Interview of Doyald Young by Alexis Zephir, in introduction of the venue in paris of Doyald Young for a lecture organized by ATypI France.


Young is an eminent American lettering artist and type designer, who has just published an excellent new book called FONTS & LOGOS. ATypI-France has organized his coming to Paris. He will give a lecture on the 18th of October, 2000. As he is not very well known in France, we decided to interview him…

How we can describe your job?

I suppose I could be described as a lettering artist, though my work for the past 20 years or so has been logotype design and TV titles, which are really logos. I also design books, special announcements, posters, and collateral. I’ve done a lot of work for the universities here. And I am a typophile, one who loves type. Modestly, I am a typographer who is still learning.

Typical lettering design by Doyald Young under the direction of Landor and GE.

How and when you meet letterforms for the first time?

I first learned about lettering in the late 1940s at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, and then from Mortimer Leach, at Art Center College of Design where I now teach.

My type influences? I admire Hermann Zapf, first and foremost. Zapf is the premiere designer of our time, and in my opinion, the greatest calligrapher who has ever lived. Morris Fuller Benton, George Bickham, Adrian Frutiger, Jan van Krimpen, Robert Hunter Middleton, Reynolds Stone, and Jan Tschichold have been sources of inspiration. These are designers of traditional forms. And the work that I do for my clients is essentially traditional.

Extract from his book.

Can you describe the way you create a new logotype?

‘How I work’ in my book Fonts and Logos, best describes my method. (pp 362-63.)

My approach to logotype design is somewhat hard to describe. Clients, or designers, usually come to me with some direction. This may be verbal, or sometimes it is a rough sketch. When it is verbal, I then design what I think is appropriate, based on my 50 years of experience designing for a wide variety of projects. With some jobs there is no clear direction, either from the client or from the job itself. No matter what the intellectuals say, I think that there are any number of directions that can satisfy a client&Mac226;s needs. Discrimination comes from designers with rarefied aesthetics; the public mostly is uneducated and unaware. I know of instances where an engineer had not noticed the difference between Times Roman and Helvetica, and yet we as designers, fuss over nuances that are equal to the number of angels on the head of a pin.

I still start roughs with a soft pencil at a small size, then progressively refine the designs, finally inking with a straight edge. Curves are drawn freehand on tracing paper with a sharp felt pen. I then scan the selected design and finish it in Fontographer, usually in one character cell, sometimes two or more if the job requires color separation. Sometimes I work in Illustrator, but not often. Depending on the style, I can design a small rough logo sketch in less than one minute; and in 10 minutes, I can do a reasonably tight comp. You can’t do that on computer, yet. It is the reason that I believe art students should learn how to draw. Digital drawing pads will eventually advance to make this possible. I love the Macintosh! But, as April Greiman, a good friend, once remarked, “Who said the computer was fast?” I can draw a logo by hand faster that I can fuss and fiddle with Bézier points in Fontographer. But, the digital version is more flexible in application than a bitmap or a hard image.

Typical lettering design by Doyald Young.

What are the connections/links between your everyday job and teaching?

Interaction between teaching and my work. Yes, I teach because I think that letterforms are important. Designers need to understand them to become better designers. Letterforms play an important part of a design, whether the design is an all-type web page, a print ad, a brochure, or a logo. Typography is usually 50 to 80% of our work. When I first began to teach, teaching forced me to clarify my beliefs and ideas. It also forced me to be articulate in describing the process to students, which in turn has been helpful when I discuss a job with a client. Most clients do not have a typographic vocabulary, though now many non-artists are intrigued with fonts, because they use them everyday.

Typical lettering design by Doyald Young.

FONTS & LOGOS is your second book. If we don’t count the text face (Sabon) and the examples of typefaces presented, this book is your total creation. From writing, to material reproduced, to layout and production. Is it because you didn’t find a publisher, or is it just because you prefer to keep complete control?

Logotypes & Letterforms was my first book, published by McGraw Hill in 1993. It is a showcase of my work: 163 logos and a dozen or so alphabets and fonts. Despite highly favorable reviews, McGraw Hill did little to publicize the book, so I bought the remaining stock and now sell the book mainly to university art departments. Three publishers wanted to publish Fonts & Logos, but their royalty offers were embarrassingly small. They win and the author doesn’t. This is the case with many trade books, the backbone of much publishing. Distributors want 60% of the retail price, and publishers will offer a 10% of wholesale to the author, and if the author is not a designer, the publisher will charge a fee for its design. What they really don’t tell you is that the major part of their sales is to book clubs, which they define as anyone who buys 10 or more books. If your title is part of the 10, your royalty is then 5%. Usually, all that the average trade book author nets is a paltry advance.

I worked on Fonts & Logos for almost 6 years, and gambled that I could publish and market it myself. As a consequence, I had total control; every design decision was mine. And I had a wonderful editor who greatly enhanced my efforts. Rarely in life, are we offered complete control of our work. The examples are mine, I wrote the book, designed it, and oversaw its printing in Hong Kong. I used the best paper and tried to produce the finest product that I could. Toppan printers did a beautiful job and I’m proud of the effort, though I confess that marketing the book is expensive and time consuming.

Typical lettering design by Doyald Young.

Lastly, what do you like in French typography, and what have French typographers brought to type design during its history?

France’s contribution to typography is enormous. In Venice, Nicolas Jenson, a Frenchman, created the most celebrated roman font of all, and Claude Garamond’s face is essential for every font library. Philippe Grandjean and Firmin Didot heralded the moderns; and though a Swiss, Adrian Frutiger, working for the French foundry Deberny & Peignot, created the typeface, Univers, it remains one of the most enduring sans serif types of the 20th century. And in the US, condensed fonts are known by the cognoscenti as “French Style.”

Cover of the book Fonts and Logos.

The Book: Fonts & Logos by Doyald Young

If you want to understand and speak with authority about typography, Fonts & Logos offers both a foundation course and a guided path through the minefields of font and logo design. The subjects covered include: the characteristics of serif, sans serif, and script; how to space type for greatest legibility; when to use expert fonts; guidelines for choosing the right font for the job; how to construct your own fonts, and pitfalls to avoid. The analysis of 52 examples from the author’s practice, including alternative comps about the clients’ final choice, demonstrate how distinctive designs are developed from a typical font. A case study of the Prudential Insurance Company name illustrates the step-by-step process in detail. Showings of 377 time-honored fonts make Fonts & Logos a source book for font selection; historical notes on the types and their designs add depth and interest. A section of Typographic Suggestions by itself constitutes a full-fledged course on the use of type.

Fonts & Logos offers to those who use type the acquired taste and know-how of a designer who has taught for a quarter-century at one of the world’s most prestigious schools of art and has 40 years of professional experience and an international roster of clients. It is a superb reference and source book for students, educators, graphic designers, font designers, and typophiles.


Copyright 2000, copyright Doyald Young, ATypI and Porchez Typofonderie Gazette. All rights reserved. Interview by Alexis Zephir.


ATypI France.