The Maskalin dingbats were originally made to complement an interview about the launch and initial success of this lab. The interview with Apostrophe was conducted by Jami Reed, webmaster of the now-defunct True Type Resource site, in July of 2000, and published online in October of that same year, under the name "Chancing it with Apostrophe." Back then, this lab consisted of only Apostrophe, Graham Meade, CybaPee, Frank Guillemette, Neumat Ick, and Karen Clemens. Many things have changed since the interview, so we really had no reason to republish this interview once the web space it once occupied was shut down. However, many emails were sent asking for the interview to be put back online along with the links to download Maskalin. Here's to accommodate those who asked: the Maskalin download links are below, and the original text of the interview is below that.
PC Type 1
Maskalin PC True Type
Maskalin Mac Type 1
Site: Apostrophic Laboratories
Real Name: Kilgore Trout
City/State/Country: Mount Kiki / Red Hed Sector / Tralfamadore
How I relax: Breathe in, count 4 Mississipis, breathe out.
Pets: 2 budgies
Favorite Sport & Sports Team: Ping Pong, China
Favorite Music: Blues
Favorite Movie: The Gods Must Be Crazy
Favorite Book: Breakfast of Champions, Last Exit to Brooklyn
Favorite TV Shows: Looney Toons, Histeria
Favorite Urban Legend: I don't normally keep up with urban legends, but there was one that pushed my curiosity when I was a kid. It was about alligators living in the sewers of New York City. This one turned out to be so big that someone at the New York Times felt compelled to write about it at one point. Apparently it takes root in an older legend from Victorian London where someone tried to scare people with visions of ferocious black pigs living in the sewers. Subterranean existence has always been a subject of fascination to me.
My real Job: Pusher, Tuxedo Rentals Clerk, and part-time Army General.
Favorite Beverage: Wine.
Favorite State of Mind: The "what if" sort of mental wander scenario.
Favorite Adjectives: Flaky, flighty, kooky.
Favorite Quote: Argue for your limitations and they're yours. - Richard Bach
Brief Bio: I got into books and computers pretty early, tried on a lot of attitudes when I was a teenager, was an academic for the longest time, was always picked to lead certain circles for some reason, was and still am the beloved proverbial customer of book stores, art stores, music stores, type distributors, computer stores and travel agencies. What else? Hmmmm. I can write well with either left or right hand, do some lame magic tricks, bend two of my fingers in abnormal ways (I know you're just dying to know which two but I ain't telling ya), and if I concentrate long enough, hypnotize myself!
is Apostrophe, how did he come into being?
Hi. My name is Apostrophe. My parents gave me that name because they liked Frank Zappa cut, cut, CUT!
Truth be told, I was online long before Apostrophe even became a thought. With all the naiveté in the world, I used to use my real name, and my email address consisted of my first initial and my last name @provider.com. I even placed my address and phone number in my usenet signature for a while too. Learned the hard way.
I think the first time I hooked up to an online connection was when I was 19 or so, so around 1989. And just like anyone who ever hooked up to the internet, I went after the things that fascinated me in life, which were namely chess, literature, surrealist art and type. Digital type wasn't all that big in 1989, at least not as far as freeware or shareware went. Fonts were much more expensive back then (especially to a 19 year old who had to spend midnight to 8am spinning vinyl 5 nights a week to put himself through school during the day) because they were so rare and private, and there were no real public font tools. 9600 baud modems were the norm at the time, and the internet was mostly millions of text pages. There were books, chess game charts and surrealism analyses all over the web, all in text for my greedy hobbyist's eyes. I joined a few bulletin board spots and started spending 30 minutes to an hour a day online. A couple years later, a few unpleasant (as unpleasant as things can get online, that is) things happened to me, and I began to see why most people used nicknames and tried to remain anonymous. But I still loathed it. I always felt sneaky doing that.
went on, technology boomed out of proportions, and initials like ISP and PPP
and TCP/IP became everyday lingo. In 1994 and 1995, I was happy as a clam online
because I could play chess with people from all over the world (that was the
Internet Gaming Zone a few years before Microsoft bought it and made it an
IE-only thing). Late in 1995 I received an anonymous email informing me about
something called Usenet and specifically a newsgroup called alt.binaries.fonts
(to whomever sent me that email 5 years ago: if you've reading this right now
I bet you're smirking). That email was basically the beginning of it all for
me. alt.binaries.fonts was the club that I always wanted to belong to but could
never find out the address. By then the font making tools were out and people
were making fonts and posting them all over the place. ABF was one font orgy
that I could never pass on. And I guess the rest from then on was history as
far as that chunk of my existence is concerned.
I used a few aliases before Apostrophe on usenet. Apostrophe was really the screech of the kettle, and explosion of exasperation. I'd had to sit and for so long watch so many folks get onto alt.binaries.fonts and spoil the experience for everyone else. It wasn't the club I was used to anymore. It had turned into a spot where some people threatened, told lies, intimidated, bullied, et cetera, all in the name of protecting copyright. The methodology was so bad and over the top that even copyright had gone over everyone's head. Some people were insulting posters just because they asked where a font could be obtained. And I do mean literally insulting. I remember the day when I decided that I should be Apostrophe quite clearly. It was the day in the fall of 1998 when a regular poster on alt.binaries.fonts (her name was Nancy, if I recall correctly) asked if a freeware version of Officina Sans could be obtained anywhere, and Louis Vosloo answered her with this question: "Would you clean my toilet for free?" Naturally I was really angry at that, and decided to dredge it out with Vosloo. So I became Apostrophe and replied to give him hell, and everything blew up in front of me. My reply was in the name of manners and civility, but that got lost. It wasn't about manners anymore, and it wasn't just Vosloo either. Out popped Thomas Ferguson, Rich Webb, Mark Eastman, Tom Dunbar and a few others. I was suddenly feeling like I was attacked by a pack of wolves. That one thread lasted about a month, and I purposely dragged it out to see if either side would manage to convince the other about anything. It didn't happen, I don't think. So I took it personally: people who had no idea who others were felt liberated enough to be as judgmental with their pre-conceived notions as their keyboards would allow them.
Now that I really look back at it, I tend to think that it was all somewhat of a misunderstanding. Some people thought that I was advocating piracy while all I was doing was telling them to cool off and have some manners, to stop the threatening and the lying and see if they could appeal to people's better nature. So, you know, like two armies shooting at each other's shadows, no point was passed across and both sides got really pissed. I expressed my anger by doing exactly what they didn't want me to do, which was to post commercial fonts. Lots of them. I think overall I must have posted about a gig of stuff while my anger was driving me. And of course, during this whole mess, people began viewing me as some haven for the unfairly treated, and so all sorts of information began flying my way. The lies, threats, intimidation and all that were not only on usenet, but all over the web as well. That of course was added fuel to my fire. So I went on a rampage, and didn't care about the consequences. I used to tell those people that nobody was ever sued for posting a font or a thousand, so if anyone was going to get sued for doing that, I wanted that person to be me because I wanted to blow this whole charade to pieces.
I think it was all more of the circumstance biting everybody, regardless of the arguments that each side adopts. Some people take their beliefs to a point of insolence, and when they really don't have anything to back up their insolence, the whispers get lost in an ocean of screams as the whole point becomes simply making a stand. The frustration of the commercial typographer is there and will only get worse as far as I can see, but hey people are innocent when they dream. And when they base their stands/actions/words on their dreams, they can't really be faulted about anything except allowing themselves to be taken in by something that is not real. So throughout the whole thing, I think everyone was innocent, while the guilty party was actually the circumstance itself. We have reached a point when our boats are not enough to keep us floating anymore, and when something like that happens, it's hard to keep one's head, especially in a group. Personal attacks are bound to happen in any situation of panic. I think that's what happened. Everyone was innocent in a guilty circumstance.
As you may have noticed already, now I'm all mellowed out about it. Maybe got too old to deal with it, maybe anger gave way to depth like it usually does, maybe my disgust with it overwhelmed every emotion I have about it, I can't really tell. I know that I have a very clinical look at everything that regards the type industry now, and not much surprises me anymore. I know that everything I researched and experienced in this whole ordeal is still engraved in my mind like burning letters. I still believe that 90% of type businesses have taken themselves to a point of desperation where every person they deal with is not really human, but just another addition to the currency collection. But hey, there are ways to work around everything. If the current day type spot wants to walk the thin line between human rights and street fights, that's their expression of desperation, their problem. I found ways to control myself, acknowledge and move on. I wish more people would do the same.
At this point in time, as far as this whole type thing is concerned, I just want to make fonts and pass my experience on to other people in order to help them see what's really happening and how they could benefit from it. The type community is very small and a bit too closed for anyone outside the circle to really benefit from it without having to spend days trying to figure something out.
And you know, my little bit is being done. People email me to thank me for the fonts I give them on my site, for the answers I supply to their questions, and for any help I give them. That's really anyone can ask for in this whole type pursuit (aside from an ever growing font collection). I can't say I regret anything I've ever done, just like I can't say anyone is ever at fault for believing whatever they want to believe. Over the past few years I made a stand, and because of my stand I made the acquaintance of many people whose acquaintance I consider a privilege. One can never regret anything that can lead to such a happy ending.
than that, my life outside the type thing is very pleasurable and I'm generally
a content guy. Life is quite enjoyable.
What does a typical Apostrophic day consist of?
Put water in kettle, put croissant in oven, push timer button, check voice mail, insert compact disc of choice in compact disc player, check email, type up a storm, hear timer freak out, put water in cup, put cup on saucer, open oven, put croissant on saucer, enter home entertainment quarters, put saucer on desk, study smoke rising in front of screen, open being-worked-on font, alphabetize a storm, check computer clock, if time available read newsgroups, otherwise mumble obscenities on way to bathroom, do hygiene thing, get out of bathroom, appreciate coolness of water evaporating from skin surface, find clothes to wear, get out of domicile, get into automobile, back automobile out of driveway, observe local, provincial and national driving laws while commuting, talk self into believing that next 8 to 12 hours will be one's way of giving back to society, smile when possible, refrain from releasing obscenities out of oral cavity at any idiocies committed by fellow givers back to society, utter "oh my, doesn't time fly when you're having fun", get in automobile, guide automobile out of parking lot, observe local, provincial and national driving laws while commuting, enter domicile, communicate verbally with budgies, give budgies birdynumnum as reward for putting up with aforementioned verbal communication, check refrigerator for consumption matter, squint at refrigerator contents, use numbers on phone dial pad plus numbers on plastic card to acquire very recently heated meal from local establishment, check local, provincial, national and international news brief via cable television, decide that life is ridiculous, nod head twice slowly, confirm to self ridicule of life via telecommunication with acquaintances as means of catching up and arranging for future non-telecommunication personal meetings that serve purposes of pleasure via bonding and various enjoyable mental and physical activity, enter home entertainment quarters, insert compact disc of choice in compact disc player, open mail, check email, type up a storm, open being-worked-on font, work up a storm, be aware of night hiding everything outside window, check computer clock, widen eyes at the audacity of time slipping, enter sleeping quarters, lull self to sleep with paragraphs of someone else's subject of study or fantasy, enter mental cocoon and physical surrender for a number of hours, open eyes, leave sleeping quarters, put water in kettle, put croissant in oven, push timer button
How has the fame or notoriety of being Apostrophe affected you?
it's a bitch, sometimes it's a breeze. I guess "fame" applies when
it's good, and "notoriety" applies when it's bad, for me anyhow.
At least that's my perception of it. So far fame has been really flattering,
while notoriety has been somewhat inconvenient and slightly face-reddening.
Some of the flatteries really got to me. One young lady from California went
through the pain of making for me a shirt with 2500 apostrophes on it, each
apostrophe being from a different font. One guy from Sweden sent to me his
complete type poster collection, which he had accumulated over 14 years. Those
two really got to me in terms of flattery. And of course, there are the email
praises and the invitations to visit people's homes, forums, clubs, et cetera.
I also shouldn't forget to mention that being Apostrophe gave me the direct
privilege of making many friends whom I should have when I was much younger,
and meeting people in the type industry, people whom I considered art deities
when I was much younger.
On the other hand, the notoriety part has been somewhat of a pain. The most significant event so far has been that one foundry mistook a friend of mine for being Apostrophe and had their lawyers send a letter to his employer, which caused him to get fired from his job. That really got to me, so I literally couldn't sleep properly until I set him up with another job at another firm. Turns out he's happier now, so it worked out alright. Other annoyances are not as drastic: I was kicked out of a type design list because I told one designer that he was being offensive and out of line, and there have been a few instances when a couple people impersonated me on online forums. Other than that, not much really, or at least nothing that a delete button couldn't fix.
Overall, being Apostrophe has mostly been a good deal for me, mostly fun with a few afterglow regrets about certain things that I could have done differently, which really comes with any territory. We all learn as we go.
Damn, I said too much. I should have just said that it's great being Apostrophe and people should name their children after me. Maybe next time I'll be more careful with this sort of thing.
Who would you credit as being your primary inspiration in fonts and design?
in particular really. It doesn't really come from human beings as much as it
comes from their ideas. For instance, I like some of Eric Gill's work and think
that some of his ideas are brilliant, but I don't think that as a person he
would be considered "inspirational" to me. Same goes for Frutiger,
Garamond, Spiekermann, Tankard, Grieck, etc. But let's not go slagging people
I tracked it down, you see. In my experience, most of it is already inside me. Inspiration is an idea triggered by a visual (I was going to say sensual, meaning that a texture or a smell for instance could inspire a font, but I thought better of using that word here) perception. That idea translates itself into a font gradually. This, of course, is not a rule. Some ideas are triggered by nothing fathomable. But in my experience, I see something and it gives me the idea for something else. I suspect this is the ceiling of the way things work with every typographer, especially since one has to remain within certain form limits because the characters must be perceived as part of an alphabet.
If you meant to ask about my favourite typographer, then Hermann Zapf would be my undisputed answer.
When did you first become interested in fonts?
I guess in my mid-teenage years. I was 16 when I tried on the attitude of observing everything around me to try finding how society tries to influence me. And of course type was all over the place back then just like it is now. For 16 year old me at the time, it was amazing yet hard to explain, much like most other fascinations. And I couldn't believe that almost everyone around me didn't clue in to the fact that type was all over their lives, in their books, on their clothes, on their houses, on everything they bought. I distinctly remember thinking once that even no-brand products have type on them. Wherever there are words, there is type. Needless to say, I was faced with mostly stone-cold expressions when I tried to voice out my realization (I even lost a girlfriend over this goddammit!!) just like any other teenager would try voicing out how cool a certain music group is. In fact, I think the stone-cold faces helped me keep the realization inside myself where it grew to be an outright fascination with letterforms and their evolution. Still, even though I delved deep into many studies about type, I never really was able to define the best metaphor that could explain it to a person who would want to understand it better, until a good friend of mine dropped this gem on me out of nowhere about a year ago: "Fonts are the clothes that words wear."
What has been the highlight of your life up to this point?
My life progressed pretty much the way it does for many first-world country
people who are my age. My parents were hippies, if that means anything. I was
raised by my grandfolks on a farm while my parents were doing their hippy thing
all over the world, then my parents came back when I was eleven and took me
to a big city where I developed into what I am right now. So I guess a milestone
(if that's what highlight means here) would be that move from farm to city.
If by highlight you mean the most influential event in my personal history, that would be the summer of 1999 in Sarajevo, where I went with the Red Cross to pick bodies from rivers and burning buildings.
If by highlight you mean moments of exquisite love of life: there's the first time I played music in front of a drunk audience and they really loved it, the time I rented a Harley and crossed the continent, shaking Hermann Zapf's hand in 1995, the night of April 17 of last year which I can't really talk about here.
If by highlight you mean pride in personal achievement, then I'd have to say the first time a story I wrote was published in a magazine. It was a good feeling back then. Nowadays, because of the major expansions in media, most people who reach that milestone can't relate to me when I try to describe that feeling.
You know, the usual stuff.
Do you have any guilty pleasures? (Me? I still like to read comic books.)
Nope. No guilty pleasures. All my pleasure is guilt-free. This question is like mixing beer with orange soda. I have no idea why you or anyone would feel guilty about reading comic books. I like comic books and cartoons very much.
What makes you laugh?
Most things really. I tend to laugh a lot on the inside and try to keep a smile on the outside, but sometimes I end up bursting out in laughter. I think the most comic circumstance is when serenity is misplaced or faked. For instance, when someone tells me to do something and they do the exact opposite of it, it really cracks me up.
What philosophy do you try to adhere to?
Mostly shooting straight. Be honest while trying to be happy.
Do you wear boxers or briefs?
Boxers. They all have cartoons on them.
Why did you create Apostrophic Laboratories? Where did the name originate?
life with type had been mostly studying, collecting, appreciating, exploring,
all during whatever time I could scrounge for this hobby of mine. A few years
ago I made the step into trying to actually make fonts of my own. The first
few fonts went this way and that, experiments, modifications, random ideas,
basically just growing type design muscles and groping for a routine that I
liked. After the incidents with TypeWrong and the site's fading out, I kept
receiving email asking me when I would be back to the web. That was always
something I wanted to do anyhow, but I didn't really want to bring TypeWrong
back to life, because it had lost its luster for me. It's one of those things
that you live with for so long that nothing about it any longer surprises you
to the point of wanting to inform others about. And I thought that since most
of the email that I received was from people who were avid font collectors,
it would be nice to give them a few more fonts to collect without having to
put up with a façade as a side effect. And it worked out fine. I tremendously
enjoy the process of bringing an idea to life for as long as that process is
happening. Giving people the fonts and watching them use them is an extension
of the memory of that enjoyment, which is really nice.
The name was simply derived from my Apostrophe alias and the fact that I wanted a theme for the site.
Apostrophic Laboratories first went online...(when).
The last day of this past February.
What do you want to accomplish with Apostrophic Laboratories?
I don't consider it a matter of accomplishing anything. It's more of a "sharing the joy" deal really. Many font enthusiasts expressed their liking me as the "one of us" Apostrophe, liked me to the point of making me popular in cyberspace, and I feel that it would be a good gesture on my part to let them know what I've been up to in terms of my hobby, which made me "one of us" with those font enthusiasts in the first place.
What are your future plans for Apostrophic Laboratories?
It'll keep growing indefinitely I guess, until I die or someone takes it over or the internet disappears or some circumstance beyond my control parts me from it. The future plan is the same as it has always been: make fonts, and give them to people. In terms of aesthetics, right now I'm thinking that in 2001, the site's theme will change, but I can't really tell this early without charting it out for an hour or two, which I haven't got around to because I keep telling myself that there's a lot of time left for the year of the pills to finish.
What is 'The Lab'?
The Lab is what most chemistry students call their workspace, whether it's a room in a house, a real laboratory, a field where tree sap is being studied, or anywhere a group of chemistry folks gather up to do chemistry work. This definition was a bit broader in the mid 80s, when it also meant a place where every chemistry hacker would be welcome to join in the experiments being performed. I liked that definition, and I knew that some of the fonts I would put on that site would be collaborations/experiments with friends, so I thought "the lab", aside from having a little mystic appeal to it, would fit the overall theme.
Describe Apostrophic Laboratories' look and feel. Why was the site designed the way it was?
mostly a shot at originality, which is something really hard to come by on
the web nowadays. I looked at many sites, and I believe that most sites are
lacking an overall theme. Most sites I visit tell you very dryly "the
fonts are here", "the information is here", "the order
form is here". Such a method of presentation lacks something. I didn't
want that. I also didn't want to do like the sites where the fonts are presented
simply by making a gif out of the font name and linking it to a file. I wanted
to take the work a bit further, by really showing people the fonts through
usage samples while maintaining a certain sense of humour and the make-you-think
impression that so many people have of me. An underground chemistry lab was
a good idea for something like that, and of course the chemistry train of thought
goes through the drugs/medications issues, so I built on that. I told myself
that every font I make this year will have an anti-depressant name, and so
it was the year of the pills.
As far as the look and feel went, like I said earlier, I wanted to maintain a sense of humour and the make-me-think attitude that people like. A black background gives "a lab" a stark atmosphere, which is found to be a spoof of the whole theme itself once the contents are really observed. The idea was to break out of the common font site design while still touching on font usage. So I thought that spoofs of common type uses presented in what I perceive to be a funny way would do the trick, and of course since the whole site aims to break out of the usual font site norm, the graphics are built and used do intentionally wear the appeal of the uncommon. I also wanted the hardcore web designer who usually views the source of a page every time they visit to find a few surprises there: the page titles usually have nothing to do with type, ditto the popup comments, the strings generated by the web design software have all been twisted, and so on.
I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, and it's still pretty flexible and easy to update in case I need to change it or add something to it.
What programs were used in its construction?
Net Objects Fusion 4.1. It's a great software out of the box, but I had to tear the program apart and re-engineer so many things in it to get it to do what I wanted to do in terms of site flexibility. The problem with most web design packages nowadays, especially the most commonly used ones like Dreamweaver and GoLive and FrontPage, is that they assume that you are blindly comfortable with adopting their logic at every turn in your project. NOF does have some of that, but not as much as the rest. It's one of those packages that can be made to adapt to your working logic as opposed to adapting yours to its own. I recommend it unreservedly, and am very grateful to a certain woman in Texas for turning me on to it. I hear version 5.x is already out but I'm not in a hurry to upgrade because I fear that they instilled more "do it this way instead" things in it.
What has been some of the feedback you've been receiving from your site and/or fonts?
It seems to be a success. The cruiser feedback has been great so far. Ditto the people who just want the fonts. Some people even asked me to make the designs where the fonts are shown available for download in better-than-web resolutions, which I think is a great compliment. I also consider myself fortunate that my site triggered so many people to express interest in collaborating on font designs with me.
Since it's the Year of the Pills, which of the Seven Dwarfs were most likely the product of a 12-step program? (Sleepy, Dopey, Doc, Bashful, Grumpy, Happy or Sneezy) Explain your reasoning.
Grumpy is missing out on all the fun, so he must have been brainwashed somewhere along the line.
How would you describe your fontwork?
now it's at the stage where it's still a big party. And I just bought a brand
new tablet, so watch out! This one's BIG! I had a 4x3, but now it just tripled
in size. Works perfectly with the Illustrator brush.
My font work at this stage is evolutionary at best. It's been happening in the background for a few years now, so I can now honestly say that I have found my rhythm with it. And of course, since making them is 90% of the fun, I still tend to be experimental, as opposed to trying to find a magnum opus for release. Every font of mine has an experiment related to it.
How did 'The Year of the Pills' theme come about?
The pills thing has been a recurring happenstance to me within the last couple years. I've never been on any kind of regular medication, but an incredible amount of acquaintances turned out to be. And about 30% of the people I've been meeting during the last few years are on the stuff. I find it fascinating. Depression must be running rampant. I have nothing against it ("whatever bakes your cookie" is my motto), but I think that it's an indicator of increasing social pressure. Some research, coupled with my former chemistry "geekhood" (or "geekdom" or "geekness", whatever bakes your cookie here), lead to learning some statistics about such medication and the companies who manufacture them. It's not a pretty picture. My new year's resolution (or lack thereof) was to give the name of an anti-depressant to every font I make this year. So it turned out to be the year of the pills. It fit in quite nicely with the theme of the site, so that was a bonus.
Will there be other themes in the future?
I think so. If I keep liking myself enough to actually make meaningless new year's resolutions like I did this year, there most certainly will be other themes. I'm also open to suggestions for next year's theme (or new year's resolution).
What's going on in the background as you create a font?
Music, volume usually no higher than 5 unless it's Edith Piaf or Billie Holiday or really scorchy blues. Also budgies chirping (I think they try to keep up with the music). The visuals are the same everyday: open books scattered all over the office, type posters and Dali prints all over the walls, a few remote controls thrown here and there (I think I have 7 remote controls, but I've never seen them all in the same room), bookshelves, etc
Where do the ideas for your fonts come from?
Usually from something I see. Effexor was pretty much the end result of my seeing a symbol in a picture of an African tribesman holding a shield, so I came up with the idea of geometric tribalism, which I knew was never really approached before, simply because it's a very unrealistic mix between two form cultures. Miltown was of course the end result of so much demand for a Matrix font. Celexa was the result of some 1930's South American headstone pictures I saw in a book at the library. Zoloft was yet another headstone thing (except the headstones were local) and I intentionally twisted it to give it a futuristic look and so only a few lowercase letters remained from the original headstone. Fluoxetine was just an idea of mine about mixing as many typeface elements as I could, so I used twelve different "standard" faces in building it. Tralfamadore and Ankora, believe it or not, were ideas triggered by a documentary I saw about a variety of air pumps (look at Tralfamadore's I; it was the first character I made in those two fonts, long before the year of the pills thing was the theme). Paxil was a basic idea that I exchanged in conversation with Jeri, an idea about building letters from triangles. The idea for Halcion came from a good friend of mine who once suggested that there weren't enough "speed" fonts around. Valium and Ritalin were two shots at sharply pointed forms and curves that were still legible without making typographic sense. Labrat started as the font that was going to be all over the site; I wanted originality to show on the main entry page (after the splash lead-you-on intro). The RxMM letters started off as an emulation of a strangely hand-lettered birthday card I received from someone in Australia. Icklips was Typ's idea of an "electricity" font; Neumat and I later managed to make him understand that it did look more like a paperclip font, with a reminder that paperclips and electricity can constitute a pretty nasty mix. Fight This was my attempt at emulating the much hyped Fight Club font done by the late Scott Makela and one of his students (the background research on that was a couple hours, and the main set of letters and numbers was emulated in less than an hour). Witches Brew was something I made to use on a Halloween joke card. Wellbutrin was an idea I had about rounded rectangles after Karen showed me a scalable-outline version of a Helvetica bitmap she wanted us to work on. Xanax was partly inspired by photos of Persian shields, and partly by looking at comic books (that guilty pleasure that will most certainly reserve a seat in hell for you). Cyclin was CybaPee's idea, which I just followed in the execution.
What letter presents the most difficulties?
It depends on the kind of type. To me, in both geometric and typographically rounded fonts, the ampersand requires the sort of perfection that still presents a bit of difficulty. One good thing about collaborating with other designers is that the soft spots are eliminated by the combined skills.
Which font of your own making do you consider your favorite? Least favorite?
Effexor holds good memories for me. It was a lot of fun to make, though I can see if others can't understand the personal appeal. Start with tribesmen building spaceships, and you can probably take that train of thought to the way I felt while making it. From the popular fonts, I guess Ritalin is my favourite. Least favourite, hmmm, not sure, maybe Witches Brew or Fight This. I'm not too crazy about those, though they filled their purpose quite nicely.
Which of your fonts has received the most accolades? Which has been the least popular?
most popular so far are Miltown, Celexa, and Ritalin. Miltown is being used
all over Matrix theme sites (I also think it was used in a couple of Matrix
desktop theme packs). It was also in the Lockergnome newsletter, so I guess
that might have popularized it a bit too. Celexa is the one I keep receiving
emails of praise about. People seem to love that font, and I'm glad, since
there was a lot pleasure working on it. Ritalin has been another emailer favourite.
People kept asking me to make more weights of it, so now there's a brand new
bold version at the lab.
Least popular, I'm not sure. The feedback I usually receive is pretty encouraging and doesn't usually say things like "I didn't like this font" or "you could have done better on the G in this font". Some people say stuff like "all the fonts are great", and it feels great to think that this may be the case, but I know better than that.
What other font sites would you recommend to someone who's just entering the cyber world?
is no better way to start than with Luc Devroye's site. It's really the most
comprehensive source of information about type and typography. I started on
Luc's site a long time ago, and I always found any information I was looking
for through that site.
Some guy called Jami have also developed a pretty decent starting point for the type enthusiast as well. It's rounding up quite nicely. I'm especially fond of the area where you house the homeless fonts. This is really nice of him. And I'm grateful that he housed my first few fonts on there before the lab went up.
What's the biggest innovation or change in the world of fonts that you've noticed?
The digital revolution has to be it. I guess all these ideas that the new designers have now must have been floating around for hundreds of years, but it was impossible for most people to bring them to a visual manifestation. A few years ago, font-making program seeped into the world and multiplied the possibilities to proportions that the hot metal and photo-type folks could only imagine. To know whether this is a good or a bad thing, one would have to consider the people affected. Technology always works in mysterious ways and has very unexpected side effects. In this particular case, the leaders of the type industry in the times of hot metal and photo-type have been dethroned and a new generation is well on its way taking over that sort of power. For a full set of results, check back when the next technopoly is introduced.
Will you ever go 'commercial'?
(as much as I hate saying never). Not retail anyhow. I enjoy the process of
making fonts too much for me to place a price tag on copies of the resulting
product. A few people have told me on separate occasions that I'm crazy to
give my fonts away when I could be making a good side-cheque with them, but
I don't even think of the fonts as something that I would use to improve my
material lifestyle, since they already have a fantastic effect on my mental
being through my enjoyment of making them. Maybe if one of these days a "commercial"
designer wanted help of some sort, you'll find Apostrophe beside theirs in
a copyright notice on a commercial font, but other than that, I don't see it
happening. As far as being paid for making fonts, sure, it happened and keeps
happening to me just like it happens to a lot of people. I've designed my share
of custom fonts for certain companies, some I did for $$$$ because the work
did require an investment on the commissioner's part, and some I did for free
for a variety of reasons. These fonts will most likely never see the light
or arouse interest beyond the usage they were designed for, but as far as I'm
concerned, they served their purpose and still continue to do so.
Overall, I never really had any illusions about "making a living" with typography. In many ways I can't understand how anyone in this day and age would realistically expect to reach such a state while remaining honest to themselves and what they consider their livelihood. But you know, we learn on our own. I suppose there are a few people out there who believe that it's still possible to make a living as a blacksmith. Reality is tough.
What really bugs you? Do you have a pet peeve?
I used to have so many pet peeves. Not anymore though. Nowadays I either like or dislike something, a bit impersonally. Not much surprises me really. I'm getting older. I think my anxiety cells are dying. If I find myself not liking something I just acknowledge and move on. I wish I were like this years ago. Most things that cause me pleasure are quite simple. I got good at identifying them and seeking them out over the years. I learned to live with my pet peeves long enough that they either vanished or I can't feel them anymore.
If you could be anyone, anywhere, on any day, who/where/when would it be:
Ken Arnold, June 24, 1947, in a plane somewhere near Mt. Rainier, Washington.
How do you want to be remembered? What will it say on your tombstone?
I hardly ever think about that. I guess I want to be remembered as a person who liked to help others. Won't be a tombstone. I think I'll end up asking to be cremated and scattered all over a farm around Nice. I did a font for a mausoleum once; I'm sure they'll be happy to burn me.
Your Turn: Ask the question you longed to have asked. Just remember, you have to answer that question.
sure what to say on this one. I've been asked everything. Hmmm let's see.
OK. Here's something I was never asked:
Q: How many ticklish spots do you have?
Here's your chance to put your 2 cents in about anything. No, it doesn't have to be font related in any way unless that's what you choose.
anyone who is thinking about making their first font:
Let's take the letter A, for instance. To make the letter A, you don't need to study the history of every A ever made. You don't need to bring everything you ever knew about the letter A into the one you are making right now. Your knowledge, or lack thereof, means nothing when you're making the letter A. If you try to bring yourself and everything you know into the letter A you are making, you will end up confusing a lot of people and having just a handful of folks nodding their heads at your false glory, which stands for nothing. Don't make so much of the letter A. Your A is nothing but a letter, which has been made over and over and over again throughout hundreds of years. If you as much as hint that you have more knowledge about the letter A than anyone else, then people have the right to laugh at you for as long as they please. Making the letter A is not an opportunity for you to show feelings, knowledge, background, or anything that has to do with you. You are merely presenting an idea of something that has been passed through hundreds of years. Your true art is to present the idea and move on to other presentations of the same idea. Your true art is to will your senses to become the instruments that bring the idea to life. Will your senses, become the instrument, bridge the idea into its manifestation, then step aside. This is very important. Step aside. If you do not step aside, you are disgracing your true art. If you dwell on the presentation, you are disgracing your true art. If you attach any hope or emotion to your presentation, you are disgracing your true art. Bring your presentation to life, then let it live without burdening it with your expectations.
What is the background that your font requires? None whatsoever. You already know the letters that you will be working on. Everyone knows the letters that you will be working on. No one is interested in your background. There is nothing that you can show in your letters that will ever prove to deserve more than a fleeting compliment from people leading very different lives than the one you are leading. Don't even entertain the idea of expecting glory out of making letters. You'll only end up disappointing yourself if you do. People already know that you like making presentations of the same idea. The fact that people look at your presentation should be your gratification. People have seen about 80,000 presentations before yours will even come into existence, so the odds are against you. Know this before you even start. The odds are against you. Accept the odds, be the instrument, finish the presentation, step aside. Step aside. By stepping aside you demonstrate more grace than the odds ever will.
Design your letters with the exact precision with which you would check out a shopping list. There's nothing about the letter A that should turn you on or make you feel uncomfortable in your underwear. Nothing. Your font is nothing but information. If you exaggerate its purpose or existence, you are no better than the people you despise because they lied to you. Typography is a science, not an art. Your font is just a report of a scientific possibility. Some people believe in aliens, some people don't. Some people believe that smoking is a killer, some people don't. Some people will like your scientific report, some people won't. You are expected to know this before you even start. It's the respect and distance that every science demands. Don't expect people to see you through your font. If they do, be grateful for the enormous compliment.
The science you are applying is a moving target, with a slow history that is void of anything useful in regards to the way letters are made right now. Twenty years ago, this science was in another age altogether. You don't need to study anything but the current tools. You don't need to know that Claude Garamond's typography teacher was beheaded for heresy, or that Eric Gill molested his children. This is not useful information, only interesting if you like to know it. Useful information about your science can be found in software manuals and instructions from people who used and use the same tools you will be using. To be an efficient instrument, you need to know the tools. Read, apply what you read, and see if it gives you pleasure.
If you understand and accept what I just said, if you understand the odds, if you think you can do the work and move on to more work, and you still want to design fonts, I believe that you are on your way to much pleasure making letters.
Be happy (aka "take care of yourselves and each other").