Friday, June 19, 2015

Creative Collectors: A Retro-Font Designer's Vintage Ephemera and Typography Lot

Most creators collect. We're magpies, taking in objects from the outside world and using them as influence to conjure new creations. I love to have collections on display in every room in my home, but it's especially important to have collections for stimulation in my workspace. I continue to purge and become a minimalist, but I'll always collect vintage and inspiring artifacts to a degree. What I can't collect...I'll capture in other people's lots and share here, of course!


I thought I'd be fun to start with Jeff, a collector who's quarry is a literal necessity for his job as a retro font typographic designer!

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself, Jeff?

I've resided in South Florida for over 50 years; relocating to the area when my parents decided to move here from New York state.  Since around January of 2006 I've been a typographic designer, specializing in retro-influenced computer fonts. Prior to this I've done a number of things... including working in office supplies, at a photo lab and a 7-1/2 year stint with a record label/recording studio as a general assistant.

2. You're a vintage font designer, which sounds like a dream job to me as a fellow vintage ephemera collector and font-nerd! How did you get into this work?

I've been in love with lettering since childhood.  Around the third grade, a fellow classmate brought a Stenso Lettering Guide into class.  I became fascinated with those paper stencils, and the "lettering bug" bit me... but it wasn't until about nine years ago that I decided to make my permanent career typographic design, and it was a decision based out of financial necessity.


3. Are you formally trained or did you pick it up as you went?

I've always been a "self-taught" and "hands-on" person, and my love of lettering was the basis for me developing type fonts.

4. How long have you collected vintage typography and signage?

You might say I first started collecting lettering items soon after I saw that stencil at school.  One of my earliest collections included a number of those stencils, along with other lettering items I'd find in various stores.

5. Where do you find most of your pieces?

In recent times, eBay has been my primary source of collectible material, but I've also been fortunate enough to meet some kind folks along the way who have supplied things I've been able to use as design influences.


6. Any tips for hunting down these collectibles?

Perseverance, and the willingness to hold firm against the temptation to get something "at any price".  Most sellers have no idea what the true value of an item is... so they often ask outlandish prices for such items... based on the highest price they've seen a similar item sell for.  Supply and demand drive true price values, not necessarily the age of an item.

7. What are your favorite pieces?

Stenso and E-Z Letter stencils hold a place that's dear to my heart.  I've also collected a number of vintage office supply items because of my association with the field, but space limitations keeps that collection to a minimum.  Over the years I've owned other vintage lettering devices, but have donated many of them to the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati once they had served their purpose.



8. Does your collection help you with your work?

Of course.  Many of those purchases were sign, lettering or marketing-related, and they were a fertile ground for many type revival ideas.  If any of your readers have any vintage lettering items they no longer need - especially Stenso or E-Z Letter stencils they think I can use, they can drop me a line at jnl1952 (at) juno (dot) com!

9. Any tips for would-be designers out there?

Don't close your eyes to the past, for as a famous saying teaches "you've got know where you've been to know where you're going".  Learn about earlier design influences and let your inner muse speak to you.  Find your own style and stick with it.  Break the formal rules if necessary, because art is a subjective entity.  One person will love your work, while others will hate it.  There is no right or wrong... just various interpretations of styles and choices.

10. All excellent tips! What's your favorite era of vintage typography/signage?

The Art Deco era, although there is always something interesting to find in every time period... with the possible exception of the 1970s.  A lot of BAD designs (typographically, in fashion and in society) still exist, and tend to overshadow the good designs.

Don't Be Shy! Thanks so much for taking the time out to share some of your collections and advice with us! I would love to feature your collections on the blog, please e-mail me if you have anything to share!

What are you collecting lately? I'm still on my ephemera kick, but I'm also on the prowl for unique mod planters, art prints, chairs/stools and 60s/70s clothing...
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