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Here’s to the future!

Occupant Fonts teams up with Morisawa Inc.

I first became aware of Morisawa in the 1990s, back when I was still a student. I heard about the company through its prestigious type design competition—not that I thought I was good enough to enter. This was a competition for real type designers. In those days, I was trying to make typefaces from pieces of construction fencing and deconstructed stencils. Still, the competition intrigued me; I was curious to know why a Japanese font company would be interested in Latin type.

Photograph of Sara Soskolne, Fred Smeijers, Cyrus Highsmith, and Matthew Carter judging the 2014 Morisawa Type Design Competition
Sara Soskolne, Fred Smeijers, Cyrus Highsmith, and Matthew Carter judging the 2014 Morisawa Type Design Competition.

Not much later, despite my unorthodox approach to letter drawing (or maybe partly because of it), I got a job as a type designer at Font Bureau. That job lasted almost twenty years. At Font Bureau, I was trained by Tobias Frere-Jones, David Berlow, and Matthew Carter. Between them and my coworkers, I couldn’t have asked for better teachers. And Sam Berlow was always on hand to coach me along. During that time, I drew many of the typefaces that would eventually become the Occupant Fonts library.

I regret that I never got around to entering any of those fonts into the Morisawa Type Design Competition. Thanks to Matthew Carter, however, in 2012, I found myself in Osaka, serving on the competition’s Latin jury. Matthew was there, too, along with Sara Soskolne and Akira Kobayashi. Plus, I got to meet Japanese type design legends Masahiko Kozuka and Osamu Torinoumi. No less than Fred Smeijers joined us at later competitions, starting in 2014.

Spread from “Ari Inu Usage (あり いぬ うさぎ)”
Spread from あり いぬ うさぎ (Ari Inu Usage) by Cyrus Highsmith and Hiroko Sakomura.

That was my first formal introduction to Morisawa. Since then, we’ve collaborated on various projects. These have included workshops in Japan, presentations, licensing agreements, and an extended stay in Akashi to work with Morisawa designers on adapting one of my typefaces to work with Japanese. In addition, Morisawa has been a supporter of the children’s book series that I developed with Hiroko Sakomura, published by Bunkeidou.

Spread from “1こ 2ほん 3びき (I-kko Ni-hon San-biki)”
Spread from 1こ 2ほん 3びき (I-kko Ni-hon San-biki) by Cyrus Highsmith and Hiroko Sakomura.

As announced last fall, I accepted a full-time position as creative director at Morisawa’s new drawing office in Providence, Rhode Island, where I was joined by type designers Cem Eskinazi and June Shin. We work from The Design Office, located in downtown Providence. It’s close to Rhode Island School of Design, from which Cem and June recently graduated. They’re the latest in a long line of type designers coming from RISD.

At the Providence Drawing Office, we focus on the development of new Latin typefaces. I’m also eager to look for ways to connect our work to Morisawa’s Japanese type library. The potential for collaboration and learning are two big reasons I took this job. I’m hoping it will push my work in new directions. The interest Morisawa showed for original Latin type design, which I first observed back when I was student thanks to the competition, persists today.

Photograph by Norman Posset of Cyrus Highsmith presenting “Pulling out of the concept ‘subordinate Latin’” at ATypI 2017 Montreal.
Cyrus Highsmith presenting “Pulling out of the concept ‘subordinate Latin’” at ATypI 2017 Montréal. © Norman Posselt / ATypI.

As part of this commitment, Morisawa has acquired Occupant Fonts and its type library. That library represents almost two decades of work. For me, that’s a lot—but I’m humbled that it will become part of a company that has been making type since 1924. I’m also happy that Occupant Fonts will continue to be available via Type Network. I hope this will be the first step in a long, mutually beneficial relationship for both Morisawa and Type Network.

Here’s to the future!

Cyrus Highsmith
Occupant Fonts

All Occupant fonts are available for print, web, applications, and ePub licensing. Webfonts may be tested free for thirty days. To keep current with Occupant Fonts and other foundry partners, subscribe to Type Network News, our occasional email newsletter featuring font releases, foundry happenings, type and design events, and more.