Releasing Your First Typeface: An Interview with Font Bureau’s Victoria Rushton

Thomas Jockin
Dec 19, 2015 · 10 min read

There is a lot to consider when releasing a typeface out to the public. Naming, marketing and working with others to name a few things. These are even more daunting when it’s your first typeface. TypeThursday talked about these issues with Font Bureau’s Victoria Rushton.

TypeThursday: Hey, Victoria. I really appreciate you doing this call with me.

Victoria Rushton: You’re welcome.

TT: I had you come in here because you just released your first typeface. First of all: Congratulations!

VR: Thanks! I did do that.

TT: You did do that. Marcilla, that’s the name of it, correct?

VR: Marcia. Everyone’s asking if it’s MAR-sha or Mar-CI-a, and it’s MAR-sha, like Brady Bunch, which I’ve barely ever seen, but they tell me that that’s what it’s like.

TT: Naming and pronunciation is always a fun thing.

How Did Victoria Name Her First Typeface?

VR: It was originally called Sylvia, but that’s been long taken. And everything else good has been taken and it’s only getting worse. So I guess what I’m saying is I’m looking forward to doing this again.

TT: Did you guys have a particular strategy for how you did this?

VR: Okay, yeah, naming. I started looking up baby names that were the most popular in the ’30s till the ’60s. And a name I really liked was Marcy, M-A-R-C-Y. And that was technically not trademarked. But M-A-R-C-I-E was, and our lawyer said that that was too close. But Marcia, apparently, was okay.

Reflecting on Completing Your First Typeface

TT: You had a tweet that I think really captures why talking right now would be a great value to everybody. It said, roughly to paraphrase, “It’s my first release. I’m so happy, I could cry.”

VR: I try to be candid and fun for the people, y’know?

TT: I think that’s a really great point, because I’ve released as well. That first release really is a major moment as a type designer. And there’s a lot of that process to get from that point where you’re designing something to actually publishing it.

The process, the challenges, what are you most proud of? Take this moment to reflect on that whole process, that whole journey.

The only thing that I had ever tried to do before this was this terrible script I made on a stolen version of FontLab.

VR: Okay, so when I say this is my first typeface, I mean like this is my first typeface. The only thing that I had ever tried to do before this was this terrible script that I made on a stolen version of FontLab.

I started Marcia three years ago in the first type class that I had ever taken, which was a type design class, but the first type class I had ever taken in my life. And I started drawing it there and now it’s a finished thing. So it’s my first done typeface with no dress rehearsals.

TT: That’s really fascinating that this was basically your first go at it and you stuck with it for that whole time to polish it up.

VR: It kind of just got to this point where I had spent too much time on it to stop. I know that’s supposed to be considered a sunk cost, but I just kept going. It was just the thing that I wanted to do, when I was in my last semester in college. And I didn’t really want to do my other work so I did this.

TT: I think everybody’s had that. It’s the project you want to work on when you’re like, “Ugh, I should be doing something else.”

It was an exercise in stubbornness.

VR: I had the guidance of very kind people helping me. Mainly Dyana from Font Bureau worked with me when she didn’t have to. She would send me rounds of revisions and my first reaction would be “Goddammit!” but then what quickly took over was, “Okay, let’s do this, let’s go through it again.” And then repeat that process like five hundred times. It was an exercise in stubbornness.

TT: The art of taking criticism is a really important part of this process, because your gut instinct initially is going to say, “No!” It’s going to be like, “No! I’m not reading this.”

VR: It’s not even really the taking criticism. I knew that she was right in almost everything, but it was just so many seemingly tiny revisions, you know? It’s like, “Let’s re-space the @ symbol, and the right side of it is looking a little heavy.” All the stuff like that.

TT: I’m curious, what caused that resistance? That sense of “Ugh, no”?

VR: Just the sheer volume.

TT: The amount to be done and on such little things, right?

VR: Yeah. But you know, if you have the — No, never mind.

TT: No! Go on, go on!

VR: It’s just — I did have the patience to do those things. I can’t complain.

TT: That’s the thing you don’t realize when working on type. A lot of times it’s not the big moves, it’s these ton of small moves that take forever.

VR: And just a disclaimer: I can’t claim to know what I’m doing. I have done this the one time, but it was just exactly that. It was the one time.

TT: It was the one time, but you know what? That’s a goal that a lot of people can’t make. They don’t make that jump between the first draft and the final release.

VR: Oh, for sure! I’m just really humbled being around people who have done this five, ten, twenty times and are still doing it. So I always feel a little bit tentative accepting praise for finishing it the one time. Y’know, it’s like, “No, no, no. Just you wait.”

TT: There’s always something to learn. But I think a big part of it — In my conversations with type designers, there is a lot of internal resistance. There’s a lot of internal fears and doubts — I mean, I’ve had it.

I don’t want to speak for you for that — but that’s why whenever I see someone new release something, I always see it as a victory, because you pushed through that great hurdle of hesitation within yourself, right? To publish something, to actually get it complete, in front of people.

Getting Marcia Ready for Retail

VR: Fair enough. And it’s not just — as you know, I’m sure — it’s not just the getting the typeface done. Like, this particular one has been done since February. It’s all of the final pushes to get the materials ready to promote it.

This has been my main challenge for the last six months.

This has been my main challenge for the last six months. To just get everything in place to get people to do the things that I need them to do to get it out in the world. Or do it myself when I have to, whatever has to happen. That was maybe more tedious to me than drawing. I don’t know how to manage people when I’m in the incredibly privileged position to have other people do work for me. I don’t know how to handle other designers and get them to do what I want to do.

TT: Can you clarify that?

VR: Making the website, making the brochures and materials to go on the Font Bureau page, mainly. Like, this doesn’t sound like it should be so hard, but I was an Illustration major in college. I’ve never made a website. I don’t know what websites are. And so, you have to bow to other people and their expertise. But at the same time kind of tell them what it is that you want. And so there were parts of that that were really fun and rewarding and there were parts of that that were really frustrating.

It’s a little traumatic to go over it right now. Just give me a minute.

I’m glad to have gone through this whole process. Making the typeface, unsucking it, finishing it, marketing it and then releasing it.

TT: Did that bring up some old wounds?

VR: It’s fine, it’s fine. But I’m glad to have gone through this whole process. Making the typeface, unsucking it, finishing it, marketing it and then releasing it. I hope all of the parts of that process go smoother the next time. So that’s mainly what I’m happy to have done.

Lessons from Making Marcia’s Minisite

TT: I personally really enjoyed the charm of the minisite. My favorite part was those ampersands. It’s like a cookie!

VR: Yeah, it is a cookie! I didn’t do most of the design for that, but I did write all of the copy.

TT: It seemed Marcia had a clear intention. Did you have that in the beginning? Like that kind of art direction for this font, per se? Does that make sense?

VR: I thought you were going to ask me if the typeface had a purpose and I was like, “God, no!”

For the minisite I worked with a really good friend of mine, Tori Hinn, and we arrived — it was mostly her idea — at this manic baker situation. It was the kind of thing that that wasn’t my vision and I wouldn’t have been able to come up on it on my own, but once we got going, it was pretty exciting. So that was fun for me. That was one of the high moments.

Because like I said: Websites, I don’t. Often I’m like, “Oh, I’m going to redo my portfolio site. This is going to be so great, I’m going to learn so much.” And then like two days in I get so mad at myself that I’m not getting anywhere on the website OR getting any actual work done. So making this minisite was that kind of thing.

TT: Like just fuck it. Flip the table. I can’t do this.

VR: Yeah. Well, it’s not that I don’t want to. And I feel stupid for it — Or like I’m copping out. But it’s like: where do I want to do to spend my time? What do I want to get done? And at least right now it’s not making websites.

TT: That’s actually a great point. I’ve had prior conversations where type designers will get very upset when they’re not brought in on different projects. By people or branding firms or things like that.

Yet, these same people make it a mission that they have to do everything themselves. If you’re in a position to ask other people to rely on you, you need to be able to rely on other people. Open that circle up.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with acknowledging the areas you want to focus on and having other people work with you. Like you said, there’s a lot of other skills you have to learn.

VR: Yeah. I think you hit the nail on the head.

The Design of Marcia

TT: The design of Marcia reminds me of that period between Baskerville to Didot. Specifically, I see some Bulmer. Where there’s a style of lettering, a system of lettering being developed trying to become codified that in some way into a typeface. Taking these two systems of logic and trying to harmonize them together.

VR: Well, I’m super thrilled that you think that. People like to make that joke about how they make you analyze literature like in high school and if the author says, “The curtains were blue,” it means that the protagonist was sad and the protagonist was thinking of his mother because she always wore a blue dress. And the author really just, like, made the curtains blue. I feel like the author right now.

TT: Ha! Am I way off in my interpretation?

VR: No! I’m not criticizing your analysis of it. I’m just saying I didn’t think of those things, because I didn’t know them because I didn’t know anything. But I know it’s been really great to hear people say things like this about it, because I was like, “Oh, I thought that I just made this terrible thing and then made it less terrible and then made it kind of okay and then released it.” That’s kind of how I’ve always been thinking of it.

So it’s been really humbling and terrific to hear people actually say things like this about it. Or talk about it being soft and warm and use descriptors where I’m like, “Oh, I wasn’t going for that, but I love it!”

TT: I think that’s a great place to end our conversation.
Victoria, thank you so much for being here.

VR: Thank you so much for having me!

Learn more about Victoria’s typeface Marcia. Check out the Marcia minisite!

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Type Thursday

A meeting place for people who love letterforms.

Type Thursday

A meeting place for people who love letterforms.

Thomas Jockin

Written by

CEO of Readable Technologies. Educator at CUNY Queens College

Type Thursday

A meeting place for people who love letterforms.