Jeremy Dooley is an accomplished typographer with more than 128 typefaces to his name. He's partnered with Tantrum House and is designing a custom typeface for our new game Steam Court. We interviewed Jeremy and after sticking him in a dark room, and shining a bright light in his face, this is what we were able to get out of him:
TH: Jeremy, tell us all about yourself... in 140 characters or less. Go!:
Jeremy: I'm typeface designer and a father living in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
TH: How did you hear about Tantrum House?
Jeremy: I first learned about Tantrum House on Facebook. From college, I knew some of the folks involved, especially Will.
TH: What was it about them that pulled you in?
Jeremy: I thought they had a fantastic and fun business idea. I've done two Kickstarters now. (Chatype and The Clothes Letters Wear) I have also contemplated a board game of my own, a simple strategy game.
I love Kickstarter. It's getting fantastic products to people who want them. I'm excited to see Kickstarter incentivize the creation of games. There's also a great community that's formed to make games happen. Without Kickstarter, I doubt we would see as many great products on the market. Kickstarter has created cottage industries and democratized and decentralized creation. Perhaps most importantly, it gives more back to creators with fewer middlemen.
I knew that Will and his team would do an excellent job. In conversations that we've had, it's apparent the company is design driven. As a designer, that has a great appeal. Will's original impetus was to make sure that the design aspect was done right. I've seen some fantastic and popular games where this is lacking. I appreciate approaching game design with an emphasis on total quality.
TH: How long have you been designing typefaces?
Jeremy: I've been designing typefaces since 2004. I've been doing it full-time since 2007.
TH: What got you into graphic design in the first place?
Jeremy: I was initially a business major in college but I started to think a little bit about what the long-term future would look like. I concluded there are many jobs that, either through globalization or modernization, will be annihilated. Any job that involves creativity cannot be automated. (I doubt the singularity will occur.) All humans should be involved in creating and making things with their minds; we’re not animals.
For me the immediate opportunity to do that was with graphic design. In high school I had done a total conversion of a video game. I enjoyed that. It was a marriage between the technical and also the artistic. I've always enjoyed Gaming and making stories. Graphic design was the natural fit.
A subset of graphic design is Typography or the use of type. We were given an assignment to do a poster for a famous typeface designer. In particular, a typeface designer by the name of Adrian Frutiger impressed me. Looking at a 'U' in Univers, one of his famous typefaces, I was amazed at how simple and beautiful it was. I wanted to be able to do that kind of beauty myself.
TH: How many faces have you published? And which one is your favorite?
Jeremy: I have published 128 font families, comprised of up to 75 individual fonts. My favorite is always whatever I am working on.
TH: How much impact do you think graphic design, and specifically type design, has on the board game industry?
Jeremy: Graphic design is important. You need good information design to convey the information and rules. Branding is also important: you want that art to stand out and be interesting.
I don't believe that custom typeface design has made a major inroads into the tabletop gaming industry, yet. I’ve been fortunate to have my work used for several that I'm aware of, most recently the Hasbro redesign of Battleship.
I'm looking forward to seeing more possibilities for typeface design for branding. It's a missed opportunity for brands to not incorporate custom typefaces. They are becoming more affordable and also have greater utility. Even a simple font can make your brand. Whether it’s for a board game, or a motorcycle company, or a tree nursery, a custom typeface offers a distinct flavor.
TH: You seem to be a traveling man. Got any great stories? Or a favorite spot?
Jeremy: My wife and I used to hit a new international destination every two months on average. I traveled a lot and lived internationally as a child. My days of travel are reduced now that I'm a father.
One anecdote from my childhood: Shortly before unification, my family snuck over into East Germany to collect some sections of the Berlin wall that were painted white. (Painted white so that the border guards could see escapees more readily and shoot them.) We were out there collecting, when we spotted an East German border guard puttering along in his Trabant. We took cover as he shone his light down among the trees. Fortunately that border guard moved on.
Europe is great for graphic design inspiration. Asia is fantastic for seeing what humans can build. But, some of the best spots are closest to home. Next year, I'm looking forward to a trip with my wife to Hawaii to celebrate our fifth anniversary and snorkeling.
TH: We're heading to SCComicon this weekend. I understand that you've attended a couple yourself?
Jeremy: I attended a Comicon last year in Denver, Colorado. Both my wife and I had never attended and we decided it would be a fun adventure. We didn't get to do much more than look at some of the exhibits and artists, but in the future, I look forward to attending some of the classes.
TH: If you were a letter of the alphabet, which letter would you be?
Jeremy: If I were a letter of the alphabet, I would be R. R is my favorite because it has a lot of interesting characteristics.
Capital R has swash legs, which affords all sorts of great design opportunities. It also has a rounded bowl. R is one of the very first letters I design. It sets the tenor for the entire work.
You can differentiate typefaces with an 'R' more than perhaps any other letter.
TH: I suffer from a disease that won't allow me to purchase products that exhibit poor graphic design (I'll even choose one product over another solely based on package design). Am I alone in that? Or what was the last product you purchased solely based on aesthetics?
Jeremy: I recently purchased some die cast airplanes for my son. I made sure they were as correct as possible. :)
You can judge a book based on its cover. You can learn a lot from the package design on how much quality is contained or invested into the product. This is not a hard and fast rule, but you can infer a lot based on just the general design of a product.
One of the great pleasures of being a typeface designer is to see your work used by others. Type design is like creating a child. It heads out into the world, and it does great things or it flops. Seeing your fonts in use is one of the pleasures of the process.
I also collect uses of my fonts. I have four movie posters and have purchased many different food items because they use one of my fonts.
TH: Working on any other cool projects you want to tell us about?
Jeremy: I'm about to finish up an extension of one of my more popular brands: Aviano. Aviano Silk is a kind of "velocity stencil” or centerline effect. I also have other side projects, including writing and various business ideas.
TH: Where can we follow you and see more of your work?
Jeremy: My website is insignedesign.com and my twitter handle is @insigneDesign.
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