Member of the Month: Tobias Frere-Jones

One of the events that is closing out 2018 is our recent talk at the TDC by Tobias Frere-Jones and Nina Stössinger, presenting their newest project for the Essex Street Market. After the event, we discovered in the TDC’s extensive archives, a 1987 issue of U&lc … featuring a then–16 year-old “Toby Frere-Jones”. We’re reprinting it for this month’s Member of the Month. The members of Frere-Jones’ type studio are all members of the TDC:

Toby Frere-Jones portrait in Alphabet Design Contest article in 1987 issue of U&lc magazine.

“For anyone who fears that the graphics field is heading toward total computerization, and that robots will design the world, here is hopeful news. The future generation—kids who have been talking to computer terminals since they were big enough to reach the keys — have not entirely succumbed to a push-button mentality. In fact, this computer generation seems unusually revved up with original and daring ideas born in their own minds, not in a microchip. They also seem to have a vigorous appetite for executing their plans with their own hands, without benefit of a mouse or stylus as an intermediary.

All of this came to light when Larry Ottino, Creative Director of The Type Shop in New York City, initiated an Alphabet Design Contest for the offspring of people in the advertising community. Although designing an alphabet is a typical assignment for first year graphics students, this contest was limited to children from six through seventeen.

The results that poured in gave the judges (art directors from top-flight agencies and publications) an eye-popping experience. The verve…the color… the unity of design sustained by eight, ten, and twelve-year old children was mind-boggling. In fact, though prizes were awarded in each of four age categories, the best-in-show citation went to a seven year old girl, Adriana Ditoro.

Portion of award-winning alphabet designed by Tobias Frere-Jones.

Of the prize-winning entries, we are illustrating the alphabet of 16-year-old Toby Frere-Jones of Brooklyn, New York, because his “professionalism” in researching, designing and rendering his alphabet gives evidence of a promising future in graphics. Toby, as you might suspect, has been drawing since he was old enough to hold a pencil. He also paints, sculpts, collages, and he is no mean photographer as anyone can see from the complex self-portrait he submitted. There seems to be hope of a Toby Frere-Jones in our future.

The Type Shop promises another Alphabet Design Context next year; who knows what potential graphic giants lurk in Lilliputian Land?”

— M.M.

Portion of award-winning alphabet designed by Tobias Frere-Jones.


Twitter: @frerejones
Instagram: @frerejones

Are you interested in being featured as a TDC Member of the Month? Email for more details!

Read past Member of the Month features here:

November 2018: Brian LaRossa
October 2018: Field of Study
September 2018: Torsten Jahnke
August 2018: Pragun Agarwal
July 2018: Nour Kanafani
June 2018: Roberto de Vicq and Douglas Riccardi
May 2018: Luisa Baeta
April 2018: Mark De Winne
March 2018: Synoptic Office
February 2018: Carrie Hamilton
January 2018: Liz DeLuna
December 2017: Pablo Medina
November 2017: Dave Bailey
October 2017: Naomi Abel
July 2017: Fernando Días
June 2017: Juan Villanueva
May 2017: Mark Simonson
April 2017: Mary Marnell
March 2017: David Adams
February 2017: John Clark
January 2017: Pamela Green
December 2016: Alexander Tochilovsky
November 2016: Jackson Alves
October 2016: Nina Stössinger
September 2016: Graham Weber
August 2016: Thomas Jockin
July 2016: Craig Ward
June 2016: Juan Carlos Pagan
May 2016: Wael Morcos
April 2016: Ilene Strizver
March 2016: Sascha Lobe
February 2016: Dawn Hancock
January 2016: Michael Bierut
December 2015: Yomar Augusto
November 2015: Debbie Millman
October 2015: Niral Parekh
September 2015: Marta Cerdà
August 2015: Kevin Cantrell
July 2015: Neil Patel
June 2015: Gail Anderson
May 2015: Ricardo Cordoba
April 2015: Cherise Conrick
March 2015: Paula Scher
February 2015: Ray Masaki
January 2015: Bruno Maag