Turning the Page

Written by Stephen Coles on April 22, 2009

“How do you know you should start a blog? Because people keep telling you to shut up. You just won’t shut up about a subject.” — Merlin Mann, SXSW Interactive 2009

Obsession times voice” is what luminary bloggers Merlin Mann and John Gruber offer as a simple formula for successful writing. It’s exactly these qualities that Joshua Lurie-Terrell hurled at the burgeoning bloggernet on May 1, 2002 when he opened an account on blogspot.com and called it Typographica. I asked JLT to recount those olden days:

Back when blogs were a “new thing”, I wanted to experiment with this new mode of publishing. I didn’t have much to say about my personal life — and I still don’t — but I was interested in meeting other folks who shared my primary interests: letterpress printing, typography, and the Arts & Crafts design aesthetic. Thus, Typographica was born. Being that there was a bit of a void in the medium for the first two subjects1 — there were mailing lists and a few newsgroups, but nothing really accessible — it quickly became much more popular than I had expected, and even more quickly put me in touch with dozens of interesting people working in these fields, many of whom have become good friends.

Ye Olde TypographicaIn his carefree, gung-ho way, JLT liberally bestowed author accounts on those he respected in the realm of typography and encouraged them to post whatever they wanted on the site. News and discussion sparked quickly. Smart, opinionated folks from all corners of the type world contributed to what became an bustling throng of obsessive voices.

The site design, a judiciously modified Blogger template, was hardly touched for nearly seven years. Georgia, Verdana, blue, orange, and the rotating nameplate served the site remarkably well through many internet-wide design phases, from Web 1.5 to 2.0. In fact, Typographica trudged ahead at a steady pace for most of its lifespan, aside from a minor bump in the Canadian highway.

But sometime in 2006 site activity slowed to a cold maple syrup drip. JLT had moved on to his other ventures, most notably Hewn & Hammered. And I somehow landed in a desk at FontShop in San Francisco, where writing about type and playing with fonts became a full-time gig.

It wasn’t just that our attention was diverted — other type bloggers took the reins and did it better, more beautifully and comprehensively, with more brains, more fervor, and more expertise. And, of course, there’s really no reason to go anywhere else to discuss type with knowledgeable peers than Typophile.

This new typoblogosphere calls for a new Typographica. It’s clear that what the type world needs now is not another blog. No, what’s missing is what keeps readers coming back to the site every year, despite our relative silence: informed reviews. The accessibility of type design tools and distribution is yielding hundreds of new font releases every month. Most of them are rubbish. Some of them are good. And a select few are worthy of your money (or your client’s). Our annual Favorites are dedicated to that last group. And now, thanks to a new website facilitated by the WordPress wizardry and design dexterity of Chris Hamamoto, Typographica has a new mission as a vehicle for typeface recommendations and reviews.

The move is still underway — some of the legacy odds and ends are missing or malformed. So until we feel comfortable in our new home, the original location will remain open. But all new content will live here. We hope you enjoy the new format and welcome your comments (as long as your name isn’t Joe Clark2).

A final word from our founder:

I’m especially glad that Typographica found its real focus — the art, craft, and business of typography and type design — and that Stephen Coles was the one who was there to pick up and run with it. He has become one of my closest friends, and it would never have been as successful as it has been without him.

Thank you, JLT. We’ll do our best to stay obsessed.

Typographica Editors
Joshua Lurie-Terrell and Stephen Coles at a crossroads. Photo courtesy Adam Twardoch.

Special thanks to the brilliant Matthew Bardram and Patric King for their assistance in the early years; to Graham Hicks for crafting a beautiful blog design that never saw the light of day due to my change of plans; to Nick Sherman for his deceptively simple favicon and for tying up a lot of loose ends this week; to Chris for his countless hours and endless patience with my waffling and tweaking; and to all the contributors whose writing and camaraderie made this journey such a joy from the beginning — your accounts are still open.

1. Notable exceptions were Lines & Splines (lost to the abyss) and Typographer.org (still kickin’), but both were single-author blogs.

2. This is a joke.

Hear more about Typographica’s early history from Joshua and myself on Typeradio, recorded at TypeCon San Francisco in July 2004.


  1. tbrown says:

    Stephen, the new site is beautifully designed. I especially like the sizing/spacing of the intro paragraph, and the proportion of left (white) and right (gray) halves on post pages like this (re: width).

    Your new mission is just right. What an excellent repositioning.

  2. This has me very excited. Excited about the potential of the new focus and how it could possibly impact other websites whose subjects are not just typography, but also design in general.

    I believe the web is sorely in need of content. Original, relevant content that is useful and informative to its audience. I’m happy to see the tradition of quality content continue at Typographica.

    Congratulations on your new focus, the new version of the site, and a rich history. I can’t wait to get reading.

  3. Chris Long says:

    Welcome back, Stewf et al! It’s been way too long. Looking forward to whatever you bring us in the future. Congrats!

  4. Dan Gayle says:

    Fonts, fonts, fonts and more fonts.

    That’s what I love to talk about. You taking requests for reviews?

  5. Congratulations!

  6. Typographica says:

    Sure, Dan. Contact me.

  7. Cheshire says:

    Congratulations, Stewf, and kudos to you and Chris Hamamoto — this is a gorgeous redesign.

  8. Great to see you back again. And, honestly, the Year in review is reason enough to visit. That there’s more to find is icing.

  9. Great news – congratulations!

  10. Graham Hicks says:

    Congratulations, it looks amazing!

  11. John Skelton says:

    Congrats Stewf et al. Beautifully done (redone!). I’m really looking forward to reading smart people review smart type.

  12. Stewf!

    Congrats on your new set up. It looks great as always. We can never have too many type blogs — especially these good ones!


  13. Chris Lewis says:

    I’m impressed at the ballsy equality in the widths of the left and right columns. I don’t think I’ve seen that done anywhere before!

  14. graham peake says:


    now that’s what I’ve been missing – very good

    keep it up chaps

  15. A. says:

    Out of curiosity, why did you dump Movable Type?

  16. Out of curiosity, why did you dump Movable Type?

    I’ll let Chris answer in more detail because it’s his hands that have been in the code for the most part. For me, it seemed an obvious switch given WordPress’ wide adoption in recent years. We’ve often had trouble getting assistance with MT, whether it’s documentation or expert advice. Because WordPress is so common, the help resources and useful plugins are simply much more accessible.

  17. Joe Clark says:

    OK, but can you learn that, in XHTML documents, all tags must close? META/, not META.

    One does not launch a site with 138 validation errors, no matter how nice it looks.

  18. nerdski says:

    Looks amazing!

  19. Johno says:

    I can’t believe you launched while I was sleeping! Damn that time difference. Well, looks fantastic. I’m off to rummage around. Congratulations!

  20. Sye says:

    awesome. congrats all.

  21. Good idea this new design, a good way to jump away from a basic blog. Bravo.

  22. Tinsun says:

    Lubbly jubbly! I agree with all the congratulations, but to Joe Clark: sour grapes, much?

  23. Joshua Lurie-Terrell says:

    seriously, joe.

    it works for me, and for everyone else who has used it. that’s all we care about.

  24. Jon Contino says:

    Fantastic new design. This has got to me one of my favorites in the last few years. Great job guys!

  25. Noah says:

    The photo at the bottom is a sign at Tilden Park in Berkeley.

    What do I win? :D

  26. Stephen Coles says:

    What do I win?

    A trip on the steam train!

  27. beejay says:

    Stewf and Joshua, congrats!

  28. Jonathan says:

    Glad to see you’ve got the site back up and running again. I think I need to update my feed though.

  29. Stephen Coles says:

    Oh, snaps. I forgot to update the FeedBurner. The original feed address should work now.

  30. Joe Clark says:

    In other words, JLT, you don’t care if your code sucks. What if your kerning pairs did? You’ll fix your feed address but not your actual HTML? Gain mastery of your tools.

    You do realize this is a single-character fix I’m talking about? You could have asked me and my standardista friends for help at any time during development. You’re getting it now anyway.

  31. Stephen Coles says:

    JLT had no part in the HTML or the negligence thereof. So I’ll take it from here.

    Joe, I truly appreciate your feedback, especially accompanied with your trademark sass. But I will also continue to poke fun at it.

    We’ll have a look at the single-character fix.

  32. Nice to see you busy again, fellas. You’ve been slacking off for too long, Stephen.

  33. Ale Paul says:

    welcome back! very nice redesign!

  34. Jelmar says:

    Great relaunch, Stephen!

    I also very much like the sober design, the use of color and grid. Keep it up! :)

  35. Delighted you’re back and have found your niche. Congrats!

  36. Paul says:

    This is a fantastic design and WordPress is the best choice :D If this theme was available….I’d pay $$ for it! VERY nice :)

    All the best, Paul.

  37. Nice. My Typographica visits had dwindled and made me sad. Now it appears I have a great internets distraction to look forward to again. Great job all.

  38. Stephen – Like everything you have a hand in, this redesign is inspiring. I especially appreciate how you’ve managed to make a living in an industry where that in and of itself is the primary goal, but for you, you’re still able to make time to share. To give back to the community your time, your vision, and as you’ve put it, for sharing your obsessions. You not only add to the conversation, but you often start it, have the skills to encourage it, and in the background shepherd it. I for one have learned a lot from you. Thanks brother.

  39. Barbara says:

    So Mr Clark,

    instead of

    a website that does not adhere to recommendations of an organization to which one may or may not subscribe, but that looks beautiful, like this one,

    you recommend

    a website may adhere (acute notcaring prevented me from a w3c roundtrip) to these standards, but uses tacky typefaces (Zapfino? Really??) to make terrible typography (your Zapfino descenders cut into the first line of text on 100% of the 1 browsers I amused myself to check; the triple emphasis for links [different font, different weight, underline], ), embossing-filtering that headline font for your, um, page title?, and what on earth’s going on with this 20-shades-of-blue, cyan and violet colour scheme?

    SC, JLT: Great work. I love this new design.

    Barbara K

  40. Sam Hong says:

    Barbara – doesn’t matter if it looks like crap. He doesn’t purport to be a designer. But that page ADHERES 100% to the mystical recommendations of the Special People Who Run Things, and that’s all you need to know.

    As far as “code sucking” – I doubt JLT cares, nor do I, given that “code sucks” doesn’t seem to have any impact on user experience in this case. I’m sure there are times where following these principles does increase access, but not following them here certainly hasn’t diminished it. Thus: pick your battles, Mr. Clark, and your cardiologist and life partner will thank you for the reduced stress you subject yourself and others to.

  41. Down10 says:

    Great to see the site up and running again! Great stuff!

    Is there a chance that the rotating header graphics could make a return? I liked those a lot.

  42. Typographica says:

    Hi Jesse. The rotating header has been put to rest and replaced with a new tradition.

  43. germanny says:

    It’s lovely. Great work!

  44. Metagramme says:

    Lovely work guys!

  45. Jasper Hong says:

    Beautiful site.

  46. HD says:

    Such a kick-ass redesign, stunning. Outstanding work by Chris. Kudos! I would read it even if it were dead-ugly, for sure, but like the US-Fontshop-Site, this is a great blend of functionality, simplicity and just the effing right amount of funky. Love it!

  47. Abigail says:

    Typography is so interesting, I am happy to have found a cutting edge website devoted to it. Thanks!

  48. Interaria says:

    Very nice to navigate!

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