Monotype’s Allan Haley on Type as Art + Aaron Burns

Posted inFeatured
Thumbnail for Monotype’s Allan Haley on Type as Art + Aaron Burns

As a self-proclaimed “word person,” I’m always eager to talk to type designers about their love of letters and words. There’s a limited population who wants to talk about the power of punctuation and the aesthetics of these seemingly small parts of speech.

We may come at our passion for words from different angles, but we’re both enamored with language as a powerful tool to communicate and drive meaning in the world. And we’re surely aligned in its influence as an art form.

Monotype’s Allan Haley on Type as Art + Aaron Burns

Last year I had the distinct pleasure of “talking type” with Mr. Allan Haley over lunch in San Francisco, and I couldn’t help but feel at ease with someone who appreciates the intricate details of language – well, words especially.

Monotype’s director of words and letters and an amazing resource for knowledge, Mr. Haley was more than kind to share his experiences in the world of typography. Our meeting was indeed among the the highest points of my conference experience, amidst all of the wonder and delight that is HOW Design Live.

I caught up with Mr. Haley very recently to find out what he’s been up to since our last face-to-face, and find out if he’ll have time to chat over a cup of tea at this year’s epic Boston events …


It’s been an exciting year for you. Can you tell us what you have in the hopper right now? The Monotype brand has been synonymous with fonts for more than 125 years. One of the company’s current initiatives is to provide timeless and cutting-edge educational information to augment typography classes and underwrite virtually every communication design project. This includes an ongoing series of articles about type and typography, informational and inspirational videos and digital assets from Monotype’s archives.

We’re also creating an online gallery to showcase the best student work and to provide a source of inspiration, while also offering a showcase for potential employers. There will be an online blog designed to inform students, educators and emerging graphic professionals of what’s happening in the world of type and connect them with like-minded peers.

Wow. You do have a lot going on! What else should we know about? In honor of AIGA’s centennial in 2014, Monotype and Pentagram will launch “Century: 100 Years of Type in Design,” an exhibition celebrating the intersection of type and design. The exhibition runs from May 1 through June at the AIGA National Design Center in New York City and is free to the public. With rare works and unique artifacts to view and experience, the exhibition serves as the hub of a series of presentations, workshops and events at the AIGA National Design Center as well as The Type Directors Club and The Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography at Cooper Union.

From production drawings by the preeminent designers of the last 100 years to publications, advertising and packaging, Century will tell many stories from typeface conception to fonts in use. The graphic motif on the walls around you, made up of full stops (periods) from dozens of typefaces, is a testament to the diversity and overlooked beauty of type’s humblest elements. We invite designers and non-designers alike to see the exhibit or sign up for a guided tour here.

Sign me up! Walls made of stops – amazing. Okay, thinking about your career, who’s the one mentor who’s made a significant difference to you? That person would have to be Aaron Burns. In addition to being one of the founders of International Typeface Corporation (ITC), Aaron was the heart, soul – and driving force –behind the company. He dedicated his career to the typographic arts. His ceaseless mission was to improve the quality of typographic communication and to provide graphic designers with a rich palette of typefaces from which to choose. ITC’s success was, in a large part, due to Aaron’s uncompromising dedication to excellence, his unerring sense of ethic, and his commitment to provide meaningful educational resource to the graphics community.

Aaron was also a believer in me – and he took me under his wing. He taught me things I will never forget, and showed me things I will always remember. Aaron taught me how to recognize excellence in typeface design and showed me how great typography is created. He ignited the flame of passion for the typographic arts that still burns strong today, and instilled the value of sharing knowledge that makes typography both, one of our most important communication tools and an enduring art form.

You’re a HOW Design Live veteran and fan favorite. What are you most looking forward to share during your presentation this year? The session grew out of interviews (chats, really) with some of the legends of typographic design; people like Gail Anderson, Sean Adams, Carin Goldberg, Kit Hinrichs and Erik Spiekermann. We had some terrific conversations about what it takes to create powerful and engaging typography. In them, I also learned that there are common threads to their design solutions – and their personalities. My session will be a sharing what I learned from these typographic superheroes, and what advice they provide as teachers and mentors. I’ll show their brilliant design solutions and explore the broad-brush decisions and nuances of their work.

Well, Allan, I’ll be there …

Don’t miss your chance to see Allan Haley at HOW Design Live Boston. It isn’t too late to secure your seat!