Tag Archives: Designers

What is a Foundry?

Foundries make type. They can be large organizations or small, one or two-person operations. Historically, foundries turned out a physical product — metal type cast from a font of molten lead. These productions, however small in scale, necessitated the procurement of heavy, skilled labor. The masters who hand-cut the punches, down to those who kept the fires burning still got greasy every day. It was hard work. Up until the turn of the last century, the trade of type design kept its perception as blue collar. At foundries presently, there is little commotion compared to the hot metal days when you could tell a foundry worker by the smell. Gutenberg was the first, and while we haven’t seen the last, the trend has moved from physical to digital production. But the name ‘foundry’ persists.

Stephenson Blake Foundry, 1914

When I think of foundries today, I tend to think of people like Peter Bruhn, who spends his days drawing and fitting his letters, and checking his proofs, a little time tending to business on the phone or sending emails, but mostly, with the letters. Other designers can release their fonts through Peter’s foundry, but for now, it’s mostly him. Foundries can sell their types directly, or through distributors, who take a cut of the revenue to pay for promotion and operating costs.

Mayo by Peter Bruhn of Fountain

So what is FontShop?

FontShop is the first of the independent digital type retailers. Our aim from the beginning arose from the idea that great design is a valuable service to everyone. And since great typography is the core of great graphic design, we made it our purpose to improve design by making the best type available to designers everywhere. In the beginning this meant that we printed and sold big yellow books, and waited by the phone with price lists, ready to mail out diskettes, same-day. Now it means that we curate a collection of type online, and publish newsletters, blog posts, tweets and comments, produce and commission original artwork, and sponsor and host design conferences, and of course, reach out to new foundries.

What makes FontShop independent?

While we deal with hundreds of foundries, we don’t hold the intellectual property of any. Each foundry retains the rights of authorship for its original works and chooses which of its fonts to let us sell. We do our part to make and publish promotional material, help our customers choose the best type for a given project, and sell licenses to the fonts.

When Visual Met Virtual

Bridging the digital divide, a group of around 75 designers and developers gathered Wednesday evening at San Francisco’s Storek Building to discuss how the two teams can work together. The group listened to a panel of three people who’ve successfully worked on both sides of the coin. Chris Palmatier of Neighborland gave great tips to designers looking to work with developers, and speaking to the developer side were Gregor Martynus, Founder of Minutes.io and Cary Dunn, CTO of Right Signature. An active Q&A session followed the panel discussion.

Takeaways from Chris:

  • It is good to have at least some understanding of what the other side does. If you are focused in one area that’s fine but you should at least find something in the other field that interests you and learn about it. Being a designer who knows a bit of PHP doesn’t hurt and being a Developer who knows something about color theory doesn’t hurt.
  • Make the focus of your collaboration about the product—how it uniquely serves the user.
  • CSS shouldn’t be scary to print designers, it’s exactly like setting up styles in InDesign when working in long-form documents.

Takeaways from Gregor:

  • I don’t care if you are the best designer in the world, if we don’t share the same vision I would not hire you. You need to talk to people to be able to get a feel for them when you are hiring.
  • Anyone can sketch the “essence” of a product, you don’t need to be a designer or developer per se.
  • Important to establish wireframes before getting into visual design. The uglier they are, the better, because they represent the essence of the thing.

Takeaways from Cary:

  • Focus how a product works.
  • Finding a designer depends on what kind of design and how technical the designer is.

Chris also recommends designers look into this resource:

I mentioned playbook.thoughtbot.com last night. While it’s not specifically about the design/dev boundary, it’s a good window onto how an internet manufacturing concern works, which might require some demystifying for a designer who hasn’t yet dived into creating web products.

Did you attend the event? What did you think?

Join Us for a Designer/Developer Meetup in San Francisco!

Are you a developer looking to make your app or website more visually appealing? Are you a designer seeking opportunities in tech? Join FontShop and the Storek Building for Visual Meets Virtual, an informal evening aimed to connect developers and designers with one another to build beautiful projects together. Register via Eventbrite today.

We’ll have plenty of refreshments and libations for your enjoyment and a brief, informal presentation by members of the design and development communities (with a short Q&A) on how they view the two disciplines interrelating. Attendees will also be among the first to hear some exciting news from FontShop — you won’t want to miss it!

Day: Wednesday, August 24th
Time: 6-9 p.m.
Location: Storek Building, 155 9th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

6-7 p.m.: Pizza & Libations
7-7:45 p.m.: Panel Discussion and Q&A
7:45-9 p.m.: Mingle with our panelists and other attendees


Cary Dunn, CTO, RightSignature. From the temperate and sleepy beachside town of Santa Barbara, Cary is the development and UI steamboat behind the e-signature company RightSignature. He is a crossbreed developer/designer, which means you’ll often find him wireframing in code rather than Photoshop. He lives his life at local coffee shops, spends late nights hacking code, and always has a few new products brewing.

Chris Palmatier is a designer, developer, and artist whose restless muse keeps him bouncing between his text editor, vector drawing software, drafting table, and art studio. Over the past 10 years, he has worked as a full-stack web developer and interaction/visual designer, working to create tools that are both usable and delightful for the University of California, IDEO, and Civic Center/Neighborland.org, to name a few. When not working on Internet design and manufacture, he also works on print design and consulting for clients in the East Bay, designs furniture, and creates abstract paintings and sculptures. Chris holds a BFA in Fine Arts (Painting) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and lives in sunny Oakland, CA.

Gregor Martynus. Having a degree in Media System Design and working for years as developer, designer and in between, Gregor understands the different languages of both sides. Potential gets lost in translation and wrong expectation – let’s talk synergies. Gregor is the founder of minutes.io, an HTML5 app to take & share meeting notes. He enjoys working at coworking spaces and is moving once or twice per year. After San Francisco, he’ll move to Zurich with his wife. Spare time activities include traveling, photography and snowboarding.

Make sure to register here!