With Monotype’s recent acquisition of FontShop we thought it would be the perfect time to chat to Jürgen Siebert about his plans for 2015. We met him at the FontShop offices in Berlin to ask him about the yellow bible, font-hosting and the upcoming TYPO Berlin Conference.
Image: Fontbook stack by Grant Hutchinson
For the very few, who have never heard of FontShop, could you briefly explain your relationship with FontShop and TYPO Talks.
Jürgen Siebert: FontShop was founded at the beginning of the desktop publishing era, with Adobe (PostScript language), Apple (Hardware: Mac & LaserWriter) & Linotype (digital fonts) paving the way to make more typefaces accessible and easier to implement. Democratisation of prepress process.
Up until then you had to use Letraset or a typewriter and a photocopier if you wanted to create any type of printed material at home. I’d say it’s a technological advance comparable with Gutenbergs’ movable type.
“Everyone can be a little Gutenberg” roughly translated that was the title of Page Magazin, which I co-founded in 1986 and led the editorial staff for 5 years.
I met Erik Spiekermann at a couple of conferences before he convinced me to move to Berlin to start at FontShop International which he was launching together with Neville Brody. FontShop (founded by Erik and Joan Spiekermann) and Fontshop International were the first font mail order service. Initially the catalogue included typefaces from established foundries (such as Emigre, Font Bureau, Monotype and our own FontFont collection) and independent typographers.
At this stage was this catalogue already similar to the infamous FontBook?
JS: Not yet, it started much smaller. The first version was a binder format with alphabetical dividers so that you could update the catalogue as the FontShop Library grew. Over the years our catalogue developed into a bound book and in 2006 we published our final edition. The library simply grew to be too large to publish. Larger font families like Meta had to be squeezed into inappropriately small spaces. With the introduction of OpenType we could include more glyphs and languages and reached the boundaries of what was possible in print.
Luckily as the iPad arrived in 2010 the FontBook app allowed us to offer more ways of finding the perfect font. We even increased our categories five-fold and added subcategories.
This year we launched the new FontShop website, which allows us to make use of all the advantages that Webfonts offer. We can finally show the original font, not an impression or an image. It’s almost reminiscent of holding the printed FontBook in your hands again, but we can now let you play around with the typeface before you buy it.