Tobias Frere-Jones was born in 1970 in New York, where he would come to appreciate the elegant and cultured, as well as the derelict and corrupt. His adolescence was divided between the galleries of Manhattan and the dockyards of Brooklyn. At fourteen he began exhibiting paintings, sculptures and photographs in New York galleries. An artist being raised in a family of writers and printers, he learned the power of written text, and naturally slipped into design of letterforms. By the time he entered Rhode Island School of Design, type design had displaced most other interests. He graduated from the Graphic Design Department in 1992 and began full-time work for Font Bureau, where he was a Senior Designer for several years. In addition to his numerous contributions to the Font Bureau retail library and custom work, he made three fonts (Reactor, Fibonacci, Microphone) forFuse, a journal of experimental type design. He joined the faculty of the Yale University School of Art to teach a class in typeface design with Matthew Carter since 1996. In 1999, he left Font Bureau to return to his native New York.
The Royal Academy of the Arts in The Hague awarded Tobias the Gerrit Noordzij Prize in 2006 to honor his unique contributions to typeface design, typography, and type education (catalog at Uitgeverij de Buitenkant).
In 2013, he received the AIGA Medal for exceptional achievements in the field of design.
Feeling that experience from one style can inform new efforts in another, he aims for the widest possible range in his work. He feels equally at home with a traditional text face as with a grungy display face. He seeks inspiration from deliberately non-typographic sources: the music of Schoenberg, the theories of Tesla and Pythagoras, and a row of shopping carts have all provided the initial spark. When asked if the world really needs any more typefaces, he replied: “The day we stop needing new type will be the same day that we stop needing new stories and new songs.”
A showcase of Tobias Frere-Jones’s Font Bureau typefaces.