John Downer (sign painter)

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John Downer (born 1951) is an American sign painter, typeface and logo designer.[1][2] Downer began his career as a painter of signs.[3][4][5] Among his best-known digital fonts are Iowan Old Style, Roxy, Triplex Italic, and Brothers.[6][7][8]

John Downer
John Downer signpainter.jpg
Tacoma, Wa
Occupation(s)Typeface Designer, Logo Designer, Sign Painter
Years active1969-present

Downer studied at Washington State University and the University of Iowa.[9][10][11][12] His work was featured amongst that of others in the 2014 documentary Sign Painters.[13][14][15] He has lectured on type and sign design at conferences and at The Cooper Union.[16]

Typeface designsEdit

  • Iowan Old Style - Venetian old-style serif
  • Roxy (Font Bureau) - stroke-modulated sans-serif
  • Triplex Italic (Emigre)
  • Brothers (Emigre) - chamfered display wedge-serif influenced by nineteenth-century lettering[17]
  • Paperback (House Industries) - text serif face with optical sizes
  • SamSans - humanist sans-serif
  • Vendetta (Emigre) - inspired by old-style Venetian serif fonts but with sharpened serifs
  • Council (Emigre) - condensed display wedge-serif, capitals-only
  • Ironmonger (Font Bureau) - angular all-caps display alphabet inspired by lettering on buildings
  • Simona (Design Lab) - serif, similar to the work of Fournier and Bodoni

Proprietary typefacesEdit

  • Gonnick [for cartoonist Larry Gonnick]
  • Screenmax (bitmap serif typefaces at 7 pixel x-height in Roman, Italic, Bold and Black)


  1. ^ Downer, John. "The Art of Founding Type". Emigre. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  2. ^ "A sign painter at work". Kombinat. Archived from the original on 11 September 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  3. ^ Hoefler, Jonathan. "John Downer at The Propagandist". Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  4. ^ "Défense D'Af: Faux Ghostsign from John Downer". Ghost Signs (blog). Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  5. ^ Hansford, Vanessa. "Sign Painter, John Downer". The Simple Things. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  6. ^ Butterick, Matthew. "Iowan Old Style". Typography for Lawyers. Archived from the original on January 16, 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  7. ^ Berry, John. "An American Typeface Comes of Age". dot creative. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  8. ^ Downer, John. "Call It What It Is". Emigre. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  9. ^ "Alastair Johnston interviews John Downer" (PDF). Alastair Johnston. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  10. ^ Thomas, Shelbi. "The Iowan Type". Iowa Alumni Magazine. University of Iowa Alumni Association. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  11. ^ Peters, Yyves. "An Exhibition of Hand Lettered Posters by John Downer". FontFeed. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  12. ^ "Iowa Digital Library collections: John Downer, signpainter". University of Iowa. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  13. ^ Peters, Yyves. "Sign Painters Movie Explores Contemporary Sign Painting". Font Feed. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  14. ^ Uuong, An. "Sign Painters: a Sign of the Times". Artscope. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  15. ^ Davies, Bree. "Sign Painters Shines A Colorful Light on the History of a Hidden Craft". Westword. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  16. ^ "Introduction to Sign Painting". Cooper Union. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  17. ^ Heck, Bethany. "Brothers review". Font Review Journal. Retrieved 13 September 2019.

External linksEdit