Know Your Type Designer
Jeroen Van Der Ham ("JoeBob")
JOEBOB graphics, a foundry from `s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, was started by Jeroen Van Der Ham ("JoeBob"), a Dutch illustrator and painter. JOEBOB graphics debuted its first MyFonts font family this year and now has 26 families on MyFonts. As he tells us, "Increasingly bumping into my fonts in unknown and unexpected places has inspired me to create more and better fonts." A popular font on our Best Sellers list, dearJoe 4 is part of the debonair dearJoe series, one of four dearJoe handwritten scripts — but the first with connecting characters, so it looks like real handwriting.
Just released JoeBob fonts include:
- stamPete, a cool grunge poster font that was made with a children's stamp set
- joeHand 3, a clean and straight-up version of the joeHand series of informal scripts
- Hilde CAPS, a 3D all-caps font based on the handwriting of 9-year old Hilde Rikken
We interviewed JoeBob about his background as well as his take on all things typographic.
Do you go by Jeroen or JoeBob? Why "JoeBob"?
I first started using "Joe" when I was a kid writing and drawing on the wall; it contains half of the letters that are in my (Dutch) name "Jeroen," and back then I thought it sounded pretty cool. At a certain point I got tired of writing the same letters over and over again so I added "Bob" to get some extra playroom, and I liked the redneck connotation [of it as] opposed to anything high-brow.... When meeting people from another country I notice they find it hard to pronounce Jeroen, so I started introducing myself as Joe, but here in the Netherlands people call me Jeroen.
JoeBob, please tell us a little about your background and experience.
While studying graphic design at the school of fine arts in ‘s-Hertogenbosch I got interested in vernacular type* which I tried to implement in my designs as much as possible to avoid the use of regular typefaces. I quit after studying there for four years and I started making murals for a living. After a couple of years I regained my interest in graphic design and I found myself a designer job at an interactive-design company, creating interfaces, websites and some illustrations. That’s where I started experimenting with Fontographer. I had always wanted to be able to recreate my own handwriting digitally and so the first fonts I created were attempts to do just that. In 2003 I started working from home, creating portraits in acrylic paint and some illustration work; that was the founding of JOEBOB graphics. Later on I found myself a studio and that’s where I still work today.
* Vernacular type are characters made by someone who has little to [no] knowledge about design. Examples of vernacular type are characters hand painted on the window of a Kebab restaurant, a special offer sign made by a market salesman, or a banner that says "garage sale."
How did you get started in font design?
I started experimenting with font design while working for the interactive design company. I created a couple of fonts... for people to use in their personal projects. (Updated commercial versions of most of them are available now on MyFonts.) Some of them were downloaded a lot and within a couple of months I started bumping into my own fonts in other people's work. I remember I was virtually driving around in a computer game called "Grand Theft Auto Vice City" when I suddenly noticed that a building I drove by... sported my dearJoe II font. That felt just great; I had "tagged" a place that only existed virtually and I didn't even know about it. One day in that same period I put on MTV to watch some music videos and the first one I saw was DJ Tiësto's "Just be" clip, which had my dearJoe font all over the place. I contacted Tiësto's music company to ask for a copy and instead of just sending me that, they ordered two exclusive fonts for him to use on his CDs and website. That was when I realized I could make money creating fonts and so I started doing so.
You’ve released quite a variety of scripts as well as designs inspired by children's handwriting. How do you decide on the kind of typeface design you want to develop?
Next to making the handwriting alphabets that were in my head and hand into fonts, I still get inspired by the earlier mentioned vernacular type that's used everywhere around the town and the way children draw their characters. When trying to recreate that same look-and-feel I sometimes use my left hand (I am right handed) or a crooked pen or marker. I'm also very interested in old-school calligraphy and graffiti and I try to put influences from both into my fonts. The Hilde CAPS font was completely made by my... niece Hilde Rikken, who has a great talent in drawing. I really like the little mistakes she makes in the difference between upper- and lower case and the inconsistencies in her 3D lettering. Someone who's experienced in font design could never recreate those flaws without the result looking forced.
Can you tell us the process you go through in designing a font?
I usually start by drawing the upper case A over and over until I've got a few that look fine. Then I mark the ones that seem best. I continue with the rest of the alphabet and the most common special signs to wind up with a big pile of paper full of characters and signs with only the best of them marked. Then I scan the marked characters at 600 dpi and copy/paste them into Fontographer. There's an auto trace function in Fontographer that I use to create outlines, usually at the highest setting. Then I correct little flaws in the outlines and continue repeating the same steps for every character until I've got a complete set. After that it's time to manually kern every possible pair of glyphs, which is a very time consuming process, but it gives the most natural result....
Your font flags have a unique brand and remind us of the covers of 1950s pulp fiction novels. Can you tell us a little more about the inspiration behind them?
I have always admired those 50's pulp novel covers.... their unfinished/illustrative nature helped me to get some insight in how to set up such a thing myself.... There's no relation to my fonts other than the fact I like their style and colors, which seem to go well with my fonts.
What typeface designs are you working on now? When can we expect to see them at MyFonts?
I'm currently working on two new Hilde fonts; she named them "Hildinia Donut" and "Flutsaus," which should be finished sometime in November. Hildinia Donut is a hand drawn font with upper- and lower case mixed up and a little bite taken out of every character. Flutsaus has serifs that are all over the place, mistakes I could have never thought of myself.
What’s your favorite typeface, and why?
It's hard to name one, but there was an artist called Roger Excoffon who made some unique typefaces for his brother who ran the Olive foundry in France. He made fonts like Banco and Choc which I like a lot and also the cursive Antique Olive Nord is something special. I just noticed there's a page about him on MyFonts: Roger Excoffon. It says something about him "flouting the rules of font creating" that I totally agree with and live by. Another great font that comes to mind is the Skin Deep font by Blambot that I recently bought and have been using a lot lately.
What font do you never, ever want to see used again?
That's an easy one: Comic Sans should be avoided at all cost. And I'm not so fond of Times New Roman either, especially when it's used in children's books. I have created BrunoBook to use instead. ;)
Do you work full-time as a font designer?
I go to my studio three days a week. Next to font design I still create the occasional website and illustration and sometimes people contact me for an odd font-related job.... When I'm not at work I take care of my two sons Bruno (3) and Morris, who was born last August. I think it's a privilege to be able to vary working and spending time with my kids.
Thanks, JoeBob! We look forward to seeing your new typeface designs soon!