Winter 2006

Practice and Process

Deborah Littlejohn
Profile / Eric Olsen [EXTRACT]

In a short time, Eric Olson’s highly focused type foundry has won both peer acclaim and high-profile clients

Eric Olson’s life is changing rapidly. The 32-year-old type designer has temporarily moved from Minnesota to Britain, where his wife and partner, Nicole Dotin (also 32), recently began a master’s degree at Reading. Next year, Chevrolet, the car giant, unveils a new campaign using a font commissioned from Process Type Foundry (, the boutique font studio that the couple started in the summer of 2002.

Olson and Dotin, who both studied at the University of Minnesota, are a part of the generation of type designers educated after the first frenzy of exuberant experimentation that began in the late 1980s and continued into the 1990s. Their interest in digital craft grew in tandem with the 1996 introduction of OpenType, and the more robust release of FontLab, the font design application that has now superseded Fontographer.

Olson began designing typefaces while working in the Student Union communications department. ‘This was the gig every design student coveted, because the primary projects were the posters for bands,’ he says. ‘I was designing, like, a poster a day. It didn’t take long before I had exhausted every font choice the department had to offer. As a gift, my boss purchased for me a copy of Fontographer, and I was on my way.’ It was during this time that Olson – who considers himself a self-taught type designer – became interested in the potential of font-production technologies . . .

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