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.