Back in early 2012 I received an email out of the blue from a guy who wanted to talk about turning my calligraphy into fonts. At this point in time, I was still in the midst of figuring out what I wanted to do with my creative career. I was practicing illustration but was gaining momentum with my modern calligraphy. Turning my calligraphy into a font seemed insanely foreign to me but that email changed the course of my entire career! Today, I happily call Dathan Boardman my business partner and friend as we continually collaborate to create fonts from not only my designs but a highly curated group of calligraphers and publish them through our foundry, Great Lakes Lettering. In addition to being the second half of GLL, Dathan also designs and publishes fonts through his personal foundry Rocket Type. I couldn’t be more happy or honored to have had the opportunity to interview Dathan a bit to share with you all a glimpse into his career…
Tell us a little bit about how you got into type design..:
I got involved in Type Design due to a job opening at the Font Diner. Stuart Sandler needed someone to help with support and he offered to mentor me on how to create and sell fonts.
What do you love most about type design and why?:
I love the craft and the process of it. It isn’t a very glamorous job, a lot of repetition but I love the repetition.
Walk us through a typical day in your shoes..:
Wake up and check support requests for a variety of different products, Photoshop plugins, font installation and licensing requests, and then most of the rest of the day is spent on font production. I do a lot of freelance work for people as well as building and creating my own fonts.
What personal traits do you feel have contributed to your success?:
I feel like I am constantly curious about how things work and how to streamline them. The more I learn about font making, the more efficient, streamlined and functional the fonts are.
This industry can be really scary at times. It’s usually feast or famine even for the best of us. How do you mentally and financially prepare for job famine?:
I experienced a lot of anxiety going through this. Font design especially can be a famine type job because so many more fonts are being created now and it’s easy to get overlooked. The best advice is to just keep making more and more. I always think of a quote I heard by Tom Petty where he said that he would be doing music regardless of whether he was able to make any money at it. Thats kind of how I feel about font design. I can’t really imagine doing anything else.
What has been the most memorable moment in your career to date?:
It’s hard to pinpoint just one memorable moment but I think I really felt like we arrived when one of our fonts was being used for a Hallmark movie. That was kind of fun.
Describe your dream client:
What are three items you could not work without?:
Illustrator, pencil, Glyphs app
Describe the aesthetic and personal stylization of your work:
I kind of feel like I have a pretty widespread list of things that appeal to me, but the thing that I am constantly intrigued by and try to achieve in my own work is a sort of exuberant playfulness, I try to achieve this without my work looking overly amateurish.
Who inspires you?:
Molly Jacques, Fennesz, Nic Roeg, Kevin Drumm
How do you stay motivated?:
Sometimes it’s hard. I like that I have to do work for hire so that it kind of gears me up for doing my own work. If I was exclusively a creative I might not get anything done.
Do you have any hobbies or interests that you feel directly influence the way you approach your work?:
Music, movies. I used to really like to design alongside music as it would sort of inform the aesthetic I was going for. Nowadays I feel more and more like I need total quiet. I will be laying in bed listening to music sometimes and want to create a font that has a similar effect on me as the musical idea.
What advice would you give to an individual who wants to pursue a career in type design?:
Never stop releasing stuff.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be, and why?
Probably a struggling musician but that dream isn’t quite dead yet.
That wraps things up! THANK YOU Dathan for giving us a little taste of your job. If you want to view Dathan’s work, you can at Great Lakes Lettering, and be sure to take a peek at his most recent collaboration with Jen Maton on Pen Swan.