Type Foundries Today & the Typographica Census

Written by Stephen Coles on September 23, 2015

Each year, as I write a brief intro to our annual review of new type, I challenge myself to identify the prevailing trends. I try to think not just about what’s happening stylistically in terms of the work, but about the recent shifts in the field of type design itself. These pieces are informed by personal experience in the industry and by the typefaces in front of me, but I’ve always wished for harder data to back up observations like these:

  • “Small foundries have existed since the dawn of digital fonts, but now they are the norm.” (2014)
  • “While manufacturing splinters into myriad little studios, the tide of the major retail market is moving in the opposite direction.” (2014)
  • “This new phase of globalization and democratization of the font market began in earnest about a decade ago.” (2013)
  • “The independent foundry has also cemented its place as the new foundation of the industry.” (2012)

That last one might raise an eyebrow or two. Even if it feels right, what does it mean, exactly? What is an independent foundry? How do independent foundries affect the industry as a whole? Is font making and selling actually an industry anyway? What is it like to run a foundry today? How are type designers affected by changes in the market?

The answers to these questions can really only come from the font makers themselves.

Fortunately, Ruxandra Duru asked them. In 2011, she embarked on a thorough study of the type industry, interviewed twenty-four foundries, and published the results as her thesis for her master’s in advanced typography at EINA, Barcelona. Upon reading the report, I asked Ruxandra if she’d be interested in updating it and publishing it on Typographica. She agreed. It has been in the works for a very long time, but thanks to Ruxandra’s efforts and patience, Chris Hamamoto’s design, and Caren Litherland’s editing, I am pleased to announce Type Foundries Today.


This edition of Ruxandra’s report is completely revised, the historical timeline extended, the census of foundries expanded, additional interviews conducted, and the in-depth analysis updated. She completed her work at the end of 2013, and we’ve made a few additions and edits since then while building the online incarnation.

Three important works encapsulate the first three decades of digital type design: Robin Kinross’ The Digital Wave of 1992; Emily King’s New Faces: type design in the first decade of device-independent digital typesetting (1987-1997) of 1999; and Deborah Littlejohn’s Golden Age of 2009. I believe Ruxandra’s work does the same for the five years that followed.

The new Type Foundries Today is a living document. The site will be updated periodically, acting as a regular census of type foundries, and a status report on the industry at large. The work on that next installment begins now, as we record the tumultuous changes of the last two years. You can help. Send us your suggestions and additions for the 2015 edition. Meanwhile, if you wonder about how type gets made and the people who make it, you’ll get a lot out of the current report.


  1. I hope that you will keep the old versions archived and available. A large part of the value of this project over the long run will (or could) be not just in being current, but in providing snapshots for comparisons over time.

    Or perhaps each new version will have all the previous data as well? Or both?

  2. Yep, we intend to retain a snapshot of each version with the date clearly indicated and a link to the most current edition. We’re still pondering exactly how the updates will be presented and how much data and analysis is carried over. The frequency and depth of each update depends on whether we can get some sponsorship (ahem) for the work. So far, though Ruxandra and Caren were paid a nominal fee, it’s been a labor of love. Fortunately, the structure Chris built makes it fairly simple to update the data. First on the todo list is a mobile-ready/responsive version of the site.

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