How much do you know about font design? If you’re like most people, it might never have even crossed your mind that such a thing existed. I interviewed Robert Fox*, one of SIL’s* font designers who is based in High Wycombe, to find out more on the subject.
Why do we need font designers?
Computers don’t understand all the writing systems in the world. People need fonts so that their computers, phones and tablets will be able to handle their language. A pencil’s been able to handle that language for a long time, but if you can’t type your language on a computer, you can’t communicate.
So what does a font designer actually do?
We create solutions for people. That means if there’s a language out there that cannot be used on a computer, because there’s no font available, then we will help source a font for them that contains all the letters of their alphabet. If it doesn’t exist, we’ll find someone who can help meet that need or we’ll meet it ourselves. We’ll design the font, and create it in such a way that it can be installed on computers, phones and tablets, and then develop a way to input it so that you can type it. And we work with people in the computing industry to be able to work as a team with them, to be able to solve these problems together.
How did you get involved in font design? Why did you choose that over another aspect of Bible translation?
My wife and I joined Wycliffe 25 years ago for me to do basic computer support. But while we were doing our training, I found out that there were folks in Wycliffe that were designing fonts! I thought that had to be the best job in the world! Within a few months they’d convinced us to not go directly overseas, but to serve as a font designer at the headquarters in Dallas, because I had the motivation and the talent and I thought that would be wonderful!
What’s your favourite part of the job?
One of the things I like most about the job is the variety of it. Because I need to be one third graphic designer, one third computer programmer, and one third linguist. And I need to mix those to do my job well. But if I had to pick one thing, I would choose to just design letters. I love drawing letters, making them work together.
Interested in font design? Want to know more? Find out how you could be involved.
*SIL is Wycliffe’s primary partner