Sure looks good for 1968

The lament of designers far and wide is that the public at large cannot grasp the virtue in our acute awareness for detail.

Enter Thomas Phinney, hero to us all as he proves to those without the eye that there is worth in taking notice. Vice President of FontLab by day, and font consultant and expert witness by night, Phinney has cracked his fair share of disputes by employing his stockpile of type knowledge to examine the validity of various official documents.

Hired for an eclectic array of cases by those in need of his laser eye, Phinney is able to offer the world solid evidence that transcends the willy-nilly descriptions we designers are often found wielding— “This type offers an air of mystery, there is just a quality about it.”

His modus operandi includes detecting similar, but not the same, adapted typefaces, deciphering dot and splatter patterns of various printers, tracking down font names and accompanying characteristics, and determining the user flow of various pre-computer typing machines. A tried and true starting point for Phinney has been “Gee, that document sure looks nice for (insert year here).”

His client base is a peculiar cast of characters that one would expect to find in the caseload of a man called Thomas Phinney, Font Detective. He names a phony rabbi, an Olympian-turned-wide receiver, a president, a fugitive widow and an ex-dictator’s favorite book among his subjects.

Phinney alleges that his work isn’t as rousing as TV courtrooms and film noir detectives may have it seem, but as a bunch of designers aching for their friends to stop rolling their eyes when kerning is brought up, we’re excited to see that our seemingly idle world of type minutia can save the day.

By Emily Hamre
Published April 26, 2015