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Lectures & Salons

The Past Inside the Future: Commercial Classics at Five

with Tim Ripper

Join us at the library for an exploration of one of the most fascinating eras in type history, and how it inspired the creation of a new foundry.

  • Date
  • Time
  • What Letterform Lecture
  • Where San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin Street

Around the turn of the 19th century, a revolution left the world of typography utterly different from what it had been. The explosion of new type styles during this period—including the modern face, the fat face, the slab serif, and the sans serif—reflected new technologies and ways of thinking that set the stage for modern graphic design, and continue to shape our visual language more than two hundred years later.

Commercial Classics began as an adjunct foundry for historical releases at Commercial Type, and has become an evolving project to research and reinterpret the typefaces of the Industrial Era for designers in another revolutionary era: our own.

During this journey into the past and back again, we will explore a story of ideas and reactions in type design; the evolution of letterforms within technological and societal currents; learning how to translate the language of history; the joy of archives and the challenges of very large projects; and why the ideal place for a 19th-century English typeface might just be in California.

Letterform Lectures are a public aspect of the Type West postgraduate program. The series is co-presented by the San Francisco Public Library, where events are free and open to all.

Tim Ripper

Tim Ripper (b. 1986) has been a type designer and developer at Commercial Type since 2016. At Commercial, he has worked on custom typefaces for clients including MIT, REI, the V&A Museum, and The Guardian, as well as the retail typefaces Successor and Seance. He contributed to various designs in the Commercial Classics library and also develops custom software for type design and production. His interests include vernacular lettering, type history, toolmaking, interface and process design, languages and linguistics, psychology, philosophy, and bringing a multidisciplinary approach to projects.

After majoring in Physics as an undergraduate, Ripper worked for two years in China as an editor and educator before receiving an MFA in Graphic Design from the Yale School of Art. Prior to Commercial, he worked as a typeface designer at Frere-Jones Type in Brooklyn, and as a design intern at Fathom in Boston.

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