This Just In: Major Donation of Archival Material from Emigre, Inc. – Letterform Archive


Jun 16, 2016

This Just In: Major Donation of Archival Material from Emigre, Inc.

Acquisition reflects commitment to providing hands-on access to type foundry’s significant digital archive, collateral material, and ephemera.

Emigre logo on paste-up board, 1983
Emigre logo on paste-up board, 1983

Letterform Archive has received a major gift from the renowned type foundry and publisher Emigre, Inc. The gift includes rare archival material in various media, such as a complete run of Emigre catalogs, development files for original Emigre typefaces, and audiotapes of unedited interviews with Emigre magazine designers and contributors that offer an oral history of the design community, as well as printed sheets, posters, ephemera, and paste-ups.

Flyer announcing Emigre magazine #10, 1988
Flyer announcing Emigre magazine #10, 1988

Based in Berkeley, Emigre was the first independent type foundry to focus explicitly on technology surrounding the personal computer. Producing more than 600 original typeface designs, and creating a magazine that quickly became critically acclaimed in its field, the company was an early adopter of digital design tools, and its archival materials provide a capsular look at a major stylistic shift associated with the Bay Area.

Marked-up trial proofs of Triplex typeface by Zuzana Licko, 1990
Marked-up trial proofs of Triplex typeface by Zuzana Licko, 1990

“Emigre was a pioneer of digital type design with their typefaces, and digital graphic design with Emigre magazine, yet at their inception much of their production workflow was analog. This gift enables us to show this crucial transitional phase of graphic and type design from the inside out, through the lens of two of the greatest innovators of recent times,” said Letterform Archive Founder and Curator Rob Saunders. “We are thrilled and humbled that Emigre has selected us as the home for this invaluable archive.”

Letterform Archive, which opened its doors to the public in February 2015, was conceived in 2013 as a center for inspiration and education, not only for working designers but for anyone with a love for the letter arts. Emigre’s co-founders Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko were friends of the Archive even before it was founded; this major gift reflects their ongoing support of the Archive’s mission to serve as a resource for those working in or interested in the field.

Cassette tapes containing interviews for Emigre magazine, 1988-1998
Cassette tapes containing interviews for Emigre magazine, 1988-1998

“We selected Letterform Archive to house and preserve our work because it is dynamic and design-centric,” said VanderLans and Licko. “Letterform Archive is easily accessible to the public, it actively promotes itself to the design community, and it’s run by knowledgeable and dedicated people from within the graphic design and library communities. We’re honored to have our work sit alongside some of the world’s best-known design artifacts. Moreover, Letterform Archive is a local, Bay Area institution. We felt strongly about having our work remain in the Bay Area, where our roots are.”

The physical Emigre collection is a significant addition to Letterform Archive’s holdings, providing critical material from a period that was a major catalyst for change in the letter arts. Additionally, by helping migrate thirty years’ worth of Emigre’s digital material into formats compatible with current technology, the Archive renews its commitment to providing public access to letter arts artifacts in all formats. The gift further reflects the rapidly expanding nature of Letterform Archive, and its ongoing ability to make both analog and digital content available to a wide range of visitors, both in person and online.

About Emigre, Inc.

Emigre, Inc. is a digital type foundry based in Berkeley, California. Founded in 1984, coinciding with the birth of the Macintosh computer, the Emigre team, consisting of Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko, were among the early adopters of this new technology.

From 1984 until 2005 Emigre published the infamous Emigre magazine, a quarterly publication devoted to visual communication. Emigre created some of the very first digital layouts and typeface designs winning them both world-wide acclaim and much criticism. The exposure of these typefaces in Emigre magazine eventually lead to the creation of Emigre Fonts, one of the first independent type foundries utilizing personal computer technology for the design and distribution of fonts. They created the model for hundreds of small foundries who followed in their footsteps.

As a team, Emigre has been honored with numerous awards including the 1994 Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design, and the 1998 Charles Nypels Award for excellence in the field of typography. Emigre is also a recipient of the 1997 American Institute of Graphic Arts Gold Medal Award, its highest honors.

Complete sets of Emigre magazine are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, the Museum fur Gestaltung in Zurich, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, The Bancroft Library, Letterform Archive, and many other institutions around the world. In 2011, five digital typefaces from the Emigre Type Library were acquired by MoMA New York for their design and architecture collection.

Download a hi-res sampler of the Emigre collection

Update Oct 1, 2017 — Emigre #11 is now available online in its entirety.

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