Emigre (type foundry)

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search

Emigre, also known as Emigre Graphics, is a digital type foundry, publisher and distributor of graphic design centered information based in Berkeley, California, that was founded in 1984 by husband-and-wife team Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko.[1] The type foundry also published Emigre magazine between 1984 and 2005. Note that unlike the word émigré, Emigre is officially spelled without accents.


Emigre was founded in 1984 as an independent foundry, developing typefaces without an association to a typesetting equipment manufacturer. Coinciding with the advent of the Macintosh computer, Emigre took advantage of the new medium to design digital typefaces, as such they did not require the manufacturing infrastructure of a traditional type foundry. Licko began designing fonts that, rather than trying to imitate letterpress technology, capitalized on the idiosyncrasies of bitmap design and dot matrix printing,[2] and later, vector-based design.[3] The company is credited with being the first type foundry to design original fonts made on and for a computer.[4]

Through a good part of the late 1980s and most of the 1990s, some of the most cutting-edge typefaces were developed or released by Emigre. Its magazine, in the meantime, provided an outlet showcasing the potential of its typeface designs, and was well known for its graphical experimentation, criticism and essays on contemporary design.[5][6] Many Emigre fonts belonged to what would later be described as the grunge typography movement, though others such as Licko's Mrs Eaves did not clearly fit into this style.[7]

Emigre was often criticized for rejecting standard design rules. Designer Massimo Vignelli was highly critical against Emigre and viewed their designs as a direct threat to Modernist ideals. Vignelli called Emigre a "typographic garbage factory," and to him, their work represented "the degradation of culture." [8][9]

Despite denunciation from traditionalists in the realm of design, Emigre became influential in the field. "People read best what they read most," was a manifesto that VanderLans and Licko held to when facing critics. Citing that what is deemed readable is only so because of the prevalence of a particular font.[10]

Eventually, Vignelli, even after strongly criticizing the work of Emigre, directly promoted Licko's font Filosofia, to which Licko responded, "Massimo's willingness to collaborate on our announcement reflects Emigre's ability to bridge different approaches." [11]


Emigre has published a number of books related to graphic design. *[1]

  • Departures: Five Milestone Font Families by Emigre - "This book celebrates the acquisition of five Emigre typeface families by The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2011."
  • Supermarket - "Photographic record of six years of road trips to and through the Mojave desert."
  • Pages From an Imaginary Book - "A book of desert landscapes utilizing low budget reproduction techniques."
  • Bagdad, Californie - "A book of photographs about the now vanished town of Bagdad, California."
  • Emigre (Exhibition Catalog) - "Catalog to commemorate an exhibition about the work of Emigre at the Jan van Eyck Academy in the Netherlands."
  • Emigre Fonts Type Specimens Volume I - "Limited edition, case bound book containing 12 original Emigre Fonts type specimens."
  • Emigre No.70: The Look Back Issue - "A 512-page selection of reprints that traces Emigre's development from its early bitmap design days in the mid 1980s through to the experimental layouts that defined the so-called."
  • Palm Desert - "Part 1 of a trilogy of photo books about Southern California inspired by the music of Van Dyke Parks. Includes music CD."
  • Cucamonga - "Part 2 of a trilogy of photo books about Southern California inspired by the music of Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band. Includes music CD."
  • Joshua Tree- "Part 3 of a trilogy of photo books about Southern California inspired by the music of Gram Parsons. Includes music CD."
  • Hard Sleeper (Dreaming Out Loudest) - "Thirteen track CD plus 72 page book presented in custom made box." [12]


Emigre not only designed type but also licensed over 300 original typefaces by many different designers,.[13] The company's type library features fonts by Mark Andresen, Bob Aufuldish, Jonathan Barnbrook, Rodrigo Cavazos, Barry Deck, Eric Donelan, John Downer, Elliott Peter Earls, Edward Fella, Sibylle Hagmann, Frank Heine, John Hersey, Jeffery Keedy, Zuzana Licko, P. Scott Makela, Conor Mangat, Nancy Mazzei, Brian Kelly, Miles Newlyn, Claudio Piccinini, Just van Rossum, Christian Schwartz and Rudy VanderLans.[14] See also Emigre typefaces library and the fonts section of Emigre's website.




Museum exhibits

  • Walker Art Center, Minneapolis - featured Emigre's book "Emigre No. 70: The Look Back Issue" and the font Base 900 in the Center's exhibit "Graphic Design: Now in Production."
  • Victoria and Albert Museum, London - featured Emigre Magazine issues # 10 and #11 in the "Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990" exhibit
  • Contemporary Art Museum, Raleigh - featured all 13 typographic labels designed for the Historia type specimen in the exhibit "Deep Surface: Contemporary Ornament and Pattern"
  • Museum of Modern Art, New York City - features 23 digital typefaces for their permanent collection, including five Emigre font families: Jeffery Keedy's Keedy Sans, Jonathan Barnbrook's Mason Serif, Barry Deck's Template Gothic, Zuzana Licko's Oakland (renamed Lo-Res in 2001), and P. Scott Makela's Dead History. They were displayed in their "Standard Deviations" exhibit
  • Museum für Gestaltung - Museum of Design, Zurich - holds Emigre Magazine issues in their permanent collection
  • Gallery 16, San Francisco - displayed Emigre's design work in 2010
  • Berardo Collection Museum, Lisbon - Emigre Magazine issue's # 10 - # 24 were featured in their 2009 exhibit "Quick, Quick, Slow"
  • The Photography Show 2007, New York City - exhibited a photo portfolio of Rudy VanderLans' work in 2007
  • Visionaire Gallery, New York City - featured 5 issues of Emigre Magazine in their "Megazines" exhibit in 2006
  • Centre Pompidou, Paris - featured Emigre's work as part of their "D-Day" exhibit in 2005


  1. http://www.emigre.com/AboutEmigre.php
  2. http://www.emigre.com/Licko.php
  3. Bringhurst, Robert. The Elements of Typographic Style, Hartley & Marks (2004), page 134: "Licko has exploited the harsh economies of digital plotting routines, slicing from control point to control point not with a knife, file or chisel but with digitized straight lines."
  4. http://www.fastcodesign.com/1661918/type-master-an-interview-with-emigres-rudy-vanderlans
  5. Heller, Steven and Fili, Louise. Stylepedia: A Guide to Graphic Design Mannerisms, Quirks, and Conceits, Chronicle Books (2006), page 121: "What Emigre initiated was co-opted by the new mainstream -- from fashion magazines to MTV. Stylistically Emigre was not just the standard bearer, it was the bearer of standards for experimental digital typography."
  6. http://www.fastcodesign.com/1661918/type-master-an-interview-with-emigres-rudy-vanderlans
  7. Shetty, Sharan. "The Rise & Fall of Grunge Typography". The Awl.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/1.05/emigre.html
  9. http://www.emigre.com/Editorial.php?sect=3&id=8
  10. http://books.google.com/books? id=LEuBNKx4hywC&pg=PA10&lpg=PA10&dq=%22people+read+best+what+they+read+most%22&source=bl&ots=oiK_SQAGqx&sig=1YgH4hLpN8zVd540l7MF7xrMAZU&hl=en&ei=BkzVTq6cOePr0gGctcTnAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CEMQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=%22people%20read%20best%20what%20they%20read%20most%22&f=false
  11. http://www.aiga.org/medalist-zuzanalickoandrudyvanderlans/
  12. http://www.emigre.com/EB.php
  13. http://www.emigre.com/AboutEmigre.php
  14. http://new.myfonts.com/foundry/Emigre/
  15. http://www.emigre.com/EMagView.php?view=volume

External links