Interview with Elliot Jay Stocks

It’s a great pleasure for me to release an interview with Elliot Jay Stocks. Most of you will know him as a web designer, typomaniac, speaker and creative director of Adobe Typekit. Elliot is also founder and publisher of the magazines 8 Faces and Digest. He loves electronic music and craft beer.

Elliot, when did you get addicted to typography?

I should say it was around the time I laun­ched 8 Faces — which is when web fonts were really taking off — but actually, I think it hap­pened one or two issues in. It was only once I was wri­ting about typo­gra­phy, immer­sing mys­elf in the type world, and doing a decent amount of print‐based typeset­ting that I rea­li­sed just how much I loved it.

Oliver Reichenstein once said “Web Design is 95% Typography”. Would you agree on this assumption?

Abso­lutely. And as you learn to appre­ciate type, you rea­lise just how true that is.

What can web designers learn about print design? And what should print designers learn about interactive design?

Per­so­nally, I feel like I’m kept sane by flit­ting bet­ween print‐based and screen‐based media, given that each has its cons­traints and the other’s cons­traints serve as an anti­dote. There’s so much one can learn by desi­gning for ano­t­her medium, and I would recom­mend it to any desi­gner who wants to keep their work fresh.

Besides your own activities, you are creative director of Adobe Typekit. What’s your job there?

I help steer the pro­duct in new direc­tions and over­see all ele­ments of the brand. Recently, that’s inclu­ded a lot of inte­gra­tion with Adobe pro­ducts and ser­vices. Typekit is con­stantly evol­ving and it’s my job to guide the visual and inter­ac­tion design as that evo­lu­tion hap­pens.

What do you await digital typography will move to?

Open­Type sup­port is get­ting a lot of… well… sup­port on the web these days, and I’d like to see that con­ti­nue, so that web desi­gners can enjoy a ‘print‐level’ of con­trol. I’m also keen to see some robust mobile aut­ho­ring apps that allow for more advan­ced typeset­ting opti­ons.

The question deals with Nick Sherman’s quote: “many of the basic fundamentals of typography, typeface design, and readability are still lost on the web.” Do you think, that these fine‐tunings are important to the future of web design?

I’m not sure that’s true any more. And that’s not to dis­count Nick’s opi­nion, because I value his opi­ni­ons very highly, but I think the web is gro­wing up, and even in just the last year or so, we’re see­ing big advan­ces in what you can do with web type, and how deeply web desi­gners are gai­ning a true appre­cia­tion for good typeset­ting. Since Nick said that, I per­so­nally feel like a lot has impro­ved.

What gives you inspiration for your work as a designer?

I feel like my inspi­ra­ti­ons have chan­ged a lot in recent years — I’m much more inte­rested in a mini­mal aes­the­tic; some­thing led very much by type rather than other design ele­ments. As I’ve got older, I’ve found mys­elf easily tur­ned off by visual ‘clut­ter’.


Do you see differences in the attitude between anglo‐saxon and the german design?

Inte­res­ting ques­tion! I’m not sure there’s an anglo‐saxon design aes­the­tic. The only thing that springs to mind is the cur­rent trend used by various Lon­don agen­cies and start‐ups, but really that only rep­res­ents the web, and only a very small geo­gra­phi­cal loca­tion. To be honest, my gut fee­ling — and this is a huge gene­ra­li­sa­tion — is that Ger­man design is more grown up. To me, Ger­many is all about design.

Please tell us, what are your favourite (web) fonts?

Gene­rally, my favou­rite typefaces are also those that have good (read: well‐hinted) web ver­si­ons, so I’d list ones such as Sko­lar, FF Unit Slab, Kla­vika, etc. (I revea­led my eight favou­rite typefaces recently, in the last issue of 8 Faces.) Of course, Geor­gia is still a won­der­ful typeface to use on screen!   More about Elliot and his pro­jects