Typeradio Interview

My friends at Typeradio posted an interview with me this week which we recorded last December in Saarbrücken when Liza and Donald were over for a workshop at HBKsaar. Among other things, we talked about how I got into typography, Helvetica, Font In Use and typeface classification.


Veröffentlicht in Type | Getagged | Kommentieren

Students and font licenses

Below, a comment from a Typedrawers discussion from last year that sparked my list of educational discounts for fonts. Recently, a friend who will take a new teaching position in the fall, asked my advice about classroom licenses and purchasing font collections, so perhaps this note is of help for more people here, too. 


I teach undergraduate and graduate students and I am very sure all of them but maybe the very beginners have/horde collections of (free) fonts I don’t want to know how and where they got them from. But I am totally to blame for that, too, at least in parts. Because I want them to practise choosing (the right) typefaces as much as possible, and to look beyond the tellerrand of fonts that come with the OS or Adobe applications. (These are actually almost banned by me). We have quite a big collection of classic typefaces (Font Folio and URW) and some hand full of newer typefaces, but I also want them to learn how to research what type foundries and offerings are out there, what fonts cost, how they can find the right typeface for their design (not one for the whole group), and also how to test these typefaces and make mockups without having the font files. Some developed really impressive skills in photoshopping MyFonts gifs and hacking FontShops rendering engine for their copy.

I like your idea [Silas Dilworth’s in the orginal message] of assigning a collection of fonts, and especially the class-room-multi-user idea (if I understood it correctly). But at the end of the day it all boils down to art schools without tuition fee, like in Germany, don’t have the funds to buy font licenses on a regular basis. The problem is not so much to get a license for 1–5 computers but to estimate and oversee bulk licenses, and come up with the budget for it. The students are usually using their own laptops in school. We for instance don’t have any school workstations or computer pools anymore where I would install the fonts. How many seats do I have to get with a changing number of students between 4 and 30? Are the foundries OK with the students installing them on their private computes, not the school machines? We don’t have a bookstore and our school is very small. Nobody wants to do the extra admin work, even I am not keen on that although I would do everything I possibly can to mediate in this matter.

Of course, students buy paper, computers, pencils and books for school, too, but only rarely are they willing to pay for font licenses for school assignments (some older students are starting to, though, my graduands did for their own final projects for instance). They want to try out the fonts before they buy, and I can understand that. It is only reasonably experienced designers who can judge a typeface by its specimen and imaging how it will behave in their real life environment, in their given language, before buying the cat in the bag. Stephen started this thread of foundry discounts on here, that is very helpful and I passed this on to the students. But honestly – they are not really helped with 10% off, they’d need at least 50% off to convince them. And then you have the problem again of what happens when they graduate. Are they to keep the license forever they paid at a student rate? Webfonts with trial licenses are at an advantage here, and I guess that all font-serving technologies could implement a testing-deal for matriculated students quite easily. Less so the small independent foundries I especially want the students to get to know of.

The best I seem to can do at the moment is emphasize and repeat every single day that it may be OK to show me this design idea with this font in class, but whenever they do something for the outside world or get paid for a design, they absolutely have to have their own license for the fonts they use. And I tell them how I obtained my collection of typefaces: by whenever I was asked to do something for a friend, family member or NGO for free (which was plenty), I said I would agree to go without payment but they have to pay for the font license. That always worked (and now I have quite a collection of script fonts :/ ).

Veröffentlicht in HBKsaar, Type | Getagged , | 1 Kommentar


Size specific designs are (luckily) more popular and talked about than ever before. Users as well as type and software companies are discussing how the use of different design variants can be made easier and more intuitive, or best even automated, so that if you set the typeface in a certain font-size, the appropriate optical size designed for this size range is chosen automatically.

In theory, this is a great idea. But the problem I see is, you can’t take the point size specified in the document as the only reference to determine what the ideal optical size to use would be. What if the user is setting a sign intended to be seen/read from further away? Or a poster, or boards for an exhibition? He might choose a large nominal point size which then prompts the application to switch to a deck or display variant, but the actual piece will be read at considerably larger reading distance = perceived in a much smaller size, more comparable to average body size at average sofa conditions. How to factor this in in an automated system? Minutes of arc?


Veröffentlicht in Type | Getagged , , | Kommentieren

The task of the designer is sometimes also to prevent things

20 years ago I learned this from Lucius Burkhardt in school. These days I turn to Mike Monteiro in my weak hours. “Why make something that isn’t great?”, as Jackson Cavanaugh puts it. Or rather, why release something that isn’t great? Make as much as you can, but think about what you put out into the world.


Veröffentlicht in Allgemeines | Kommentieren



Nick: I told Stephen the other day that I want to be Mike Parker when I grow up.
Indra: I told DB that I want to be Mike Parker, too. And DB told me that Kent wants to be Mike Parker.
Nick: I think everyone does. How could you not.


Photo by Jay Rutherford, TypeCon Milwaukee August 2012


Veröffentlicht in Type | Kommentieren

Things in Use

Some weeks ago I was interviewed for one of these Uses-This websites. Here is what I use as of December 2013.


Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Indra Kupferschmid, a typographer and professor at the University of Arts Saarbrücken in Germany, right at the border to France. I design with type, look at type, research type, talk, write and consult about type. I think about webfonts, rendering and onscreen typography every day. Sometimes I make bitmap fonts. I’m involved in Type RecordFonts In UseWebtype, DIN committees and books, for instance Helvetica Forever. I have a 21-year-long love–hate relationship with type classification systems.

What hardware do you use?

A Mac Book Pro 13 Retina, and the previous Mac Book Pro 13 for things that require an older OS. iPhone, iPad Mini, [cut the rest of my Apple graveyard *], 4 magic mice, 3 extended Apple USB keyboards (because two apartments, two studios), all adapters and cables under the sun, an Olympus EP-1, a fat Epson scanner I forget the name of, a 21 year old AKAI stereo and a Dual record player.

I love writing with mechanical pencils, not because they’re erasable or not-black though. I just like how they flow over paper. Speedball C-Series and Mitchell Round Hand broad nibs, Brause EF 66 and Brause Steno pointed nibs for calligraphy. I mostly use the backside of printouts or recycled paper. (I’m an old member of the eco- and peace movement, a cold war kid grown up near the inner German border.)

Deutsche Bahn railways, striped clothes, Camper shoes, Dr. Bronner’s soapBodum french press coffee, Alnatura muesli (or is this software?). I’m an ultralight travel evangelist. Even multi-week trips have to fit into my Accelerate 30.

* Original iPod, 2 iPod Touch, 2 iPod Shuffle (Stick and clip), Powerbook Titanium, Macbook Pro, Original iPad, whatnot periphery stuff.

And what software?

I guess I’m spending most time in a browser these days, mostly Safari, with browser-based “software” like WordPress, Basecamp, the backends of website I contribute to. And of course Mail (no love for browser-mail), and iChat/Messages (no love for other chat though Messages is a mess, Apple.). Echofon for twitters. TextEdit and Writer for text, Preview, QuarkXpress (PDFs for presentations), Coda, Robofont, Netnewswire, Image Capture, tools like iCal etc. Dropbox to work across devices and continents. I hardly use Adobe applications, only Illustrator which I don’t like but didn’t find a good replacement for yet and use when I have to exchange files with co-workers. I prefer to draw vector-only graphics like logos in Fontographer. On iOS: Instapaper, Podcasts, IM+, dict.cc, Google Maps, Kayak. iTunes, vpro’s Luisterpaal (stream) and Lastfm for music.

What would be your dream setup?

A Mac Book Pro 15  Retina that is as small as the 13″ when I carry it around. Getting iChat back. Free wifi that works, where you need it. My favourite books in lightweight mini format, or a dropbox for books, alternatively. And a book scanner, for Type Record. Sometimes I feel like I’d like to get a small projector but in the end I’m watching most things on my phone or iPad. And I want a Europe-wide annual pass for all railways and public transport.

Where does your work inspiration come from? 

Type specimen books, looking out of the window, looking around me. Running (thus probably oxygen).


Veröffentlicht in Ask | Getagged , , | Kommentieren

Die Römische Linkskursive

Gunther Schmidt is tracking the traces of the “linkskursiv” roman and italic lettering style, commonly used on maps, for years now. We were in contact a couple of times about this. Via three articles on his blog, he was able to dig up quite some information including this great lettering specimen from the “Musterblätter für topographische Arbeiten des Königlich Preu­ßischen General­stabs”, 11. edition from 1904.


Check out his post (German) for more wonderful images from this cartography guide.



Veröffentlicht in Type | Kommentieren


Please. I don’t want to read any more Bringhurst quotes in ‘typography on the web’ and ‘choosing fonts’ articles. Especially not the one with typography exists to honor content. Get beyond Bringhurst, people.



Veröffentlicht in Type | Kommentieren

Typographic Chinese Whispers

Our HBKsaar project together with Typeradio and the t]m class of 2014 at KABK The Hague. Presentation next week Friday, February 7, 15:00. Hallo bitte kommen!

“Flyer” by Donald Beekman

“Flyer” by Donald Beekman



Veröffentlicht in HBKsaar, unterwegs | Getagged , , , | Kommentieren


There’s this point at the end of semester when I just can’t take the commute anymore. Fearing to, or actually missing my train connection twice a week or more, hanging out one or two additional hours in lame Koblenz or Mannheim station. Days will be busy in the coming weeks, with Rundgang at HBKsaar and then the presentation of our Typeradio project at KABK in The Hague. I’m already regretting a bit that I booked into three weeks of US East coast end of February, plus London, Oxford and Nuremberg on the way back. But hey. Have backpack, will travel.

Veröffentlicht in unterwegs | Kommentieren