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190:Experimentation, Iteration & Democratization in Font Creation with with Franz Hoffman of Fontself



One of my favourite things is connecting with someone around a shared passion, whether in-person or virtually, whether locally or somewhere far, far away.


I've been using a piece of software called Fontself for a little while, experimenting in a font creation. I recommended the software to my Advanced Typography students this semester and in doing so, I reached out to the Fontself team to ask a question. This began a dialogue with one of the co-founders that evolved into this recorded interview that you’re about to hear. It’s these moments of connection — of shared mutual understanding and curiosity — that remind me why I love this podcasting space so much.


Our guest today is Franz Hoffman, designer-turned-entrepreneur and cofounder of Fontself, which brings easy type-making capabilities into the hands of all creatives.


Fontself was born from his belief that typography is a powerful medium that should be democratized, like photo & video editing. As a creative who was frustrated by the complexity of typographic tools, Franz started an independent research project in 2005 to explore how modern software and new graphic technologies could better serve the needs of other designers.


As fierce believers in innovative type technologies, Franz & his cofounder Mohamed Ghenania are passionately supporting tens of thousands of customers who want a simple, yet enjoyable experience to craft their own custom fonts. Fontself brings powerful type-making capabilities right into Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop, and is now also available as an iPad app geared for handmade typefaces.


I’m joined by a co-host today, Michael Young, who is a Toronto-based graphic designer, developer, and accessibility specialist. Since 2010, he's been with the Ontario Public Service, developing and overseeing branding and marketing campaigns for the province of Ontario in a small but mighty team of creatives. He's currently pursuing his Master of Digital Media at Toronto Metropolitan University.


Michael and I are currently working on together on an exploratory project surrounding the visual language of type within the Master of Digital Media program at Toronto Metropolitan University. As someone who is new to font creation, I looped him in on this conversation, because I think that the duality of his vast professional design experience paired with his beginner level type design work, makes him the ideal person to engage in this dialogue.


In this conversation you’ll learn why Fontself was created and more about Fontself as a tool and its evolution, hearing about some interesting projects from around the globe with the Fontself toolset at their centre. You’ll hear about one particularly powerful project, Gilbert Color, an iconic font made with Fontself that is anchored in meaning and community, available through Adobe Fonts. 


You'll also hear very helpful advice from Franz for completely beginner users of Fontself and how to get started. Experimentation, iteration and democratization are all themes explored throughout the following 40 minutes. This episode is not sponsored by Fontself; I believe that it’s just a really great tool that I was excited to learn more about from Franz directly.


Let’s listen in…


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Gilbert Color:


Welcome to Typocracy - Fontself Look Book


Friends With Failure:








About Our Guest:

Franz Hoffman is a designer-turned-entrepreneur and cofounder of Fontself, which brings easy type-making capabilities into the hands of all creatives.


Fontself was born from his belief that typography is a powerful medium that should be democratized, like photo & video editing. As a creative who was frustrated by the complexity of typographic tools, Franz started an independent research project in 2005 to explore how modern software and new graphic technologies could better serve the needs of other designers.


As fierce believers in innovative type technologies, Franz & his cofounder Mohamed Ghenania are passionately supporting tens of thousands of customers who want a simple, yet enjoyable experience to craft their own custom fonts. Fontself brings powerful type-making capabilities right into Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop, and is now also available as an iPad app geared for handmade typefaces.



About Our Co-Host:

Michael Young (https://youngcreative.ca) is a Toronto-based graphic designer, developer, and accessibility specialist. Since 2010, he's been with the Ontario Public Service, developing and overseeing branding and marketing campaigns for the province of Ontario in a small but mighty team of creatives. He's currently pursuing his Master of Digital Media at Toronto Metropolitan University. Beyond his professional pursuits, Michael enjoys repairing old Macs, honing his culinary skills, and urban exploration via public transit.




Music: First Bicycle by John Bartmann, Licensed Under CC0 1.0 Universal


Talk Paper Scissors Theme Music: Retro Quirky Upbeat Funk by Lewis Sound Production via Audio Jungle


Boat Origami Photo: Boat Origami Photo by Alex on Unsplash

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