Jonathan Hoefler is an American type designer. Hoefler founded the Hoefler Type Foundry in 1989, a type foundry in New York.

Oblique type is a form of type that slants slightly to the right, used for the same purposes as italic type. Unlike italic type, however, it does not use different glyph shapes; it uses the same glyphs as roman type, except slanted. Oblique and italic type are technical terms to distinguish between the two ways of creating slanted font styles; oblique designs may be labelled italic by companies selling fonts or by computer programs. Oblique designs may also be called slanted or sloped roman styles. Oblique fonts, as supplied by a font designer, may be simply slanted, but this is often not the case: many have slight corrections made to them to give curves more consistent widths, so they retain the proportions of counters and the thick-and-thin quality of strokes from the regular design.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Didone (typography)</span> Classification of serif typefaces

Didone is a genre of serif typeface that emerged in the late 18th century and was the standard style of general-purpose printing during the 19th century. It is characterized by:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paul Barnes (designer)</span>

Paul Barnes is a graphic designer and typographer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Font</span> Particular size, weight and style of a typeface

In metal typesetting, a font is a particular size, weight and style of a typeface. Each font is a matched set of type, with a piece for each glyph. A typeface consists of various fonts that share an overall design.

Hoefler&Co. (H&Co) is a digital type foundry in Woburn, Massachusetts, founded by type designer Jonathan Hoefler. H&Co designs typefaces for clients and for retail on its website.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gotham (typeface)</span> Geometric sans-serif typeface

Gotham is a geometric sans-serif typeface family designed by American type designer Tobias Frere-Jones with Jesse Ragan and released through the Hoefler & Frere-Jones foundry from 2000. Gotham's letterforms were inspired by examples of architectural signs of the mid-twentieth century. Gotham has a relatively broad design with a reasonably high x-height and wide apertures.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Archer (typeface)</span> Slab serif typeface

Archer is a slab serif typeface designed in 2001 by Tobias Frere-Jones and Jonathan Hoefler for use in Martha Stewart Living magazine. It was later released by Hoefler & Frere-Jones for commercial licensing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Requiem (typeface)</span> Typeface

Requiem is an old-style serif typeface designed by Jonathan Hoefler in 1992 for Travel + Leisure magazine and sold by his company, Hoefler & Co. The typeface takes inspiration from a set of inscriptional capitals found in Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi's 1523 writing manual, Il Modo de Temperare le Penne, and its italics are based on the chancery calligraphy, or cancelleresca corsiva of the period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Interstate (typeface)</span> Typeface

Interstate is a digital typeface designed by Tobias Frere-Jones in the period 1993–1999, and licensed by Font Bureau. The typeface is based on Style Type E of the FHWA series of fonts, a signage alphabet drawn for the United States Federal Highway Administration by Dr. Theodore W. Forbes in 1949.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Whitney (typeface)</span> Family of sans-serif typefaces

Whitney is a family of humanist sans-serif digital typefaces, designed by American type designer Tobias Frere-Jones. It was originally created for New York’s Whitney Museum as its institutional typeface. Two key requirements were flexibility for editorial requirements and a design consistency with the Whitney Museum's existing public signage.

Typeface anatomy describes the graphic elements that make up letters in a typeface.

Memphis is a slab-serif typeface designed by Rudolf Wolf and released in 1929 by the Stempel Type Foundry.


  1. Dunlap, David W (October 19, 2004). "2 Type Designers, Joining Forces and Faces". The New York Times . Retrieved 2007-10-17.
  2. Neil Macmillan (2006). An A-Z of Type Designers. Yale University Press. pp. 85–86. ISBN   0-300-11151-7.
  3. Whitman, Sarah (24 April 2015). "Do You See What I See? The Illusion of Typeface Mechanics". Print . Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  4. 1 2 Butterick, Matthew. "Typography 2020: A Special Listicle for America". Practical Typography. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  5. Adams, Lauren. "Is Archer's Use on Target?". AIGI.
  6. 1 2 3 Consuegra, David (10 October 2011). Classic Typefaces: American Type and Type Designers. Allworth. pp. 393–400. ISBN   978-1-62153-582-9.
  7. "Typekit foundry partner Frere-Jones Type on designing type". YouTube. Adobe Systems. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  8. Muller, Marion (1987). "Kid Stuff?". U&lc . 14 (2): 14–15. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  9. "A. S. Frere". The New York Times . 16 October 1984. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  10. "Jones, Robin Carpenter". The New York Times. 10 March 1997. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  11. "WEDDINGS; Deborah Holmes, Sasha Frere-Jones". New York Times. 1994-06-12. Retrieved 2014-03-29.
  12. 1 2 Frere-Jones, Tobias. "Mallory: Drawn out from Memory". Frere-Jones Type. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  13. 1 2 Lupton, Ellen. "Interview, Ellen Lupton with Tobias Frere-Jones, November 1, 1995". Ellen Lupton. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  14. 1 2 Berlow, David. "The Typefaces of Tobias Frere‑Jones from The Font Bureau". Font Bureau . Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  15. Siegel, Dmitri (29 November 2004). "Interview: Tobias Frere-Jones, type designer". Typotheque. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  16. "Why Fearful Control Freaks Need Not Apply to Yale's Graphic Design Department". AIGA Eye On Design. 27 February 2017. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  17. Dunlap, David (19 October 2004). "2 Type Designers, Joining Forces and Faces". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  18. "INDEX NO. 650139/2014 TOBIAS FRERE-JONES, Plaintiff, against JONATHAN HOEFLER". New York Supreme Court. Jan 16, 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  19. "The world's biggest typeface lawsuit just settled". Sep 29, 2014. Retrieved Feb 10, 2015.
  20. 1 2 Fagone, Jason (2 June 2014). "A Type House Divided". New York magazine. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
  21. 1 2 Brustein, Joshua (16 May 2014). "Font War: Inside the Design World's $20 Million Divorce". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on April 8, 2014. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  22. Steven, Rachael. "Mallory: a new typeface from Tobias Frere-Jones". Creative Review. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  23. 1 2 Quito, Anne (December 2015). "With a new "autobiographical" typeface, design legend Tobias Frere-Jones is back in business". Quartz. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  24. 1 2 Brownlee, John. "Tobias Frere-Jones Returns With His Most Personal Font Yet". Fast Company. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  25. "Cooper Hewit National Design Awards". Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum . Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  26. "2013 AIGA Medal". AIGA . Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  27. "Christine Bateup, Tobias Frere-Jones". The New York Times . September 24, 2006. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
  28. Hawley, Rachel. "How this one font took over the world". The Outline. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  29. "Retina from Frere-Jones Type available to host on Typekit". Typekit blog. Adobe Systems. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  30. "Sum of The Parts". Cooper Hewitt. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  31. Frere-Jones, Tobias (1994). "Towards the Cause of Grunge". In Bierut, Michael (ed.). Looking Closer 2: critical writings on graphic design. Allworth Press. pp.  16-18. ISBN   9781880559567.
  32. Hamamoto, Christopher. "Fuse 1-20". Typographica. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  33. Hustwit, Gary (2 February 2008). "A Font You Can Believe In". Archived from the original on 2012-09-05. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  34. 1 2 Siegel, Dimitri (8 August 2002). "Is Gotham the New Interstate?". The Morning News . Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  35. Shaw, Paul (2017). Revival Type: Digital Typefaces Inspired by the Past. Yale University Press. pp. 222–3. ISBN   978-0-300-21929-6.
  36. Bock, Marshall; Lovin, Brian. "Design Details Episode 85: Lettering Liaison" . Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  37. Czarnecki, Lucas (19 October 2016). "An Interview with Tobias Frere-Jones". Type365. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  38. "Mallory". Frere-Jones Type. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  39. Brownlee, John. "How A Micro-Font Designed For Stock Indexes Became A Classic". Fast Company. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  40. McNaughton, Melaine (2010). "Martha Stewart's Graphic Design for Living". Bridgewater Review. 29 (2): 19–23.
  41. Stössinger, Nina. "Making Type for New York's Newest Most Historic Market". Frere-Jones Type. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  42. Frere-Jones, Tobias. "An Evening with Tobias Frere-Jones". AIGA Triad NC. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  43. Twemlow, Alice. "Forensic types". Eye. Retrieved 6 October 2019.