Typographer or Type Designer?

As a student in graphic design at NC State, I have certainly learned to value type and understand all of it’s systematic quirks, however within the past few weeks my perspective has shifted. On October 26th, Nicole Dotin, a type designer and partner at the Process Type Foundry came to speak to my Typography III class about the process of designing her recently released typeface, Elena. Throughout this short lecture it was clear that Dotin knew her stuff. A former graphic designer and typography teacher at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Dotin left the work field to pursue a post-graduate degree in typeface design at the University of Reading, UK. “First I would like to talk about terminology,” she said, “In the past I have been introduced as a typographer. I am not a typographer, I am a type designer.”

Dotin proceeded to explain to us the importance of terminology in her field. She discussed the difference between kerning and spacing and the way in which you may call a font a typeface but you may not always call a typeface a font. She then proceeded to reveal Elena, her first typeface whose making has consumed the past five years of her life. Elena is a serif typeface designed for continuous reading. It is beautiful. Opening it in FontLab, she showed us Elena in it’s production, demonstrating to us steps that went into the font’s construction. Of course after listening to Nicole speak in class, I instantly gained a deeper respect for type designers and I made it priority to attend her public lecture that night in Burns Auditorium on campus – and I’m so glad that I did.

At  Process Type Foundry, Nicole partners as a type designer with her husband, Eric Olsen. Having designed several fonts including the typeface used in the Facebook logo (Klavika Condensed), Olsen is very accomplished in his work. During her lecture, Dotin mentioned how interesting it is as a type designer to see one’s work being used in everyday life and in the work of other designers. Dotin’s lecture made me realize that the design community expands globally and often in ways that are not obvious. She recollected a time when she and Olsen were traveling in Iceland and came across one of Olsen’s typefaces advertising a product in a language that was foreign to them. This story really resonated with me. Although I have always known that beautiful design and typography communicate in the same ways no matter the language, somehow this story gave my previous understanding new context. Needless to say, Nicole Dotin not only changed the way that I look at type, she changed the way I look at the process of design.


Photo Credit:
Above photo is a type specimen for Nicole Dotin’s recently released typeface, Elena, and is from the Process Type Foundry website.

Allison Hale  is a student studying Graphic Design at North Carolina State University. She also currently acts as co-representative for NCSU’s AIGA student group.

By Allison Hale
Published November 25, 2011