Event Recap: Font Detective, Extra Bold

Event Recap: Font Detective, Extra Bold
by Jancy Liu

Thomas Phinney, a typography expert and consultant, spoke on January 29 at Harrington College. Over the course of “Font Detective, Extra Bold,” Phinney revealed why his expertise on the most minute details of fonts makes him so highly sought after. His knowledge and confidence was complemented by his conversational style—as if we were all old friends listening to him tell stories in a bar, rather than a conference hall.

Phinney relayed the stories of various past adventures from beginning to end, starting with his first: while working at Adobe, he took on “The Case of the Evil Stepmother,” an attempt to discover whether a will from 1983 had been forged. Using only a USB microscope, Phinney was able to show that the speckling from the ink on the paper could only belong to a laser printer—which definitely did not exist in 1983. Each subsequent case showed him parsing clue after clue with confidence; Phinney described himself a, “[doing] a little of everything, all not very well, but I am good at putting information together.” Phinney ended with his three favorite cases: “The Misleading Mortgage,” “The Presidential Plot,” and “The Respected Rabbi.” Only one of these is Google-able, so you’ll have to attend one of his talks to hear the surprising, funny details in person.

In the retellings of the fraud cases he’s been called to consult on, Phinney showed his obvious love for the art. Who wouldn’t love doing what he does? One left the event inspired, wanting to become as obsessed with typographic details as he is.


Thomas Phinney is Vice President of FontLab, the font creation/​editing software company, and serves as treasurer for ATypI, Association Typographique Internationale. He’s also an instructor for Crafting Type, a set of multi-day workshops that teach participants to design and create their own typefaces. Follow his blog and Twitter feed for information on upcoming appearances and activities.

With 13 years of experience under her belt, Jancy Liu is an interactive art director and designer based in Chicago with a variety of interests in art, design and all things neat. She is currently learning to paint with oils and is finding it a fulfilling challenge.

By AIGA Chicago
Published February 15, 2015
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