Tobias Frere-Jones has just launched his eponymous digital foundry, and his newest typeface, Mallory, is now available. He began Mallory and other projects in February 2014. Around the spring of 2015 he decided to focus on it more exclusively and make it his foundry’s first retail release. Here we discuss Mallory and Frere-Jones’ plans for his typographic future.
What was your inspiration for the face and its name?
The inspiration is my own British-American family, and the hybrid environment I grew up in, living in New York and visiting London. The two places have their own visual cultures, which are related but still very distinct. The initial idea was to use my own family as a template for a new type family, with its mixed heritage.
The name is not from the female first name (apologies to “Family Ties” fans), but from my own middle name, in turn from a last name on my father’s side of the family.
The name is quite English. You note that starting a foundry is challenging. What did you find difficult now? Or what did you do now that you had not done prior to this?
My approach to type design relies on a thorough process or proofing and testing, and all of that infrastructure had to be rebuilt from scratch. But that was also an opportunity to make it better.
There is also the issue of having a sustainable business. How have you planned to do this? Will there be more faces soon?
There will be many more families, coming out as soon as we can make them. Over the last 20 years, I’ve drawn about half of what I have in mind, so there’s still plenty to do. I’m also working custom projects, and this will be an important part of the business going forward.
Getting back to Mallory, what are its special features that distinguish it from other gothics?
I think it’s the balance of personalities, the sobriety and cheeriness, which don’t normally mix.
There are also the MicroPlus variations, for small size in print and text sizes on screen. They’re new in the digital marketplace, though they revive and repurpose very old techniques for reinforcing legibility: looser spacing, enlarged x-height, simplified and blunted details.
How do you imagine it being used?
Much of my previous experience has been with publications and identities, so it’s easy to imagine it there. But every typeface I’ve made has appeared in a context I didn’t expect, so I hope to be pleasantly surprised again.
What do you have in the fire?
Retina and Exchange will be among the next releases. They are both previous designs from my work with newspapers, for text and fine print in that physically challenging environment. As with Mallory, they will also have MicroPlus versions.