On display in photographs and archived notes, in design documents and type specimens, the great bulk of documentation about the field of type design makes the process look so mechanical and obvious. Straightforward, even. The designer is seen at their desk, dressed all in black, a finger raising their bespoke glasses and an arm is resting on an immaculately tidy desk. All is calm and easy going and they have likely used the word gestalt several times today. A grid of perfect letters in perfect symmetry are displayed before them and they are leaning forward, questioning the philosophical, ontological meaning of the letter ä.
But talk to any type designer and you’ll find that their work is a very messy business indeed.
There are busted, half-broken, and buggy apps that they depend upon to make a living. There are dozens of projects incomplete that linger for years on hard drives (some reach escape velocity whilst others are not quite so lucky). There are treasures in progress. There are rough sketches in coffee-stained notebooks. And there are sleepless nights over the business, over the money, over the state of the foundry. And so, although from a distance it appears that the act of type design is a beautiful and focused effort full of smiles and poetry, this could not be further from the truth; to make a beautiful thing you must be experimental and wild, weird and uncouth.