An interview with Georg Seifert

Georg Seifert is one of my favorite people in the type industry. He’s a type designer and programmer, most known as the founder of GlyphsApp (one of the best type design tools around).

I meet Georg time and time again at various type conferences, and it’s always memorable. He’s always brainstorming new Glyphs features and helping people with their questions.

In creating Glyphs, Georg breathed new life into the type design scene. Glyphs challenged all the industry-standard applications to become modern and agile—to adapt to the ever-developing world of design. In the process, he’s also created a fantastic community of Glyphs users, who share insights and share critiques.

Still young in the world of type design, Georg is someone to watch and—if you have the chance—someone to know.

To learn more about him and Glyphs, check out their website.

Design Angles

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This interview with Dr. Ross is one of four that I’m posting. You can read them as I upload them to Type365, or you can download all four as a convenient, free PDF.

You are a type designer, how did you get into type design?

I did my first typeface when I found that Corel Draw could put some letters into an existing TrueType font, and I was in eighth grade or something. I didn’t do much about it for years but when I was studying graphic design, I needed some oldstyle figures for Gill Sans, so I did it myself. I started making my own figures, which is quite a challenge: for example, making a Gill Sans Bold oldstyle figure 2.

How did you go from that to starting Glyphs?

I was working on my own fonts for years, and building tools to help me with the production. But that was only going to some point, and there were a lot of things you couldn’t fix. Then I started having some ideas about what could be, and how things should work. So I made a small mock-up that would show that particular feature; not intending to build it into something complete. I kept adding things, trying other things and playing around with it for two or three years. Eventually I realized it was only a few pieces missing and it could be something which would be called a glyph-editor.

How many people are you seeing use it and what can it do that the others can’t?

I’m quite happy with the success. I’m developing it further all the time, and trying to teach people about all the cool things [Glyphs can do]. I think the biggest difference is that it gives you a whole set of tools, more like a work flow. The first thing I was implementing was having ‘remove overlap’ on export. So you generate your instances from your multiple master, and only after doing that, it would remove overlap automatically, and then export the font. So you always keep your overlaps. There’s a whole bunch of stuff which I think should be automated, like positioning of accented letters and a huge amount of technical details that the designer should not deal with. Someone has to deal with it once, and then everybody else is free to just do: draw the letters, instead of setting up everything. And I use it myself. I make some type, and [when] I find a place which is too tedious, I go into code and make the code to do it for me. I did that for ten years, so a lot of these places are already done; a lot of edges are cut off.

Some people really enjoy the community side of Glyphs; what’s the most impressive or interesting creation you’ve seen someone make with Glyphs?

Lots of cool plug-ins and fonts by Toshi Omagari. He did a font that if you type something, it will always have the same length. If you type one letter, it would be over the whole page and then you type another letter, and both fill a page. I think it has twenty letters per line, and the line stays the same length. It’s all written in feature code. Generating all these glyphs was one of the trickiest parts, because you need a lot of alternates. It was pretty cool; he used a lot of smart components and some custom script to do that.

A lot of creatives have a daily routine that they stick to. What does an average day for you look like?

I wake up at seven or eight; it depends on how loud my family is when they get up. And sometimes I have coffee with my wife before she leaves, sometimes not. I check my email, and go to the office at nine or ten. At three, my kid comes from kindergarten, and I play with her for a few hours. And when she’s going to bed, I go to the office again for another two or three hours. So, this is quite a nice routine. I have a few hours in the morning, and then another few hours in the night which is quite good.

As a type designer, what are a handful of resources that you would recommend? What are some things that helped you in your journey as a type designer?

I’ve been going to conferences. I read a few books, The Stroke and a few others. But going to conferences and asking people, speaking with people, who know their shit. Don’t be afraid of “Oh, they’re so famous.” Just go there and ask them. Show them your stuff.

Nowadays, TypeDrawers is a really good resource for all kinds of stuff. They have a huge type critique section, I’m amazed how much time people put into that, to write about typefaces. They have a lot of patience with you. You can ask a lot of technical questions. There are lot of bright minds in there.

Most places, it’s a small local community and people know [each other] even if they’re not famous type designers. Speaking with friends or colleagues or other people and show them your print outs, or just organize something. In Berlin, we have a Berliners gathering every month, called Typostammtisch* [regulars’ table]. Do something like that on your own; even if it’s only three people in your city.

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