Carol Twombly, 20th century type designer, the book.

November 2012
Adobe Headquarters
San Jose, California

December 2016
Oak Knoll Press

New Castle, Delaware
Carol Twombly: Her brief but brilliant career in type design.

There haven’t been any posts on this site since early 2016 because I have been concentrating on finishing my first book, Carol Twombly: Her brief but brilliant career in type design. It is the biography of a talented type designer who worked at Adobe Systems during the decades when type first became accessible to the general public. The book includes a survey of women type designers in the 20th century (such as Gudrun von Hesse, Fiona Ross, Elizabeth Friedander, Freda Sack, among others) and outlines Twombly’s education at RISD (under type designers such as Gerard Unger), an apprenticeship with Bigelow & Holmes, and graduate work in the Masters of Type Design Program at Stanford. It also attempts to describe how digital type technology developed. (Oak Knoll is currently taking preorders  shipping if you are interested in purchasing a copy.)

Why did I write this book and why choose Twombly for my topic? As a former professor at Moore College of Art (an all-women’s school) I lectured on the history of graphic design for several decades, but it was a history overwhelmingly populated by men. It was all so one-sided that I sought to find a way to expand the historical record. I began by looking at women designers and type designers I knew from my (now aging) generation, hoping to capture their stories directly from the source, not from research or second-hand accounts.

I began by contacting several women but, unfortunately, the initial concept of writing about a group of women type designers grew too complicated and it seemed simpler to tell one story in greater depth than many in a more glancing way. David Lemon at Adobe kindly arranged my introduction to Carol, but warned me that she was unlikely to respond to my request. Although reluctant to be the sole focus, she agreed to let me tell her story once the group approach failed. Fortunately, I made contact with enough significant former classmates and colleagues of Carol’s to place her within a group, using her story as the thread that bound them together.

I traveled to Adobe’s headquarters in 2012 to gather some original images. Two terrific Adobe employees, Ernie March and Nicole Miñoza, guided me through the type archives. Ernie and Nicole had dug into the many boxes and sorted out Carol’s work. I had a precious few hours to mark items that would later be photographed for me by Adobe.

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Adobe Headquarters in San Jose, California.

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Ernie March and Nicole Miñoza in the Adobe type archives.
wood_binder
Most of the work was gathered into binders. In this case wood type development with lots of red handwritten notes by Carol (something I would see on my own work with her).

I also traveled into the mountains to visit Carol at her home. I felt it was important that I connect on a personal level, even though we frequently corresponded and exchanged a few phone calls. It is now 4 years later and the book has been edited, is in the process of printing and binding and is available on the Oak Knoll website.

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The dust jacket with paragraph from E M Ginger.

In the next few weeks we will resume regular posts from Lisbon, Portugal— Ricardo Santos type designer; Montreal, Canada—Papeterie St-Armand; and Toronto, Canada–Patrick Griffin of CanadaType. In the meantime have a great holiday season. Peace, Nancy.

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