Summer 2007

Typeface/interface

Jan Middendorp
Andrea Tinnes
Eye typography special [extract]

Andrea Tinnes makes type families — functional or ornamental — that quickly acquire a life of their own

There are roughly three kinds of type designers today. There are type specialists, who produce huge numbers of display fonts and/or superbly crafted, function-driven text type families; and graphic designers, for whom type design is a means of self-expression, who produce type that is original or playful, but often lacking depth and sophistication. In between there is a third, smaller group, combining the best of both: cutting-edge graphic designers who are also accomplished type designers. Andrea Tinnes belongs to that rare breed, creating coherent, functional, innovative type families, and using them within a design practice that includes identity design, decoration, personal work, and teaching, with typefaces that range from the bizarre Haircrimes to the relatively sensible Skopex.

The problem of problem-solving
Born in the Saarland region of Germany in 1969, Tinnes studied communication design at the University of Applied Science in Mainz. The city and its school have solid typographic credentials – from Gutenberg’s workshop in the fifteenth century to the present day, with the university’s design department being home to the impressive Decodeunicode project (see pp.18-21). Like many students of her generation, Tinnes had no clear picture of what graphic designers do when she embarked on her studies. ‘My decision was born out of the rather naive notion of the designer as an illustrator, especially of children’s books. Fortunately the curriculum in Mainz allowed me to explore many areas within graphic design and so I discovered typography.’

As part of her course in book design, she was initiated into the finer points of typography by an exacting taskmaster: Hans Peter Willberg (1930–2003), the author of such classic textbooks as Lesetypografie and Wegweiser Schrift. Although she values the technical education she received at the Mainz academy, Tinnes found the curriculum ultimately unsatisfying, and the pragmatic, problem-solving approach to design overly ‘uncritical’. Having encountered a similar attitude in the Frankfurt advertising world during her occasional stints as a freelance designer, she decided that pleasing corporate clients was no goal for someone as inquisitive and analytical as she was, and decided to take a break from the German scene. In 1996 she was granted a scholarship that allowed her to move to Los Angeles to study graphic design at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)… [EXTRACT]

First published in Eye no. 64 vol. 16 2007

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.


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