Tobias Frere-Jones (born Tobias Edgar Mallory Jones; August 28, 1970) is an American type designer who works in New York City. He operates the company Frere-Jones Type and teaches typeface design at the Yale School of Art MFA program.
|Born||August 28, 1970|
|Gotham, Archer, Whitney, other|
Frere-Jones grew up in Brooklyn and became interested in letter design while attending Saint Ann's School. 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. His brother is music critic Sasha Frere-Jones and his great-grandfather was writer Edgar Wallace.
After receiving a BFA in 1992 from Rhode Island School of Design, Frere-Jones joined Font Bureau in Boston, becoming Senior Designer. He created a number of the typefaces that are Font Bureau's best known, among them Interstate. He joined the Yale School of Art faculty in 1996, and teaches type design there alongside Matthew Carter and Nina Stössinger.
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. 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. He then established his own company, Frere-Jones Type, which released its first retail family, Mallory, in 2015.
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.
Frere-Jones married Dr. Christine Annabelle Bateup in 2006.
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. However, he commented in a 1994 article that "grunge has firmly dated itself and many are already tired of it." A 2012 review by Christopher Hamamoto described Frere-Jones' later work as generally based on "formality and practicality", and a Businessweek article commented that Frere-Jones' later type design generally preferred "a cleaner style based on historic typefaces". 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.
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.
Many of Frere-Jones' typefaces are extremely large families designed for professional users, for instance Mallory which as of 2019 had 110 styles. Organisations that commissioned work from Frere-Jones have included GQ magazine, the Whitney Museum, the Wall Street Journal, Martha Stewart Living and the Essex Market. 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".
Tobias Frere-Jones' typefaces include:
- Armada, 1987–94
- Dolores, 1990
- Hightower Text
- Nobel, 1991–93
- Garage Gothic, 1992
- Cassandra, 1992
- Pythagoras, 1992
- Proxy, 1992
- Zoetrope, 1992
- Horizon, 1992
- Archipelago, 1992–98
- Vitriol, 1992–94
- Cafeteria, 1993
- Epitaph, 1993
- Nixie, 1993
- Reiner Script, 1993
- Stereo, 1993
- Chainletter, 1993–94
- Reactor, 1993–96
- Interstate, 1993–99
- Fibonacci, 1994
- Sum Of The Parts, 1994
- Rietveld, 1994
- Supermodel, 1994
- Niagara, 1994
- Asphalt, 1995
- Benton Gothic, 1995
- Citadel, 1995
- Microphone, 1995
- Pilsner, 1995
- Poynter Oldstyle, 1996–97
- Poynter Gothic, 1997
- Griffith Gothic, 1997–2000
- Whitney, 1996–2004
- Benton Modern (with David Berlow), 1997–2015
- Numbers (with Jonathan Hoefler), 1997–2006
- Phemister, 1997
- Grand Central, 1998
- Welo Script, 1998
- Mercury Text (with Jonathan Hoefler), 1999
- Vitesse (with Jonathan Hoefler), 2000
- Landmark (with Jonathan Hoefler), 2000–12
- Evolution (with Jonathan Hoefler), 2000
- Retina, 2000–16
- Nitro, 2001
- Surveyor, 2001
- Archer (with Jonathan Hoefler), 2001
- Gotham, 2000–09
- Idlewild, 2002–12
- Exchange, 2002–17
- Monarch, 2003
- Dulcet, 2003
- Tungsten, 2004–12
- Argosy, 2004
- Gotham Rounded, 2005
- Mallory, 2015
- Conductor (designed with Nina Stössinger), 2018
- Empirica (designed with Nina Stössinger), 1994–2018
- Dunlap, David W (October 19, 2004). "2 Type Designers, Joining Forces and Faces". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
- Neil Macmillan (2006). An A-Z of Type Designers. Yale University Press. pp. 85–86. ISBN 0-300-11151-7.
- Whitman, Sarah. "Do You See What I See? The Illusion of Typeface Mechanics". Print. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
- Butterick, Matthew. "Typography 2020: A Special Listicle for America". Practical Typography. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
- Adams, Lauren. "Is Archer's Use on Target?". AIGI.
- Consuegra, David (10 October 2011). Classic Typefaces: American Type and Type Designers. Allworth. pp. 393–400. ISBN 978-1-62153-582-9.
- "Typekit foundry partner Frere-Jones Type on designing type". YouTube. Adobe Systems. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
- Muller, Marion (1987). "Kid Stuff?". U&lc. 14 (2): 14–15. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
- "A. S. Frere". The New York Times. 16 October 1984. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
- "Jones, Robin Carpenter". New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
- "WEDDINGS; Deborah Holmes, Sasha Frere-Jones". New York Times. 1994-06-12. Retrieved 2014-03-29.
- Frere-Jones, Tobias. "Mallory: Drawn out from Memory". Frere-Jones Type. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
- Lupton, Ellen. "Interview, Ellen Lupton with Tobias Frere-Jones, November 1, 1995". Ellen Lupton. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
- Berlow, David. "The Typefaces of Tobias Frere‑Jones from The Font Bureau". Font Bureau. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
- Siegel, Dmitri. "Interview: Tobias Frere-Jones, type designer". Typotheque. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
- "Why Fearful Control Freaks Need Not Apply to Yale's Graphic Design Department". AIGA Eye On Design. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
- Dunlap, David. "2 Type Designers, Joining Forces and Faces". New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
- "INDEX NO. 650139/2014 TOBIAS FRERE-JONES, Plaintiff, against JONATHAN HOEFLER". New York Supreme Court. Jan 16, 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
- "The world's biggest typeface lawsuit just settled". Sep 29, 2014. Retrieved Feb 10, 2015.
- Fagone, Jason. "A Type House Divided". New York magazine. Retrieved 1 December 2014.
- Brustein, Joshua. "Font War: Inside the Design World's $20 Million Divorce". Businessweek. Bloomberg. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
- Steven, Rachael. "Mallory: a new typeface from Tobias Frere-Jones". Creative Review. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
- Quito, Anne. "With a new "autobiographical" typeface, design legend Tobias Frere-Jones is back in business". Quartz. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
- Brownlee, John. "Tobias Frere-Jones Returns With His Most Personal Font Yet". Fast Company. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
- "Cooper Hewit National Design Awards". Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
- "2013 AIGA Medal". AIGA. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
- "Christine Bateup, Tobias Frere-Jones". The New York Times. September 24, 2006. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
- Hawley, Rachel. "How this one font took over the world". The Outline. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
- "Retina from Frere-Jones Type available to host on Typekit". Typekit blog. Adobe Systems. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
- "Sum of The Parts". Cooper Hewitt. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
- Frere-Jones, Tobias. "Towards the Cause of Grunge". In Bierut, Michael (ed.). Looking Closer 2: critical writings on graphic design. Allworth Press. pp. 16-18. ISBN 9781880559567.
- Hamamoto, Christopher. "Fuse 1-20". Typographica. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
- Hustwit, Gary (2 February 2008). "A Font You Can Believe In". HelveticaFilm.com. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
- Siegel, Dimitri (8 August 2002). "Is Gotham the New Interstate?". The Morning News. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
- Shaw, Paul (2017). Revival Type: Digital Typefaces Inspired by the Past. Yale University Press. pp. 222–3. ISBN 978-0-300-21929-6.
- Bock, Marshall; Lovin, Brian. "Design Details Episode 85: Lettering Liaison". Retrieved 6 October 2019.
- Czarnecki, Lucas. "An Interview with Tobias Frere-Jones". Type365. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
- "Mallory". Frere-Jones Type. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
- Brownlee, John. "How A Micro-Font Designed For Stock Indexes Became A Classic". Fast Company. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
- McNaughton, Melaine (2010). "Martha Stewart's Graphic Design for Living". Bridgewater Review. 29 (2): 19–23.
- Stössinger, Nina. "Making Type for New York's Newest Most Historic Market". Frere-Jones Type. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
- Frere-Jones, Tobias. "An Evening with Tobias Frere-Jones". AIGA Triad NC. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
- Twemlow, Alice. "Forensic types". Eye. Retrieved 6 October 2019.