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Q&A with Dave Foster

Type designer

My name is Dave Foster, I design typefaces and lettering.

Where did you learn the foundations of graphic design and typography? Are they two separate disciplines you must learn independently of each other or is it better to learn them as a whole?

In short, typography, type design and lettering are all different disciplines that are related. Simplifying it a bit, I’d call typography setting a piece of text in a font and arranging it. Typography is only one component of graphic design and communicating visually. This is where I started, but don’t do as much of this now. What I do is type design, which is designing the fonts that a typographer/graphic designer will use in their typography. I also do lettering, which is drawing letters that aren’t a font, the letters form an image that remains as it is, more like a stamp. This allows for a more unique design because it isn’t thinking systematically, it’s more contextual. There are also other related fields such as stone carving, sign writing and calligraphy. All of which have their own challenges and unique skill sets. I think learning as much possible about all of these is beneficial. My knowledge of graphic design can inform my fonts, as can my knowledge of calligraphy. That said, it’s totally possible to be good at any of these skills without being good at another. For example, just because you might be a good at type design, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be good at lettering or vice versa.

What is your working place where your typography work has been done, how does your design studio look like?

I live in a one bedroom apartment, I work from what is my kitchen/living room. I really enjoy working from home and having a flexible schedule.

Do you prefer making your calligraphy on paper (and other analog materials) or you use calligraphy software and digital methods instead?

If I’m drawing calligraphy or lettering, 90 percent of the time I’ll start by hand. Type design is inverted the other way.

Who are the type designers whose work you find inspiring? What design studios do you rank the highest?

I’m lucky enough to have worked with many of the people I admire most. Erik van Blokland, Commercial Type, House Industries, Klim Type Foundry and Frere-Jones Type. I also love the work of Matthew Carter, Cyrus Highsmith and David Jonathan Ross.