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Telefont – the rise and fall of a typeface

The 1994 design of the Dutch telephone book can partly be seen as a reaction to the iconic 1977 phonebook designed by the modernist Wim Crouwel with Jolijn van der Wouw. Crouwel’s late-modernist design, featuring the typeface Univers in lowercase-only text, had been christened “The New Ugly” by Dutch writers. In the following years, the original Crouwel design had been watered down considerably, and by the early 1990s, its usability had reached an all-time low. When Jan Kees Schelvis and Martin Majoor began their drastically renewed design of the phonebook, they set themselves a list of strict requirements: a new typeface, a better hierarchy, improved usability, and paper-saving typography. Majoor was responsible for both the new typeface (later named Telefont) as well as the book’s microtypography – an ideal situation for a typographer. In 2018, it was announced that the last telephone book had been published. The printed phonebook – including its custom-made typeface – from now on has literally become history! So now is the appropriate time to get an in-depth analysis of the design of the Telefont family and the typography of the book, by the designer himself.


Martin Majoor

Martin Majoor has been type designer since the mid-1980s. In 1991 FontShop International released their first serious textface, Scala and Scala Sans, which Majoor designed between 1988 and 1993. In 1994 Majoor designed the telephone directory for Dutch PTT. He also designed a complete new typeface for it, the Telefont, which is still in use today. Majoor’s third serious typeface, Seria and Seria Sans, was released in 2000. It was awarded two type design prizes.Majoor taught typography at several Schools of Fine Art and gave lectures at ATypI/TypeLab conferences in Budapest, Antwerp, Paris, San Francisco and Barcelona. At ATypI Prague 2004 Majoor lectured about his work in Poland. He also presented his new family of typefaces FF Nexus Serif, FF Nexus Sans and FF Nexus Mix which he designed in 2004. It is one of the first OpenType faces that FontShop International released. Today Martin Majoor works in both Arnhem and Warsaw.