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Font Engineering: Defining a Profession

Font engineering is a specific niche of the type design industry, and the lack of accessible documentation makes it hard for other industry professionals to understand what it is and what it is for. It is also not a topic usually taught during a type design education program; therefore, students are hardly aware of that part of the font-making process. 

This presentation aims to unveil a part of this mystery by comprehensively defining font engineering. Rosalie Wagner will first clarify the differences between a software engineer, a font engineer, and a type designer. To address questions surrounding the differences between font mastering/pre-production and font production, she will briefly describe the end-to-end process and review commonly available tools.

Since there are many ways and methods to approach the production of a font project, Wagner will analyze three concrete cases that differ in their engineering strategies: a mass distributor, a mid-size independent foundry, and a one-person company.

Finally, Wagner will address questions that often come up for both students and professionals:

  • Where to begin? What documentation is available?
  • What should the skills of a font engineer be?
  • In which cases is font engineering needed? Will it still be required in the future?

This subject is much debated within the type design community, and the answers and ideas provided here are not intended to dogmatize the profession. On the contrary, Wagner hopes this session will raise a rich discussion to improve and nuance the definition of font engineering today.


Rosalie Wagner

Type designer, font engineer Rosalie Wagner