Mike Parker (typographer)
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Parker is known for rediscovering a "nameless Roman" type font and preparing it as a Starling series for Font Bureau.
Life and career
After a Yale Design education, Parker was exposed firsthand to type history when he worked at the Plantin Moretus Museum in Antwerp in 1958–1959, a city block comprising the establishment of the leading sixteenth century printer and publisher.
He joined Mergenthaler Linotype Company company as Jackson Burke's assistant and heir; within two years becoming Director. Under Parker's leadership over 1,000 typefaces, including Helvetica, were added to the library making them available wherever Linotype equipment was in use, including complete series of Hebrew and Greek scripts. This was made possible through Parker’s organization of shared typeface development between the five separate companies in the Linotype Group worldwide. Parker was responsible for bringing in internationally known designers such as Matthew Carter, Adrian Frutiger and Hermann Zapf. The result was a library that became the standard of the industry.
In 1981, Parker and Matthew Carter co-founded Bitstream Inc, a type design company, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While revenues from the sale of typesetting equipment were dwindling, they recognized a business opportunity in the design and sale of type itself, due to the changing technologies that allowed type to be independent of equipment. Bitstream, largely financed through prepayment for the type library by several newly formed imagesetting companies, developed a library of digital type that could be licensed for use by anyone. Bitstream was highly successful during the 1980s when digital design and production, desktop publishing and personal computer use became virtually universal in the Western World.
Parker was featured in the film Helvetica, a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. He wrote the introduction for the re-issue of Stanley Morison's A Tally of Types, published by David Godine.
In 1990, Parker founded Pages Software with Victor Spindler, a veteran of film fonts, based on Parker's patent for Pages Software U.S. Patent No.RE 36.704. The Pages paradigm provided flexible design solutions to the editor of documents to be published for multiple readership on Internet or paper. The "editor" was anyone attempting to effectively format a document for multimedia. In the Pages paradigm the designer was present in the software offering most of the options that would be offered if the designer were present in fact. Each design model captured the principle options the designer would offer the editor at each level of the document as if the two were meeting. This set of choices was recognizable as the designer's "style".
Pages was developed on the NextStep platform and was in the Beta stage of development when the Next Computer and the NextStep platform were discontinued in 1995. Upon the closing of Pages Software in 1995, Parker licensed the Pages patent to Design Intelligence in Seattle and joined the company as an in-house consultant. In 2000, Design Intelligence was bought by Microsoft. With that, Parker had come full circle, he had completed a process that began with Gutenberg's transformation of flexible but laborious calligraphy into modular fonts of movable type, and ended with similar digital modules of expert design that guide all aspects of a whole document's appearance.
In 1994, Parker published evidence that the design of Times New Roman, credited to Stanley Morison in 1931 was based on Starling Burgess' 1904 drawings for Lanston Monotype Foundry. This publication attracted the attention of Roger Black, noted design director and former avid Linotype customer, and David Berlow former colleague at both Linotype and Bitstream. Parker joined their co-founded company, the Font Bureau, as a Consultant, Type Historian and Type Designer. In 2009, Parker released "Starling", a Roman font with a matching italic series based on the 1904 design of William Starling Burgess. Parker is currently[when?] completing a Type History account for the Font Bureau blog and tinkering with thoughts of other fonts.
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- 1951: BA Architecture, Yale University
- 1952–1954: US Army Korea
- 1956 MFA: Graphic School of Design, Yale University
- 1956–1957: Typographic Project for I.M. Pei
- 1957–1959: Plantin Moretus Museum, Antwerp
- 1959–1981: Mergenthaler Linotype
- 1981–1987: Bitstream Corporation
- 1987–1989: The Company
- 1990–1995: Pages Software, Inc.
- 1996–1999: Design Intelligence, Inc.
- 2000–present: The Font Bureau, Inc.
Interview, September 2010, recorded by Frank Romano, RIT Professor Emeritus, detailed Parker's life and work.
Interview, September 2010, recorded by Frank Romano, RIT Professor Emeritus, detailed Mike Parker's life and work.