Stuart Sandler is the brilliant typographer behind Font Diner, a company dedicated to lettersets with a distinctly retro vibe. Founded in 1996, Font Diner is arguably the world’s largest collection of vintage typography, celebrating a rich diversity of signage and lettering that spans decades of American history.
While working as an art director in the mid-90s, Stuart realized the vital role of fonts in the graphic design industry. Known for being “the font guy” at work, it took seemingly little time for an incurable case of Font Addiction to take hold. “I ordered every typeface catalog I could get my hands on and quickly amassed a sizable library,” he said.
The process of rooting through the internet in search of new fonts led him to discover the business model of using an online storefront to sell type designs. “I was totally blown away by the concept that an individual could make their own fonts AND offer them for sale in a virtual storefront,” he recalled. Until that moment, he had no idea the profession even existed.
The rest is, as one might say, history. Although in Stuart’s case, American history is far more accurate. “I was consumed by the idea of creating my own font company but I had no idea where to begin,” he said. Transitioning from print design to web design, Stuart continued to contemplate the types of fonts he could make. A moment that can only be described as serendipitous arrived when he opened a box that held a book of vintage black and white illustrations. “It occurred to me that great vintage imagery needs equally great vintage typefaces and I had found my concept,” he explained.
The early days of Font Diner were sparse and rather uncertain because Stuart hadn’t yet created any fonts of his own. Becoming more confident as time passed and his skills in both web design and typography continued to flourish, Stuart made a career move to full time web design and eventually, type design. “My day job was very rewarding but the very nature of web design requires that the design of a website should be refreshed at least monthly and fully revamped every sixteen months, which meant that website designs were very much like a dinner at a fine restaurant: meant to be enjoyed only for a limited time and then gone,” he observed. “It was this lack of permanence that really became the fuel for me to pursue the Font Diner full time.”
Stuart’s passion for typography has not diminished and he particularly enjoys innovative type designs. “The most amazing fonts are ones never attempted or seen before! I love seeing how a new original font in the market really makes waves,” he said.
With that ideal in mind, Stuart certainly is someone who knows how to make waves with his own type designs. An oldie but goodie, Turnpike is an all-caps letterset he released in 2012. Turnpike was inspired by speedometer lettering from vintage American classic cars, lettering that Stuart finds functional, stylish, modern and clean. “The name was inspired by the end of many long road trips as a kiddo in the back of our station wagon facing out the back window,” he reminisced. “We always knew we were close to home when we saw the red neon Ohio Turnpike sign.”
The extra wide, 60s-style modern gothic type design is a distinct choice for branding, identity, headlines, advertising, posters, signage, menus, and any design project that wants to go for a retro spin to midcentury America.
“I’m surprised how popular it has become to be honest,” Stuart told us. “I made it for myself for my own design work but designers have really responded to it.”
“I spent a long time getting the R and S right. Those are signature to the face,” he noted. It’s this absolute attention to detail that has made Stuart Sandler and Font Diner a premier source for vintage-themed type designs.
“The first time I’m actually typing with a font I’ve created is always a thrill,” Stuart observed. “It has at that point become elevated! It’s no longer a collection of letters, numbers and symbols, but rather comes alive!” This visceral elation is positively contagious through the letterforms of Turnpike, every straight line and curve reminiscent of a long highway drive to some unknown but exciting destination.
Stuart is continually working on new lettersets, including an inline version called Turnpike Biway. He has some amazing stuff in the works that he’s really excited to release soon, so if you love Turnpike and vintage typography as much as we do, you won’t want to miss the rest of Font Diner’s portfolio on YouWorkForThem!
*Quotes from this Creative Characters interview were provided by Stuart Sandler and contributed to this article.