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VanderLans studied at the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague. Later, he moved to California and studied photography at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1984, VanderLans, with his wife Zuzana Licko, founded Emigre and began to publish Emigre magazine, a journal for experimental graphic design.
After the release of the Apple Macintosh in 1984, VanderLans and Licko were inspired to design custom fonts that the Macintosh was lacking, resulting in the Emigre Graphics font library, arguably the most trendsetting type collection of the early digital era. VanderLans himself only designed three font families in the Emigre collection. Variex and Oblong were co-designed with Zuzana Licko.
Oblong follows a strict rectangular grid and uses only straight lines of equal width.
Variex (1988) consists of three weights defined by the same center lines. By changing the thickness around the axis, various weights are obtained therefore the x-height and alignment may vary. The font plays with these variations keeping the axes of the character in the same position in all three weights allowing interesting design possibilities for characters to be layered to form multicolored or outline letters.
Suburban (1994) is the only font family VanderLans made on his own. The font family was a reaction to his education in The Haugue, allowing himself to disprove some of the basic notions he learned about type design. Since he had always been attracted to hand-lettered script faces, the font is a combination of fairly rational, geometric shapes and calligraphy-inspired characters. 
- VanderLans was born "Van der Lans" but condensed his last name to "VanderLans" owing to difficulties Americans had with the original Dutch spelling.
- Sherin, Aaris. "Grove Art Online: Emigre Inc". Oxford Art Online.
- Thrift, Julia (Summer 1992). "Reputations: Rudy VanderLans". Eye Magazine. 2 (7).
- Middendorp, Jan. Dutch Type. 010 Uitgeverij, 2004.
- Speak Up interview with VanderLans
- Interview with Rudy VanderLans by Steven Heller
- Print Magazine interview with VanderLans
- AIGA Biography of Zuzana Licko and Rudy VanderLans
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