What is a Foundry?

Foundries make type. They can be large organizations or small, one or two-person operations. Historically, foundries turned out a physical product — metal type cast from a font of molten lead. These productions, however small in scale, necessitated the procurement of heavy, skilled labor. The masters who hand-cut the punches, down to those who kept the fires burning still got greasy every day. It was hard work. Up until the turn of the last century, the trade of type design kept its perception as blue collar. At foundries presently, there is little commotion compared to the hot metal days when you could tell a foundry worker by the smell. Gutenberg was the first, and while we haven’t seen the last, the trend has moved from physical to digital production. But the name ‘foundry’ persists.

Stephenson Blake Foundry, 1914

When I think of foundries today, I tend to think of people like Peter Bruhn, who spends his days drawing and fitting his letters, and checking his proofs, a little time tending to business on the phone or sending emails, but mostly, with the letters. Other designers can release their fonts through Peter’s foundry, but for now, it’s mostly him. Foundries can sell their types directly, or through distributors, who take a cut of the revenue to pay for promotion and operating costs.

Mayo by Peter Bruhn of Fountain

So what is FontShop?

FontShop is the first of the independent digital type retailers. Our aim from the beginning arose from the idea that great design is a valuable service to everyone. And since great typography is the core of great graphic design, we made it our purpose to improve design by making the best type available to designers everywhere. In the beginning this meant that we printed and sold big yellow books, and waited by the phone with price lists, ready to mail out diskettes, same-day. Now it means that we curate a collection of type online, and publish newsletters, blog posts, tweets and comments, produce and commission original artwork, and sponsor and host design conferences, and of course, reach out to new foundries.

What makes FontShop independent?

While we deal with hundreds of foundries, we don’t hold the intellectual property of any. Each foundry retains the rights of authorship for its original works and chooses which of its fonts to let us sell. We do our part to make and publish promotional material, help our customers choose the best type for a given project, and sell licenses to the fonts.

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