Stickley Pro

Stickley Pro is a personal project which grew out of a need to find a typeface for a logo design. Nothing worked as well as desired, so I started drawing custom letters, and everything blossomed (spiraled/exploded) from there.

It turned into a six-year effort, where I dove deeply into the history of typography and optical type design, and broadly into the uses, characters, and forms across Latin-based alphabets.
My Role

Being a personal project, I took on all needed roles throughout the design, development, and execution including: Business & Design Strategy; Creative Direction; Design; Research; Programming; Testing; Project Management.
Project Goal

Create a typeface family that can serve deep typographic needs with a world-class mix of craft and technological execution for typographers and designers, while remaining quiet and elegant for the most direct and simple uses.
Research, design, and develop a contemporary incarnation of a typeface family which embodies the execution, technique, and technical understandings developed through the 500-year history of type design.
Understand how the subtleties, finesse, and craft of optical type design through history can be accomplished by taking a deep dive into the history and methods of movable type and its uses.
Combine the research and design principles from history together with all that modern technology can offer, executed with the craft and intricacies of original optical master sets.
Research: The Context of History

The history of typeface design is a mix of artistic and practical desires and needs. Creating something beautiful, functional, and usable required understanding of design, printmaking, and optics to execute. The creation of movable type and the printing press in the 15th century was the starting point for modern type design.
Research: Optical Design

Typefaces were originally designed for the physical size at which they were to be printed, with subtle variations in proportion, detail, contrast, and visual weight to ensure they were as clear at 6 pt. as they were elegant at 68 pt. Done well this creates a unified design as the various sizes were set together on a page.
Throughout the development of the optical characteristics of Stickley Pro the challenge was to create designs that felt the same while in-use, but were actually quite different in execution. The blending of the physical needs of size against optical perception (to fool the eye and appear the same), and then balance design look-and-feel where every glyph needed to be redrawn for each size to keep everything feeling holistic, was an educational, though laborious, endeavor.
Design: Development and Execution

Stickley Optical Family is a humanist, Oldstyle-rooted design with a contemporary execution and full OpenType abilities. Specimens and pages of centuries-old master typeface designs such as Jenson, Garamond, and Caslon were examined and dissected to find interesting and exceptional parts to reference and develop anew.

Stickley Pro is a digital-native design. It’s development, growth, and refinement took place over the span of six years—starting with the text size, then adding the other optical sizes. The whole project was started and finished on the computer; pencil never hit paper.

After understanding the tools and design needs, I had to learn OpenType programming to build the extras and abilities I wanted to see in the final product. Small Caps, ligatures, special features, and more had to be defined, built, and coded for everything to work in harmony across the various cuts.
Character Set

Opentype features include ligatures, old-style and lining figures, alternates, Central European characters and diacritics, and Swash Caps for the Italics. Stickley Optical Family is a feature-rich workhorse with international functionality.
Production and Promotion

Once I completed the original Text versions, I sought a type foundry to help promote and support the project. I came to an agreement with P22 Type Foundry, who helped me get my work to market around the world.

The original Text weights of Regular, Italic, Bold, and Bold Italic were released by P22 after an initial two years of work. Over the course of four more years, P22 patiently supported my efforts on the new and expanded optical sizes and styles which amounted to three additional Roman and Italic optical sizes: Caption, Headline, and Display, culminating in more than 10,000 uniquely-drawn glyphs across all four sizes.

This new release of Stickley Optical Family was accompanied by a comprehensive specimen book designed by me and produced as the 6th in a series of chap books by P22 to promote their catalogue of typefaces.

Stickley Optical Family is available from: P22 Type Foundry
In Use:

In 2012 I co-curated an exhibition called “Type Matters, the Artistry of Bookbinding and Letterforms” at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton, CA.

Stickley Pro designs were part of the exhibit, and were also used for all signage and posters throughout the space for descriptions of all pieces and information. The exhibit included art books, typeface designs, poster designs, and multimedia work from designers and artists around the world.
In the Wild:

I have come across uses of Stickley Pro out in the world by happenstance—on a friend's bookshelf or in a store. It's quite flattering to stare for a moment, and realize “Hey, they're using my work!”.

It is now also available as part of:
Adobe Typekit

So many things... working my way through the possible character sets (what to include, or not); the possible versions of any given letterform (styles, alternates, and historical forms); the expanse of Latin-based languages (the diacritics and ligatures) was both truly informative and eye-opening; the sheer number of possible characters to include; when to say “stop”; and then to find that strict mathematical proportions just don't look right—intentional, little imperfections and inconsistencies give the typeface warmth and life and make it stand as its own design.

Looking closely at historical typefaces and books, and realizing that the amount of knowledge I gained about characters, their uses, and the permutations while working on this is what was once standard knowledge for typesetters and designers is amazing (Eight different spaces! Seven different dashes! What is a figure dash?! [It's the dash intended for use with numbers of equal width]). The time, care, and craft that designers (who created the master forms) and punch cutters (the people who actually cut the letters into pieces metal) put into all the little details to make all the parts and pieces work together, both across an individual cut and the optical family as a whole, was time-consuming and intense, but well worth the effort in the end.

Mostly I am proud of the depth of knowledge I gained from my historical research and the breadth of capabilities from today's technology I was able to put into Stickley Optical Family. I like to refer to it as a “workhorse” because is it able to handle so many use cases and covers languages from the Americas to Eastern Europe. It's given me a much greater appreciation of how typesetting and design working well together make for more beautiful work.