Can you tell us more about how you, your educational background, your professional resume ?
Of course. I was born in Hong Kong but emigrated with
my parents to New Zealand at a young age. I did most of my schooling
in New Zealand, but most people are surprised to hear that I never studied
design. After Scots College, I read law and commerce at Victoria University
and hold three degrees in those areas. But I always loved type, even
when I was young.
Is the Yan Series 333 your first commercial typeface ?
Yes, it is. For some of my earlier years I was a calligrapher and the Yan Series reflects my actual hand-lettering. Therefore, you see imperfections which I chose to maintain in the finished typefaces. The f, ff, ffi and ffl are all very different in strokes, for example. Consequently, it maintains a hand-drawn feel although at the same time it is relatively legible in print. Its only now becoming more popular and has been adopted even by some web-design companies.
worked on the Yan Series from 1987 and first digitized it in 1993. We
released it in 1994 through Precision
Type. It was never intended to be a display typeface though: the
sidebearings are quite small but I used to write very tightly. It is
quite a faithful reproduction of my hand-lettering. Maybe in 70 years
time someone will revisit it and tidy it up, like they did with Frank
Lloyd Wrights hand-lettering. I think that would be most interesting
as a project, provided I was asked first!
The JY Aetna is a revival of the typeface used by Alde Manuce for Bembos De Aetna in 1495. What is the challenge for a modern typeface designer to recreate one of the first famous typefaces in history ?
source material! I couldnt afford then to fly to Italy and relied
on reproductions in books. However, that was useful enough for my purposes.
Like Yan 333, I wanted to keep some of the imperfections: not to the
extent of Hoeflers HTF Historical Allsorts but enough to
make it look a "hot-metal" on a 2,400 dpi imagesetter. I didnt
need perfection, nor did I see Ætna as a replacement for
anything Griffo or Monotype did.
Stanley Morison and the Monotype Company produced in the 30s their own version, called Bembo. What are the main differences between Bembo and JY Aetna ?
Their version was perfect and you can see that even more in the digitized version, based (I believe) on the 10 pt masters. Theres no denying its very beautiful. Mine was consciously imperfect. Not only that, the original examples I had was a 14 pt version so Ætna works best at that size. Therefore, the ascenders and descenders are taller, there is more contrast, it is narrower and the x-height is lower. Finally, Monotype included a lot of the quirks and proportions that had been introduced to the design over the centuries; I tended to target what I saw in the specimens. Look closely at their n and r: there are beautiful and subtle curves on these. Mine are not subtle at all: they are more symmetrical, but that is what I saw in Manutiuss textsand what I drew.
One of my favourites is still the Bembo that Linotype produced for the old Linotrons and I recently used the nearest relative of this, Bitstreams Aldine 401, for a book project. I combined this with Ætna and the effect worked very well. I modified the Bitstream fonts greatly, however, incorporating old style numerals based on those in Ætna (they were a pain to get right), and also added double-f ligatures. I chose Aldine 401 over Monotype Bembo because of its short R; the current Monotype cut has a long one which is hopeless for regular text work.
Whats your latest project ?
My latest project? Im working on a wonderful sans
serif family with a designer in southern Europe. This should see the
light of day in a few months. My most recent release was JY Décennie
Titling Italic. I drew Décennie Titling without an
italic complement in 1997. In fact, Titling was done pretty much
on screen without physical drawings. However, I found myself resisting
using my own typeface because it didnt have an italicand
I figured my customers might be turned off by that, too.
NZ is very far from Europe. Can you tell us the specifics of the Australasian typography market ?
Its an odd market because we still have many people
buying foreign typefaces. I dont know of many regional corporations
opting for locally designed type families for their corporate identities.
Its not like France, where theres enough awareness of branding
for Peugeot SA to commission Lion; or in Germany where companies
like Audi consciously use a German typeface (Rotis). Maybe Im
a hypocrite because I drive a Citroën and an Opel Vectra!
You are the media contact of Typeright outside the US and a member of the board of this organisation. Can you tell us what is the goal of this organisation and how you become so involved in this cause ?
were set up to promote typeface designs as intellectual property. The
specific mission statement is on the site, but that was our driving
force when we (Brian Willson, Zuzana Licko, Clive Bruton, Chris MacGregor,
Ralph Smith, Don Hosek, Don Synstelien, Si Daniel and II hope
I havent missed anyone) created Typeright.
I was as annoyed as my colleagues in the United States about the anomaly
in the law saying that typeface designs are not copyrightable, when
they are everywhere else. Having studied law and having come top in
my intellectual property class, I thought I could help the cause.