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