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Type Directors Club Turns 65
by Angelynn Grant

In its early decades, the TDC was a New York-centric club, mainly because advertising was New York-centric, especially in the forties and fifties. By 1958, the sights were set further, holding an all-day World Seminar, with a 200-piece show and participants like Max Huber and Herbert Spencer. Another watershed event, notes Haley, was the TDC’s international conference Type 1987, held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan and organized by Roger Black. In addition to bringing in noted type “stars” from outside the us like Adrian Frutiger and Neville Brody, Type 1987 was an opportunity to mingle with people involved with typography and design from around the world. At the October 2011 opening of the annual exhibit, current club president Diego Vainesman spoke about attending Type 1987 at the invitation of his teacher at Parsons, Martin Solomon. He found himself surrounded by his idols. “To me the most incredible thing of the event was when I started looking at these people, Benguiat, Frutiger, Zapf and realized that there was a face behind the typeface. The Type Directors Club was giving me that chance, the chance to meet the ‘face behind the typeface.’”

This flyer was for the first-ever event held by the Type Directors Club, a series of typographic lectures in 1947.

A New York Times article written at the time of Type 1987 notes the participants sharing “trade secrets” and regaling “the pleasures of a well-wrought ‘w,’ or a curvaceous ‘q’” all while worrying over the new digital frontier. “Digital technology, it was generally agreed, was both the main hope and the main danger for future typeface design.” In the late 1980s and the advent of desktop publishing, the typesetting world turned upside down. Once digitally set type reached sufficient quality, type houses died. The “type director” job may have become defunct, but the Type Directors Club kept the name. The new “type director” became each individual designer or art director or type creator.

The path to membership opened up—no more sponsors and required portfolios. As former club director John D. Berry wrote on his “dot-font” column at in 2000, “TDC may once have been a ‘club,’ but it has long since outgrown that cozy scale. Its membership is open to anyone practicing typography in any form...its large conferences have attracted attendees from around the country and its presence is felt around the world.” Today,TDC exhibitions travel far and wide. In September 2011, Wahler escorted the annual show to the ATypI conference in Reykjavík, just one of the seven traveling shows mounted each year.

This is a set of work that included the first call for entries for the Type Directors Club show, a lecture series and a gallery showing. Designed by the legendary Herb Lubalin, it was his novel interpretation of a California job case as a repetitive illustration.

By opening up membership in the 1980s to anyone with a love of type and by focusing even more on education (holding classes, student competitions, awarding scholarships) and keeping an eye on the new in type and typography, the TDC thrived rather than died. No longer an old boys club, today’s TDC is younger, more international and more diverse. Although the club may have started out as an advertising trade organization, it has grown in scope and membership to be a typography and design professional organization. Clifford, who once held the title of type director at Chiat\Day, originally joined because of the reduced members’ fees for competition entries. But he soon found himself among kindred spirits. “When I first arrived in New York City from the United Kingdom in the early nineties, I knew very few people in the industry in the city. All of my contacts had been built up working in London. Walking into the TDC and being surrounded with a bunch of like-minded individuals with a burning passion for typography was incredibly comforting—even if they did speak with funny accents. Instantly I had a network of designers, typesetters and suppliers who could help with anything I needed to get done in the city.”

Former club president and board chair (and multilingual type designer) Gary Munch agrees. “One aspect that attracted me to the TDC is that it is a place where type designers can come to meet each other with some frequency and talk about what we otherwise would be e-mailing back and forth. It’s helped me immensely to get better at type design, in non-Latin and Latin.” Haley reflects that he’s made a lot of good friends because of the TDC. Wahler adds, “Today so many people work for themselves, they need to get out and be around other designers. They come to the club and they feel like it’s family.” CA Grant
Angelynn Grant is a Boston-based graphic designer, writer and educator. She has taught at Rhode Island School of Design, the Art Institute of Boston, Simmons College and MIT. You can e-mail her at In addition, Grant is the host of a jazz program on MIT radio, WMBR.