Presentation details
Searching for Morris Fuller Benton

Juliet Shen

Friday 14 September | 17:00 – 17:30
Location: Sallis Benney Theatre

Presentation | Theme: Legacies | Duration: 30 minutes

Morris Fuller Benton (1872-1948), chief type designer for the American Type Foundry Company, presided over the design of more typefaces than any other American type designer: well over 200. Yet very little has been published about him (and nothing at all by him), so consequently his thought processes as a type designer remain obscure. The presentation seeks to expand the evaluation of Benton as a type designer beyond his current reputation for reviving the great historical book faces and firmly establishing the extended family as a standard practice.Benton's prolific output is considered thematically in order to isolate those typefaces most likely to yield clues to his original thinking as a designer. Detailed case studies are made of Franklin Gothic, Clearface and Clearface Gothic, Cloister Oldstyle, Century Schoolbook, and two novelty typefaces, Adscript and Thermo Series. The common assumption that Franklin Gothic was based on Akzidenz Grotesk is refuted. His approach in reviving Nicolas Jenson’s fifteenth century roman is contrasted with that of Bruce Rogers. It is shown that Benton was greatly concerned with furthering legibility in typefaces; that he designed the first serial (serif and sans serif) type family; and that he made some typographic design innovations that went largely unnoticed. The talk includes some detailed comparisons of letterforms which may interest type designers more than others, but the visuals are accessible for any audience who likes to look at type in detail.

Speaker details

Juliet Shen Shen Design | United States

Master of Arts, Typeface Design, University of Reading

1989–present. Principal, Shen Design, Seattle, WA.

18 years; currently typography instructor, School of Visual Concepts, Seattle

Recent projects
2009 Lushootseed School and Lushootseed Sulad fonts for the Tulalip Tribes, Washington state
2007 Earlybird type family for Oxford University Press educational division
2007 Resurrection of a Reliance, article on refurbishment of a 19th century iron handpress for school use

2009 Hamilton Museum of Wood Type & Printing-Lushootseed 2009 ATypI-Lushootseed, the language of the people 2009 TypeCon Education Forum-assignment presentation 2008 TypeCon—The Initial Teaching Alphabet: How a calligrapher, a crusader and a corporation influenced the design of an alphabet for teaching children to read.
2007 TypeCon and ATypI—Searching for Morris Fuller Benton: Discovering the designer through his typefaces

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