March 8th 2015 marked the 150th birthday of Frederic W. Goudy from Bloomington IL, a legendary typeface designer and the man behind more than 115 typefaces that have been described as ‘dignified, sturdy, honest and strong.’ Hard to argue with that. Goudy brought a realization to type design – not just as a rendering of individual letters, but the creation of the most versatile communication.
Goudy had drive and ambition, cutting out a career of ‘change and caprice’ right from the start. He had a keen interest in typography and its principles at an early age, but success did not come easy, as outlined in an article on the man himself published in the August 1984 volume of Upper and Lower Case – The International Journal of Typographics.
The article aptly uses the word ‘undaunted’ to describe Goudy. He was dogged by misfortune, twice having his life work – matrices, master drawings and sketches – destroyed by fire. But he bounced back, and in many ways, those early endeavors and misfortunes set him up for the later pursuits in life which made him so much of a success. He was self-taught, only producing his first designs at the age of 30 and manufacturing his own type at the age of 62, when he secured the necessary equipment and learned the difficult art of engraving. He got stuck-in.
The care Goudy showed to his work was obvious. He truly found his niche upon being asked to design a volume of short stories and deciding that existing typefaces were not to his liking – they had a feeling of openness that disturbed him, and were either ‘too formal or too refined, or too free and undignified.’ He had the courage to do precisely what he wanted, in the way he wanted, and went on to produce Kennerley Old Style, a turning point in his career.
Testament to Goudy’s ability and influence is the fact that many of his typeface designs are still actively used today, literally illustrating the mark of his genius. Goudy Old Style has been Saatchi & Saatchi’s logo typeface for the last 45 years. It’s never gone out of fashion.