The Daily Heller: OTF, From Cottage Industry to Font Foundry

Posted inThe Daily Heller

Order, the Brooklyn-based design studio and publisher (Standards Manual), has launched a new initiative: Order Type Foundry. OTF will serve as a distributor for new type designers, focused on presenting experimental, practical and research-based families. As founders Emily Klaebe and Jesse Reed note, “Following the philosophy of Order’s design approach, the typefaces being released will serve functional purposes and have finely detailed precision.”

The inaugural two families—Pastiche Grotesque and Plebeian—are designed by Benjamin Tuttle, also a Brooklyn-based designer. Both families will be available for licensing through OTF’s website.

I asked Klaebe and Reed to speak to the faces of this new venture (their answers are edited here as a composite).

It appears that more and more designers are creating and marketing their own typeface confections. Perhaps it is due to the increase of type design education spawning designers/auteurs. Why is Order dipping its toe into these waters?
While our inaugural dip into the world of independent type foundries may have begun this year, our work and process has always fundamentally relied on typography. The foundry comes on the heels of developing custom typefaces for a wide range of industries and use-cases. Given our tenured history, Order Type Foundry was the natural next step.

You have two fonts in your initial rollout. Why these particular ones?
We launched the foundry with Plebeian and Pastiche Grotesque, two typefaces that support our research-driven process with their own unique histories. Brooklyn-based designer Benjamin Tuttle led the research, ideation and creation of both families.

Our particular love for the typefaces originated from their reinterpretations of traditional typographic history.

Pastiche Grotesque is a type design fan fiction that looks at late–19th-century gothics through the lens of mid–20th-century neo-grotesques. The result is a family that is both distinctive and familiar.

Plebeian was an experimental result of Benjamin’s research into the “lettermodel,” as described by Frank E. Blokland. The curves are broken down into individual strokes, and treated as if drawn with a fat-nibbed marker. While considered an exploratory concept, the typeface feels dependable when used in longer passages.

What did you have to contend with in terms of business that was/is different from your other publishing entrepreneurial venture?
Both entrepreneurial ventures share overlapping purposes: seeking the creation and celebration of quality design across our industry. Now, with the addition of a foundry, we can contribute our own typographic voice with quality faces for practical use.

Do you see this as a sideline, add-on, or as an entirely new business model?
Order Type Foundry is both an extension of Order and a symbiotic relationship. In the same way that our design practices informed the foundry’s creation, the continuation of OTF will fuel our ongoing work with custom typography in identity design. While our custom typeface work for identities will remain separate from the foundry, the two businesses will continue to influence each other.

Why didn’t you go with one of the existing font distributors?
OTF presents a unique opportunity to spotlight up-and-coming designers who share Order’s research-based process of work. Our conversations on releases with Benjamin began when we noticed the quality of his type design work, and that he was yet to commit to a font distributor. While a missed opportunity for other foundries, we realized this represented a larger opportunity to publicize upcoming talented designers, arriving at the table with singular ideas and quality work.

What do you forecast in the type realm? (Some have predicted that independent foundries will soon band together as a kind of 21st-century ATF, or be absorbed by larger “media” outfits.)
It’s entirely possible! We value the high quality we can achieve with our independent foundry, and there’s an element of intention and personality that would be missed if we—or others—were to absorb into a larger group.

In terms of a type forecast, we recently spoke with PRINT and Editor X, respectively, on the influx of experimental, fluid and emotional type design that has become prevalent in recent typography trends. While typography has served as a form of expression for many designers in the past few years, we sense there will be a need to return to dependable typefaces that can be used in longterm application. That’s where OTF will come in.

I have to ask you, what does your brandmark signify (is it a pig and horse or what)?
The brandmark is a nod to our office dogs, Penny and Frank. Slightly silly and self-indulgent, but this is the luxury of being your own client. Penny is the greyhound, and Frank is a pekingese/chihuahua mix. Maybe they’re the foundry’s guardian angels?