Font Feud Finished: Hoefler & Frere-Jones Part Ways

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One of type’s most productive marriages has now ended, as the lawsuit between Tobias Frere-Jones and Jonathan Hoefler has now reached an out-of court settlement. After two decades of creating some of the most well-known typefaces in the world, Hoefler and Frere-Jones have decided to go their separate ways.

For those of you who only know these two as the nebbishy, bespectacled chaps who waxed rhapsodic about mid-century logo design in the 2007 documentary Helvetica, the type foundry they created, Hoefler & Frere-Jones (now Hoefler & Co.) is responsible for nearly 800 typefaces, many of which you are probably familiar with without ever realizing it. Such gems include “Archer,” which was the main type for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, “Gotham,” which was used by the Obama campaign and Twitter, “Hoefler Text,” Apple’s go-to advanced type and “Giant,” which used to go by the more evocative name “They Might Be Gothic” and was created specifically for They Might Be Giants’s album Factory Showroom.

Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Martha Stewart Living, Tiffany, Nike, Hewlett-Packard, are all clients of these two titans of typeface. Their font also graces the MPAA slate before every movie trailer as of 2013. Their work, it gets around.

The fact that there is a “Hoefler Text” but not a “Frere-Jones Text” might give you an inkling to the nature of the dispute. According to Frere-Jones, Hoefler is a first-rate scam artist, depriving him of his half of the multi-million-dollar business. Frere-Jones is quoted as saying that Hoefler’s behavior was of “the most profound treachery.

Hoefler has maintained that Frere-Jones was just an employee. Hoefler recently changed the name of the type foundry to Hoefler & Co, hoping that no one would notice that company had Frere-Jones’s names on it for 20 years.

Now that the dust of their dispute has settled, it remains to be seen what effect this split with have on the font world. Will Frere-Jones, finally out on his own, prove that he is a type visionary in his own right? Or are these two typesetters who work best as pair, neither of them reaching heights alone that they did together? Only time, and type, will tell.

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