Tobias Frere-Jones is one of the world’s leading typeface designers. He has created some of the most widely-used typefaces, including Interstate, Poynter Oldstyle, Whitney, Gotham, Surveyor, Tungsten, and Retina.

Tobias received a BFA in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1992. He joined the faculty of the Yale University School of Art in 1996. He has lectured throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia. His work is in the permanent collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2006, The Royal Academy of Visual Arts in The Hague awarded him the Gerrit Noordzij Prijs.  This was for his contributions to typographic design, writing, and education. In 2013 he received the AIGA Medal in recognition of exceptional achievements in the field of design. Frere-Jones is also 99U’s 2016 Alva Award winner.

Breaking Things Down

In a 99U video, Frere-Jones says you learn a new skill when you “break things down deliberately”.  By doing this, we can understand how it’s really done. He teaches us to see the beauty in taking risks and explains that in order to do our best creative work, we must not just permit moments of confusion, but actually go chase them.

“I always thought that there’s something really informative in watching something break or collapse, that a structure can describe itself really eloquently as it falls apart,” says Frere-Jones. “So if I want to learn about reading, what would happen if I tried breaking this process in some way so on my own and created a series of typefaces that had the explicit aim of throwing wrenches into the works of the process of reading
very deliberately and with a specific target to see how exactly
things would screw up.”
“When you’re trying to figure out how to solve a problem pause for a moment and think about how you can make it worse,” continues Frere-Jones. “Try to break this thing and then walk into that tremendous mass that you’ve made with all of your senses and all of your imagination turned up because you can find something pretty amazing in all of that mass in all of that wreckage.”

View the full video here:

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