In an effort to provide a wide-ranging view of the type industry, I compiled data about contemporary foundries in Europe, the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand. My study excludes the rest of the world, unfortunately, because information about foundries in those zones is not well documented in Western websites and publications. The language barrier was also too much of an impediment for the project at this time, but local consultants will be encouraged to participate in the future.
The following lists were chosen in order to assemble the information as accurately as possible. Type Navigator already focuses on the subject of my research, Twitter tends to include the latest additions to the industry, and Typebase adds a third layer that complements the first two lists. Finally, a few additional foundries were incorporated from my own knowledge or were suggested by friends in the field.
- Type Navigator: the Independent Foundries Handbook by Jan Middendorp and TwoPoints.net: lists 278 foundries
- 15Twitter: lists 210 foundriesIvo Gabrowitsch’s list of type foundries with Twitter accounts, as of December 2013.
- 16TypeBase: lists 143 foundriesA list maintained by Bureau.Donald, as of December 2013.
Criteria for census foundry selection
- Producers of retail typefaces, whether selling directly to customers and/or distributing through other vendors. (Includes graphic design studios that sell retail type (e.g., A2-Type). Excludes sources that offer fonts only for free or via pay-with-a-tweet, donation, or similar non-retail distribution.)
- Based in Europe, Americas, Australia, and New Zealand
- Any age or size. Includes one-person foundries, as well as larger and more established foundries (e.g., Font Bureau). Foundries owned by larger conglomerates are excluded.
- Active within the last five years
- A dedicated web presence: own a website that presents the foundry’s services and products
Choice of collected data
- 17Foundation yearIn the case of graphic design studios that sell retail type, the foundation date refers to the year the typefaces were made available commercially.
- Basic staff structure
- Main location
I chose this data because I believe that it offers a holistic view of the subject. Compared to the four centers of type design mentioned by Emily King, what is the current geographic panorama? When did foundries that still exist today appear with more intensity? Type foundries are known to be small in size. What are the exact numbers? I believed these questions would elicit interesting answers. Of course, thanks to the boundary-breaking nature of the internet, geographic location in the context of the type industry may be less relevant today than it was twenty years ago. But foundries’ geographic settings may nonetheless still respond to cultural context and other factors like education. It might be interesting to visualize how the industry has spread while taking distributed location into account.
As of December 2013, 314 foundries met the above criteria for inclusion in the census (see Index for details). I was able to gather structure, foundation date, and location data from all but a few of these foundries.
This count includes all the people on staff, including founders, who participated in running the foundry at the time of the survey. (This figure may be different from the type designers represented in the typeface library.)