David Berlow credits his life-long interest in type to a combination of psychology, technology, history and the arts. The fact that type is a universal requirement for communications and has life after life as each stylistic and technical age goes by, makes it endlessly fascinating to me, Berlow says.
Born in Boston in 1954, Berlow moved to Wisconsin a year later. He majored in fine arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Although he didnt have any formal training in drawing letters, exposure to letterpress in school sparked his interest in type.
Berlow's career in the graphic arts began while he was still at the University of Wisconsin. I was a fine arts major and a friend approached me to draw a logo. I guess he figured ‘drawing was drawing. The logo was for a local travel agency, and what I drew turned out to be completely typographic. Berlow had seemed to become hooked on type from that point on, but this was not the case.
The logo project did, however, open Berlows eyes to the world of graphic design. After graduation, he moved to New York and took a job in an advertising agency. It lasted two months. I learned pretty quickly that the New York agency scene wasn't for me, he recalls. I just couldnt fit in with the structure. I probably also had authority issues. Berlow knew he had to put together a plan. I figured Id spend a few years drawing letters, a few years learning photo editing and then work as the art director for a music magazine like Rolling Stone or SPIN.
Berlow applied for work at a number of places, including Marvel Comics, a diploma factory and the newly opened drawing office of Mergenthaler Linotype. Linotype made the first offer and Berlow took the job. The money wasn't great, he remembers, but the job was fantastic. I discovered you could actually get paid to draw letters all day long. He worked there four years, then left to join several of his colleagues at their newly formed company in Cambridge, the digital type foundry Bitstream Inc.
Berlow left Bitstream in 1989 to found The Font Bureau with Roger Black. The independent foundry and design studio quickly gained a reputation for producing high-quality classic types and outspoken but perfectly constructed display faces.
Although known for having a quirky sense of humor, Berlow is attracted to the classics. His retail types at Font Bureau include the sensitive Californian Goudy revival and the Bureau Grotesque type family, an interpretation of the English nineteenth century sans thats seen in newspapers and magazines worldwide. Other Berlow faces range from the silent film title stylings of the Meyer Two family to the powerful voice of Rhode® typeface, a Figgins-inspired elephantine grotesque design.