Skip to main content

Free “Virtual Happy Hours” Bring Together Designers & Font Fans from Letterform Archive

Media Contact: David Perry & Associates, Inc/David Perry
(415) 676-7007 /

Free “Virtual Happy Hours” Bring Together Designers & Font Fans
from San Francisco’s Letterform Archive

Tuesday, May 19 (12noon Pacific) – Global Edition

 Thursday, May 21 (5pm Pacific) – Evening Edition

All Summer Programming – including one-on-one classes – offered online

18 May 2020 — San Francisco, CA: Who’s Zoomin’ who? On Tuesday, May 19 (12noon PDT) with Type Directors Club (TDC) and Thursday, May 21 (5pm PDT) the answer is designers and font fans from around the world taking part in two unprecedented, free “Virtual Happy Hours” from San Francisco’s nonprofit Letterform Archive ( toasting the universal  accessibility of and creative team behind one of the most comprehensive online collections of typographic history assembled. Additionally, all of Letterform Archive’s programming has been converted to online events, including the organization’s first public workshop offerings. Unlike many online courses, however, Letterform limits class sizes so there is one-on-one instruction and interaction. Registration for the Online Archive celebratory virtual happy hours and the Archive’s online courses is at

“We didn’t expect to sort of break the Internet,” laughs Letterform founder and executive director, Rob Saunders. “One month, two server crashes, and over 200,000 hits later seems like a good time to take stock and raise a glass, virtually, for now. And until we’re back to a tactile experience, high tech allows us to teach our very personalized class offerings high cyber touch.”

Since its launch April 7 during the height of COVID-19, Letterform’s free online archive continues to grow, providing a powerful tool for students and professional designers around the world. The two “Virtual Happy Hours” will provide an opportunity to chat with Letterform’s curatorial team – Saunders, Kate Long, and Stephen Coles – and the Online Archive design/development team, including Murray Grigo-McMahon, the database prodigy behind the project, along with Jon Suedaand chris hamamoto who developed the front-end design for the site.

“With the Online Archive reaching people all over the world, we want to join our global community to celebrate this special milestone and provide a backstage tour of highlights from the nearly 1,500 objects and 9,000 hi-fi images housed online,” says Saunders. “We’ll toast online with designers everywhere, including the TDC community, using the Zoom video conferencing platform.  We’re doing one at 12noon Pacific – Tuesday, May 19 – to be as accessible as possible for as many time zones as possible, and the second at the traditional cocktail hour, Thursday, May 21 at 5pm Pacific time.”

Located in San Francisco’s creative Dogpatch neighborhood, Letterform Archive is a unique collection where artists, scholars, and the font-loving public come in and learn from – and touch – a collection with objects ranging from a 4,000-year-old cuneiform clay tablet to a page from a Gutenberg Bible to style manuals from Apple Computer. From a fifteenth-century handmade Rothschild Book of Hours to psychedelic ’60s posters and the early pixelated digital type designs of the 1980s, it is a collection unparalleled in the Bay Area and unique across the world.  During its five-year history, Letterform Archive has welcomed over 10,000 visitors from 30 countries, including students, practitioners, and letterform admirers from every creative background. Later this year, the Archive will move into a new, expanded building, providing more hands-on access, when such access is once again available.

About Letterform Archive’s Online Archive:

For the last four years, Saunders and his team of librarians, curators, developers, and designers have been preparing for this moment: making its world-class digital trove of typographical artifacts available – free of charge – to anyone and everyone on the planet. The Archive’s online repository of digitized materials related to lettering, typography, calligraphy, and graphic design spans thousands of years of history. Opened as a beta in 2018, the Online Archive was previously available to members only.

The Archive developed its own photography standards, in consultation with E. M. Ginger of 42-Line, to produce high-fidelity imagery that is as true to the original as possible. Visitors can zoom in and pan around the images for a more detailed view of each object. Viewers will gain access to materials in a variety of formats, including books, periodicals, packaging, posters, original artwork, sketches, type specimens, and related ephemera. 

“Many of our materials are unique, curated from designers’ archives or donated by collectors. They represent centuries of design history for the benefit of current and future generations of design students, professionals, and researchers,” said Saunders, a collector of the letter arts for over 40 years. In 2015, his personal passion opened to the public, eventually offering hands-on access to a curated collection of over 60,000 items. “Some come with specific research ideas in mind, while others are simply looking for inspiration. Invariably, thanks to the breadth and accessibility of the collection, they stumble on something unexpected. Serendipity is key to the Archive experience.”

The most obvious feature of the site is what Saunders calls its “big, beautiful imagery.” Nonetheless, Saunders and project lead, Librarian Kate Long, are equally proud of the metadata behind those images. Volunteers Murray Grigo-MacMahon and Websy developer Nick Webster developed the site and its incredible data architecture, while Jon Sueda and chris hamamoto led the charge on its exquisite design with Omar Mohammad.

“It’s the information that fuels the powerful search and filter functions of the site, and it’s written specifically with graphic designers in mind,” says Long, noting that this first phase of the site surfaces just a small percentage of the metadata collected by the Archive, with more to be revealed as the project develops. “Our challenge was to draw on our existing library services knowledge, but also rethink standards and terminology for the material and audience unique to the Online Archive. We wanted to create an intuitive experience for designers using the words they use, with a user interface full of rich imagery.”