Buy Fonts Save Lives

The fundraising initiative whereby type designers are helping to save lives in the fight against cancer was inspired by Paul Harpin’s harrowing personal experience, as he explains here

LAURA, created by Paul Harpin in memory of his niece and available from Buy Fonts Save Lives

My niece had died of cancer. I run. The next day, I cried while I ran – I knew I had to do something, anything, to help stem this dreadful disease. What could a graphic designer do? I started to draw a typeface in her memory, the font LAURA. I’d never done this before. It took me about four hundred hours, I was hopeless, and I stupidly did twelve weights, four styles, with italics for each. I’d bought Fontographer, but I really needed FontLab. I didn’t look at any other designer’s typefaces, I just drew a sans serif from my memory of using many Grots, initially cutting the letters with a scalpel and then tracing and making vectors in Illustrator. 12,288 drawings. Mistake by mistake I got there.

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Buy Fonts Save Lives sells typefaces to raise money to support Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support. All proceeds go to the charities.

Help came from Paul Hickson, who I’d always used for type design. Paul helped me clean it all up and he used his great skill in the dark arts – with all the details, the kerning pairs and the metrics. He showed me how to create a waterfall diagram and I saw that I needed to widen the Ws and the Vs. He said the colour was good. I was pleased. The hinting, a thing I’d never heard of, was done by the extremely helpful Joe Graham at Typespec. He said if I drew 96 more glyphs, with his copy of FontLab he could make it pan-European. I did another 96 drawings. Joe distributes our fonts for free. He is really my partner in this. He’d had two brothers. One had sadly died of a brain tumour aged just 34.

 

MFRED by Matt Willey and donated by him for sale on Buy Fonts Save Lives
MFRED by Matt Willey and donated by him for sale on Buy Fonts Save Lives

 

My best idea – I phoned Matt Willey

Frankly, Matt Willey’s typefaces outsell mine by about a hundred to one. They’re simply better. I asked him to donate his wonderful headline font MFRED, not knowing that his father had also died of cancer. He agreed instantly. Matt’s the most talented editorial designer working today. He has the knack. He donated a second font called TIMMONS NY which he’d used in the New York Times magazine.

 

Timmons NY by Matt Willey, donated by him to Buy Fonts Save Lives where it is available for purchase
Timmons NY designed by Matt Willey, donated by him to Buy Fonts Save Lives where it is available for purchase

 

Further contributions to the cause came from G-Type’s Nick Cooke – donating 4 styles of his excellent Organon typeface – and… former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine, the owner at my former employers Haymarket. We’d created an elegant serif face for his 75th birthday and added italics for his 80th so that this keen gardener could typeset his Latin plant names.

 

Organon, donated to Buy Fonts Save Lives by G-Type’s Nick Cooke
Organon, donated to Buy Fonts Save Lives by G-Type’s Nick Cooke

 

The Heseltine typeface family was originally produced as a gift from Haymarket Media Group to Lord Heseltine for his 75th birthday. Kindly donated by Lord Hesletine to the BuyFontsSaveLives campaign, the typeface was designed by Paul and Pat Hickson
The Heseltine typeface family was originally produced as a gift from Haymarket Media Group to Lord Heseltine for his 75th birthday. Kindly donated by Lord Hesletine to the BuyFontsSaveLives campaign, the typeface was designed by Paul and Pat Hickson

 

My idea, Joe and Paul’s hard work and Matt’s talent and reputation is what makes BuyFontsSaveLives work. So far we have raised over £20,000 for Cancer Research & MacMillan Cancer Support. Every graphic designer in the world needs to own one of these fonts. They are only £20. Go to www.buyfontssavelives.com.

As I have always said — you don’t have to like my font LAURA, but please buy it, or buy one of the other brilliant fonts on our site. Thanks to every purchaser and thanks to MacMillan and Cancer Research for caring.

Paul Harpin was previously creative director at Haymarket, BBC Redwood, Centaur and SPH magazines in Singapore and is founder of the Editorial Design Organisation

The February issue of CR includes a full-page ad for Buy Fonts Save Lives, donated by CR
The February issue of CR includes a full-page ad for Buy Fonts Save Lives, donated by CR