Digital Typography at Stanford

Steven McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article investigates the short lived digital typography graduate program formed between Stanford University's Departments of Art and Computer Science, which began in 1982 and ended in 1988. The program leveraged the design skills of typographer Charles Bigelow with the software mastery of computer scientist and mathematician Donald Knuth. Besides educating graduate students who would go on to create numerous typeface designs for Adobe in Silicon Valley, they collaborated on an applied research project for the American Mathematical Society with eminent typographer Hermann Zapf. Bigelow's historicist approach to type design aesthetics in the face of cutting-edge technology and postmodern design—both in his teaching and commercial typeface design—and the lack of interaction between the digital typography program and Stanford's Joint Program in Design (shared between Mechanical Engineering and Art) may have contributed to the demise of digital typography at Stanford University. Still, its influence was wide ranging and impactful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)546-560
Number of pages15
JournalShe Ji
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The AMS initially approached Bigelow in early 1981 about creating a digital version of a font that had been created for phototypesetting. “My estimate of the time and expense required to do this project was judged by the AMS to be in excess of what they were willing to devote to it, and the project was never seriously attempted.” 31 31 A year later Bigelow had an academic appointment at Stanford and a cohort of graduate students to engage with the project. The Euler Project was “supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation and paid for in part by the American Math Society.” 32 32

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Charles Bigelow
  • Design education
  • Design history
  • Digitization
  • Stanford University
  • Typography


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