I’ve been a big type nerd for longer than I care to admit. You’ll find old specimen books dating back to the early 20th century, Font Bureau and FontFont books from the mid-oughts, the beautiful 2015 Stick-Toikka Merged Contours release and everything in between, on my bookshelves. For as long as I’ve been designing I’ve looked to independent type foundries as a wellspring for inspiration.
In that spirit, I’ve put together a list of the most forward thinking, trend setting, type foundries out there. If you’re a designer, it’s important to support innovative type design, so use this list as a departure point for your next project, rather than going to the monolithic corporate behemoths like Monotype (myfonts.com) or Adobe, or grabbing free fonts from Google.
In no particular order:
1. Klim Type Foundry
Klim is a studio of one — Kris Sowersby, a New Zealand Native. There’s a great interview with Sowersby from Eye Magazine here. You should follow Klim on twitter - always great(and often entertaining) commentary about all things type-related. Calibre, Domaine, and Tiempos are all typefaces I’ve used on projects in the past.
Schick Toikka is an independent type foundry established in 2010 by Florian Schick and Lauri Toikka, located in Berlin. Scto Grotesk A and B, launched in 2018, are among my favorite new grotesques. Also check out Dia and the serifs, Noe and Saol. To celebrate their fifth anniversary they collaborated with designers and published a beautiful specimen book of all their typefaces called Merged Contours. Check it out.
Fatype is an independent type foundry established by Anton Koovit and Yassin Baggar. Also based in Berlin. Lots of beuts here, with a slight disruptive bent (like a monospaced Didot). Take a peek at Baton and Baton Turbo, as well as Beausite.
4. Grilli Type
Founded in 2009, Grilli is based out of Switzerland. You probably have encountered all of their playful, immersive microsites for their individual typeface releases — if not, take a look now: Gt Walsheim, GT America, and GT Super. Check out their great Insta feed to see some of their fonts in use.
5. Commercial Type
Exceptional work is always coming out of the prestigious foundry Commercial. It’s a joint venture between Paul Barnes and Christian Schwartz, who have collaborated since 2004 on various typeface projects. They’ve won so many awards for their work it’s hard to keep track. Definitely one of the first places I go to when I start on a new project. Nice interview with the founders here.
6. Sharp Type
Based out of NYC, Lucas Sharp and Chantra Malee co-founded Sharp Type in 2015. You’ll recognize Sharp Sans from it’s use in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. I’m a huge fan of the Adrian Frutiger-inspired, quirky, super family Sharp Grotesk, which was used recently for Dropbox’s rebranding. There’s a slew of other great typefaces, like Ogg, Frauen and Post Grotesk, available for purchase, as well.
7. Colophon Foundry
Apercu is their best known typeface and you’ll see it in use in a multitude of environments — from clothing brands to museums to websites. Colophon has offices in London as well as in Los Angeles, and like most small foundries, does both independent and commissioned work. Interview with two of the founders, from the Atlantic here. Some other wonderful sans serifs available, like Reader and Basis Grotesque.
8. Swiss Typefaces
Swiss typefaces is another great foundry. Ian Party and Emmanuel Rey like to break all the rules. You’ll see it in the disruptive type family Sang Bleau, which consists of 5 families, all slightly different. Suisse Int’l is a personal fave of mine, and is a great choice if you’re looking for a stoic grotesque for a project. All around great product.
Expensive but worth it — Lineto has been putting out notable typeface designs since 1993. You’re probably familiar with Circular, Brown and Akkurat. However, there’s some other gems you’re probably unaware of that are worth checking out like Replica, Riforma and Unica 77 to name just a few.
10. Milieu Grotesque
I’m sure you’re aware of the popular, trendsetting typeface Maison Neue. It took the graphic design world by storm a few years ago. Founded by Timo Gaessner and Alexander Colby, Milieu is yet another swiss-based (Zurich) foundry.
Optimo has been around since the late 90s and is always one of the first foundries I go to when hunting down typefaces for projects. They offer up a versatile, well rounded mix of traditional and modern typefaces. Personal favorites include the well received Theinhardt, the beautiful serif Practice, and the quirky PX Grotesk. Interview here.