Letterform Archive is a nonprofit center for inspiration, education, publishing, and community.
The Archive was founded by Rob Saunders, a collector of the letter arts for over 40 years, as a place to share his private collection with the public. We opened to visitors in February 2015 and now offer hands-on access to a curated collection of over 75,000 items related to lettering, typography, calligraphy, and graphic design, spanning thousands of years of history.
So far, the Archive has welcomed over 10,000 visitors from 30 countries, including students, practitioners, and letterform admirers from every creative background. Some come with specific research ideas in mind, while others are simply looking for inspiration. Invariably, thanks to the breadth and accessibility of the collection, they stumble on something unexpected. Serendipity is key to the Archive experience.
In addition to hosting visits and public events, the Archive serves a global community through social media, state-of-the-art photography, and publications. We offer courses and workshops in type design, calligraphy, and typography. We also curate exhibitions of our holdings, organize lectures by visiting artists and designers, and host salons and receptions to showcase collections or celebrate out-of-town guests.
The Archive is located on Ramaytush Ohlone land in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco.
The best way to support what we do is to become a member.
We hold physical and digital artifacts in a variety of formats, including books, periodicals, posters, sketches, original art for reproduction, and related ephemera, as well as a robust reference library. Together, these works chronicle the history of written communication, from the invention of writing and medieval manuscripts to modernism, the age of print to the present explosion of digital type. See a sampling in the Online Archive and learn more about special collections.
The Archive doubled its holdings in 2015 by acquiring the typeface specimen collection of the late Dutch publisher Jan Tholenaar. Recently donated archives include Emigre, pioneers of experimental digital design; Ross F. George, author of the Speedball textbooks; and Aaron Marcus, a seminal figure in computer graphics. Also featured prominently in the collection are Rudolf Koch, Jack Stauffacher, Irma Boom, and Piet Zwart.
April Harper, Digitization Librarian (she/her), has art and books in her blood. Raised by a photojournalist and a multidisciplinary artist, and educated as a librarian, the Archive magically combines her love of history, writing, and preservation. World-class collections photography is one of our top priorities, and April trained with the best: E.M. Ginger. The two met while April was working as a commissioner for Oakland Public Library. It later led to an apprenticeship where April learned 42-Line’s unique methodology for the accurate digitization of rare documents. April enjoys the engineering challenge of shooting objects with unique formats as she produces the imagery for the Archive’s books and websites.
Kate Long, Librarian (she/her), has a profound interest in book arts, typography, and concrete poetry, stemming from high school where she made art with abandoned Letraset, and later as the editor of a literary magazine where she enjoyed working with designers, artists, and writers. She also gained an appreciation for 20th-century graphic design while at the award-winning studio, Office. Kate earned her MLIS through Drexel University, which will serve her well as she helps to preserve and catalog the collection. She relishes helping people access the things that interest them.
Ellis Martin, Collections and Digitization Assistant (he/him) works with digital derivatives in the interstice of art and archive. He co-edited the Lambda Literary award-winning book We Both Laughed in Pleasure: The Selected Diaries of Lou Sullivan (Nightboat Books, 2019) and has generated large-scale digitization projects at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society, the John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives, the Mills College Art Museum, and the Oakland Museum of California. At the Archive, Ellis works primarily on digitization projects, image file management, and collections housing. His favorite type of sky to paint is the mackerel sky.
Hank Smith, Collections Assistant (he/him), found his passion for book arts while studying at Reed College (BA in English) and working with fellow writers, collectors, and literary archivists, including David Abel of Passages Bookshop. As a writer of poetry and a bookmaker himself, Hank’s love of language is simultaneously bound in meaning and aesthetics. That’s evident not only in his care for the material at the Archive, but also his own poetry. When not spending time with the written word he’s projecting it from the stage at a reading.
Paola Zanol, Senior Collections Associate (she/her), joined the staff after volunteering for over a year. She was raised in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, by a mother who steeped her in sustainable product design, fashion design, and tridimensional expression. After earning a BA in Fine Arts, she rediscovered her love of letters and sought out a design education at San Francisco City College, where she earned certificates in Visual Media Design, Web Foundation, Illustration, and Digital Media. Among Paola’s many talents are flamenco dancing and Afro-Brazilian percussion.
Johnny Avots-Smith, Chief Financial & Operations Officer (he/him/él), first fell in love with type when he picked up the photo font discs from his mother’s typesetting machine as a kid. He has spent the last decade working in all sorts of nonprofits: big universities, small theater companies, regional public television stations. He earned his BA and MNA (Master of Nonprofit Administration) from the University of San Francisco and is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE).
Sally Beale, Assistant Director of Development (she/her), loves the book as an object and has been known to cradle a paperback like a baby. She earned her BA in Art History from Florida State University and her MA in Arts Administration from the University of New Orleans. Sally brings grant writing and membership experience to the Archive from a variety of nonprofit arts organizations, and she’s excited to be an advocate for a place that she really loves.
sair goetz, Collections Programming Manager (they/them), received their MFA from Ohio State University and the Dedalus Foundation Award in 2017 and their BA in Visual and Media Studies, Arts of the Moving Image, and Documentary Studies from Duke University in 2011. In their personal art practice, sair uses text, performance, video, sticky-notes, and humor to develop queer speculative fictions. They eat lemons like apples and savor the fact that LMN is at the center of the latin alphabet. As the friendly face of the Archive in person or over email, sair is often the first point of contact with our community.
Katie Peeler, Marketing Manager (she/her), enjoys being a connector and seeing the direct impact of the Archive on the public. She grew up intrigued by the combination of art and history, thanks in part to a mother who dragged her to museums and insisted she read all the captions. After majoring in Art History and minoring in PR and Advertising, she spent 10 years raising the visibility of cultural organizations like the American Dance Festival and California Historical Society. She is thrilled to be doing the same for the Archive, gaining a deep knowledge about the collection and then getting other folks excited about it.
Elise Carlton, Graphic Designer & Social Media Manager (she/her), brings to Letterform Archive a passion for typography and print production informed by her training and experience as a graphic designer. She earned her BA in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara before returning to school in Los Angeles for a BS in Graphic Design. She produced award-winning brand identity and package design at a small agency in Venice, California before joining Letterform Archive, where she shares the collection on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Stephen “Stewf” Coles, Associate Curator & Editorial Director (he/him), joined the staff after serving on our Board of Directors since its inception. Born in Salt Lake City, he moved to San Francisco in 2004 to serve as FontShop’s creative director. He later worked as an independent consultant, connecting font makers with font users, and wrote the book The Anatomy of Type. With his background in design and journalism, combined with an obsession for type history, Stephen is responsible for the online face and voice of the Archive, and helps to shape the future of the collection. He will continue to publish the influential websites Typographica and Fonts In Use which will now frequently feature content from the Archive.
Graham Bradley, Type West Lead Instructor, runs Roxaboxen, a California-based design studio specializing in typefaces and brand identities. He has been an instructor at Type West since its inception in 2018 and leads all three terms of the 2021 program. Before founding Roxaboxen, Graham was the first employee at Frere-Jones Type, where he worked with Tobias Frere-Jones on Mallory and Retina. He is a graduate of the Type@Cooper program at The Cooper Union, and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.
Juan Villanueva, Type West Online Lead Instructor, grew up in Lima, Peru and Clifton, New Jersey and is now designing and teaching in New York City. Juan’s typeface credits include Helvetica Now, Futura Now, and Walbaum, as well as custom projects for global brands such as Google, Microsoft, and Tencent. He has taught Display Type Design at Type@Cooper and typography at the City College of New York, and is the founder of Type Crit Crew, an initiative to make type design education more accessible and inclusive.
Grendl Löfkvist, Education Director (she/her), teaches type history and theory in the Type West program. Outside the Archive, Grendl teaches the history of graphic design, book arts, typography, and letterpress printing at City College of San Francisco, as well as calligraphy at the San Francisco Center for the Book. Grendl has ink in her veins: she was an offset press operator for 20 years; and she serves on the board of directors for the American Printing History Association’s Northern California chapter. Her interests include the study of printing as a subversive “Black Art” and she’s always on the lookout for bizarre or macabre print, type, and lettering lore (she is a bit of a goth).
Rob Saunders, Executive Director, Curator, and Publisher (he/him), is a designer, teacher, publisher, and management consultant, who has collected graphic design and letterforms for over 40 years. Rob began his career teaching at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and Tufts University, while serving freelance clients and agencies, before founding a book publishing enterprise that included Alphabet Press (graphic design), Picture Book Studio (children’s books), and Rabbit Ears Books (book/audio packages), which was eventually acquired by Simon & Schuster. Prior to founding Letterform Archive he served as a creative and marketing consultant with clients in the hospitality, technology, and financial industries.
Priscilla (Skilla) Zaccalini, Education & Facilities Manager (she/her), has over thirty years of administrative and event planning experience, and brings to Letterform Archive her unique flair for organization and fun. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing to funky music, making collage art, writing and filming stories about the Ethereal Universe, and experimenting with making music to express her joy for life. She believes everyone is an artist.
Lucie Parker, Associate Publisher (she/her), made her first book when she was three years old, and — 200-plus titles later — she shows no sign of letting up. With nearly 15 years’ experience crafting best-selling books for the trade and gift markets, Lucie specializes in producing high-end, design-driven books, often in collaboration with museums — such as the Exploratorium and the Walt Disney Family Museum — and magazines, such as Popular Science. Lucie was formerly a senior editor at Weldon Owen Publishing, where she developed more than 20 art, lifestyle, and technology titles a year. We are thrilled to have her expertise and enthusiasm as we ramp up the Archive’s publishing program.
Molly O’Neil Stewart, Associate Managing Editor and Production Coordinator (she/her), can’t bear getting rid of a pretty piece of paper. She studied creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and began working as an editor after moving to San Francisco in 2009, where her immersion in the world of illustrated books began as Managing Editorial Intern at Chronicle Books, and then Associate Lifestyles Editor at Weldon Owen, where she nurtured titles on science, interior design, animation, and more. Her work with textiles, ceramics, and other arts have also made her a geek for design, so she’s right at home building beautiful books that share the Archive’s collection.
Chris Westcott, Associate Editor (they/them), took to design in high school and college, working by moonlight on web and print projects while studying widely in the humanities. Chris’s research life led from Columbia University to a Ph.D. in English at Johns Hopkins, where they taught courses in writing, literature, and social thought. With publishing experience at Verso and the University of Chicago Press, and with a restless interest in books that reveal new prospects and help us tell richer stories, Chris is excited to see future Archive titles into print.
Alejandro Chavetta (he/him) is as an Argentinian-born designer and artist. He is Editor in Chief at Adobe’s creative culture platform, Discover. After moving to San Francisco in 1996, Alejandro earned a degree in Graphic Design & Visual Communications from San Francisco State University. He has served as Creative Director for Dwell magazine and Astro Studios, and has contributed brand strategy and design for companies like eBay, HTC VIVE, Logitech, PayPal, and Shyp. Alejandro spends some of his spare time making paper collages in his garage/studio or on his iPad, and his personal work has been exhibited in galleries in the US and Europe.
Karl Hellman (he/him) is a marketer, management consultant, and author. He has an MS from Northwestern University and a Doctorate in Business Administration from Georgia State University. He is the founder of Resultrek, a global consulting firm serving clients such as JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, UPS, Coca-Cola, and Telefonica, and the author of The Customer Learning Curve.
Jennifer Morla (she/her) is President and Creative Director of Morla Design in San Francisco and taught for at California College of the Arts for over 20 years. With over 300 awards of excellence, she has been recognized by virtually every organization in the field of visual communication. Her work is part of the permanent collections of MoMA, SFMOMA, the Smithsonian Museum, the Denver Art Museum, and the Library of Congress. Jennifer serves on the boards of numerous art and design organizations and has been on the SFMOMA Board for Architecture and Design since 1995.
Louise Sandhaus (she/her) is a graphic designer and design educator and is a former program director and current faculty at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Her books, Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires and Riots: California and Graphic Design 1936–1986 and A Colorful Life: Gere Kavanaugh, received global attention. Louise’s work is part of the permanent collections of SFMOMA and the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris. She is a former AIGA national board member and an AIGA LA fellow.
Christopher Slye (he/him) is President of Type Network. He first worked as an independent type designer and developer and created his first typeface family, Elmhurst, in 1997. He then joined Adobe’s typographic staff to help expand the design and functionality of Adobe Originals typefaces. Later, he guided Adobe’s type-related technology and initiatives, contributed to the development of open web font standards, and eventually, until 2020, managed all aspects of Adobe’s type business and licensing programs.
Leila Weefur (she/they/he) is a trans-gender-noncomforming artist, writer, and curator based in Oakland, CA. Through video and installation, they examine concepts of sensorial memory, abject Blackness, hyper surveillance, and the erotic. Weefur is a recipient of the Hung Liu award, the Murphy & Cadogan award, and the Walter & Elise Haas Creative Work Fund, and has has worked with local and national institutions including SFMOMA, The Wattis Institute, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, New York. They teach at Stanford University and participate in the curatorial film collective, The Black Aesthetic.
High-fidelity digitization is an important part of our mission. While there is no substitute for holding a rare book or designer’s sketch in your own hands, we want to offer the Letterform Archive experience to those who can’t visit in person. This goal has never been more vital than right now, in the midst of a pandemic, but it was always central to what we do. Digital images preserve the collection for posterity, and make it shareable worldwide through Archive publications, social media, and the Online Archive.
We developed our photography standards in consultation with E.M. Ginger of 42-Line, a leader in the digital imaging of rare books and artwork. With raking light, sensitive staging, premium camera equipment, and very high-resolution files, we can produce imagery that is as lifelike as possible. Our goal is to capture the smallest details of a book or print or poster: the texture of the paper, the inky brushstroke, the impression of type in the surface. Each item is documented in its essential form — not as a flat image, but as an object with a story.Learn more.
Custom imaging of objects in the collection is available for a reasonable fee. Learn more.
“The collection as a whole interrogates design in writing, both man- and machine-made. A 19th-century Korean family tree in Kanji script on yellowed parchment lives next to a 1960s concert handbill with drippy psychedelic font. Man Ray’s scintillating book of poetry and nudes, Facile, sits adjacent to a Victorian children’s penmanship primer.”
“Extraordinary hospitality—ingenious attentiveness to your aesthetic fulfillment—is a hallmark of the Archive. Technically, we are visitors, but we are treated like guests.”
“My discovery of the day was the Vienna Secession’s 1903 Ver Sacrum calendar. I had only seen the November spread reproduced in a book and wasn’t aware that the entire issue is actually a calendar. It’s like [curator Rob] Saunders said, ‘One of the best things about having access to originals is that you realize how great they are all the way through.’ … It’s important to Saunders that the collection is organized in a design-centric manner that’s easy to access and allows for browsing and discovery.”
“From style guides for Coca-Cola, book design in the 16th century, or the hand-written origins of some of the world’s most famed fonts, the Archive collects, preserves, and tells the story of the importance and fascination with letters.”
“The Archive captures not only the beauty of type, but also the cultural significance.”
“It was great to see the progression from manuscript and hand lettering to type, paste-up to print.”
“Letterform Archive is a library, storehouse, salon, repository, studio, shrine, and sanctuary. Holy moley, this place left me speechless.”
“I’ve always been impressed by the depth and quality of what you have there. … You’ve created, and continue to build, something unique and extremely valuable.”
“The Ali Baba Cavern of Type Design. For my research, having a direct, welcoming contact with the team is of tremendous help to pinpoint a resource.”
“Almost as a kind of joke, I asked if the Archive had Bodoni’s Manuale Tipografico. And they did. I paged through it at my leisure, and it was an intoxicating experience.”
(Entrance: 2325 Third St Floor 4R)
Mailing: 2339 Third St Floor 4R
San Francisco, CA 94107, USA
+1 415 802 7485
See Visit for information about visiting the Archive.
Please contact us before donating material.
All photographs and text on this site are original. You are welcome to share images for non-commercial purposes, provided you credit Letterform Archive and link to letterformarchive.org. Any copyright in the works represented remains with the copyright owner(s).