Home / About ATypI / Who we are / Elections 2023–24: ATypI board of directors / Board candidate Laurence Penney

Board candidate Laurence Penney

Portrait of Laurence Penney

We asked Laurence to tell us everything ATypI members could ever want to know about him. He had much to share.

Please provide us with your bio.

I’m a software developer specializing in font technology based in Bristol, UK.

My bachelor’s degree is computer science, which I have put to the service of type since 1992. I was part of the core team that, from 1999, built MyFonts from scratch and turned it into the world’s leading font retailer. I’ve contracted for Adobe, Microsoft, and Google on font-related projects. These projects have included writing font format specifications, TrueType hinting, creating specialized fonts, JavaScript polyfills, and plugins. I’ve also consulted for Underware, Typotheque, and other independent foundries.

Self-initiated projects include:

  • Axis-Praxis, the first variable font playground website.
  • Samsa, a web app for in-depth variable font inspection, later funded by Google.
  • FauxFoundry, a web service providing Greek fallback fonts to match arbitrary Latin fonts using parametric design principles, co-created with Irene Vlachou.
  • RenderStack, a website that displays a given font rendered by multiple rendering systems, helping to identify bugs in fonts and renderers.

I’ve enjoyed a close relationship with the University of Reading for many years, and have been pleased to lecture in the MA Type Design and TDI programmes on font technology on subjects including hinting and variable fonts.

Since attending my first ATypI typography conference in San Francisco in 1994, I have greatly valued the worldwide type community for support, stimulation and camaraderie. I have attended dozens of type conferences, and given many talks on font technology and typographic culture. In-person conferences offer unmatched possibilities to engage with experts and students—both those in one’s own specialisms and those in related fields.

In 2022, with Borys Kosmynka, I started the Bristol meet-up group Letter Luvvers. Enthusiasts of type and lettering meet every two months for talks and networking. We’re delighted to report that it’s already leading to friendships and work collaborations.

I’m involved with standards bodies that curate and evolve specifications for digital fonts, and have contributed recently in the areas of color and variable axis interaction.

Outside of type, I love the history of cartography, information design, and cataloguing.

Give us a sentence that perfectly describes your love for type.

Type has a remarkable and consequential history, that is still today a magnet for talented, congenial specialists in (typo)graphic design, education, technology, and global cultures—for me, that’s an irresistible combination that I love and love to encourage in others.

Before this year, were you a member of ATypI? If so, when?

From 1994, with a few unintentional lapses.

Were you previously a member of the ATypI board, or a country delegate? If so, when?


Describe your experience/involvement with ATypI activities.

I have attended every ATypI conference since 1994 (except 1995, 1997, 2012, and 2015). I have moderated sessions at several ATypI conferences.

Speaker/Workshop leader/Volunteer:
Volunteer, ATypI The Hague 1996: TypeLab
Workshop leader, ATypI Montreal 2017: Creating variable fonts
Speaker, ATypI Tokyo 2019: FauxFoundry
Speaker, ATypI All Over 2020: Typesetting Trains
Speaker, ATypI Type Tech 2022: avar2
Speaker, ATypI Paris 2023: TDC Medal for Jan Middendorp (organized the session)

Since January 2023, I have been active as an invited member of the ATypI Website Committee. I have also advised ATypI’s Communications and International committees.

Tell us about your current and past involvement with other type and design organizations.

Conference speaker:

  • TYPO Labs (speaker 2017 and 2018)
  • dotCSS (speaker 2017)
  • TGA Raabs (speaker 2017)
  • Pixel Pioneers (speaker 2017)
  • Kerning (workshop leader 2017)
  • Automatic Type Design Nancy (speaker 2016)
  • TypoFest Plovdiv (speaker 2016)
  • Information Design Society (speaker 2013)
  • Ampersand (speaker 2012)
  • TypoTechnica (speaker 2004)
  • TypeCon (panellist and moderator at several events, attended most events from 1999 to 2018)


  • SOTA (board member for two terms, 2002–2008)
  • Printing Historical Society (current member)
  • Ephemera Society (current member)
  • Association of European Printing Museums (past member)

Founder member:

  • In 2022, I co-founded Letter Luvvers in my home city of Bristol. It’s a type and lettering meet-up group in Bristol (presentations followed by networking) which is proving successful.

Describe your leadership experience with other nonprofits and work with conferences, workshops, publications, teaching, or other activities in the type, design, tech, and related communities.

  • University of Reading, Department of Typography and Graphic Design: Guest lectures since 2002 on various aspects of font technology, including hinting and variable fonts; also lectures on information design.
  • ISO MPEG-OTSPEC working group: I participate in this group’s efforts to clarify and evolve font specification standards. Notable recent activities have been a rewrite of the CFF2 spec and drafting the avar table version 2 spec.
  • SOTA/TypeCon: Board member for two terms, 2002 to 2008.
  • Letter Luvvers: Co-founder of Bristol’s meet-up group for type and lettering enthusiasts, running successfully since July 2022.
  • Clifton & Hotwells Improvement Society: Committee member 2013 to present (this is a membership-driven residents and amenity society for my part of Bristol, to whom I provide general advice, website design, and newsletter typesetting).

Why should ATypI members elect you to represent them on the board of directors?

Over thirty years of experience in the type world, I have built up a good understanding of the needs of type designers, typographers, font foundries, large font distributors, tool developers, technology companies, and educational organizations. In that time, I have observed numerous successes and shortcomings in how conferences address these needs. My work since January 2023 on the ATypI Website Committee has helped me understand how ATypI works and puts on conferences, and has stimulated me to offer numerous suggestions, many of which have been accepted and acted upon.

If elected, I will seek to:

  • set up reunions of past ATypI conference attendees and organizers, so that conferences can be recorded for posterity as best as possible;
  • develop the ATypI website as an authoritative archive of the association’s activities over the decades;
  • improve communication between executive team, board, and members;
  • improve decision-making processes via clear roles and delegation;
  • increase the openness of the organization, including finances and ticket sales.

Answers and materials were provided by the candidate as part of their self-nomination for the ATypI board election. Candidate is a paid ATypI member in good standing and agrees to remain so if they are elected.