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An interview with Richard Lipton

In this video interview, Richard Lipton shares advice gleaned from his storied career. From stitching together a self-education in type design to teaching the subject at RISD and from almost becoming a photographer to starting Lipton Letter Design, Richard offers insight from each stage of his life in letters.

On his start in type, Lipton says, “I had a design professor show me some pieces of calligraphy, and I was just floored by it. I had never seen anything quite like it. I asked him how he made that, and he just said ‘Pen, ink, and paper,’ so, I thought maybe I’ll try it.”

On his inspiration: “Every visual artist needs to be very curious about what they see. It helps not to be narrow in your interest. I tend to look at everything: architecture, cars, landscapes. I walk down the street and my brain is on fire.”

His advice for young designers: “I encourage [people] to keep their eyes and their minds open, and to allow things to happen that they might not expect.”

Questions

0:14 — What were your creative interests before calligraphy and type design?

1:29 — Would you have become interested in type design sooner, had fonts been more readily available?

2:57 — What did you do in between graduating and moving to Cambridge?

4:20 — How did the move change your career?

6:18 — Describe your work at Bitstream.

11:06 — Where do you find inspiration?

13:57 — Tell us about striking out on your own.

16:39 — You almost studied photography… What is the story there?

17:53 — How did you start teaching at RISD?

19:18 — What is the core idea behind your approach to teaching?

21:59 — Do you encourage your students to be as eclectic as you in their styles?

23:20 — Have you had any standout students?

24:00 — How does being self-taught influence your teaching?


Richard Lipton

Richard Lipton has been designing letterforms for more than 40 years. His background as a professional calligrapher has always guided his work as a type designer. Despite the somewhat strict parameters within the discipline of type design, he feels there are no creative limits to the craft of letter-making.

Born in New York City, Lipton was raised as a typical postwar baby boomer urban American kid. As he came of age in the late 1960s, he found himself fully participating in the prevalent countercultural anarchy of protest, drugs and rock & roll. Eventually, becoming somewhat tired and wary of New York City’s inner workings, he longed to escape the social chaos and political turmoil that surrounded him. Attending college in peaceful upstate New York provided that chance.

As a studio art major at Harpur College, Lipton was searching for an expressive medium when a design professor dazzled him with a simple but dramatic piece of calligraphy and his fate was sealed. After earning a BA in Design and Photography, Lipton became increasingly interested in type design through his lettering work as a calligrapher, sign painter and graphic designer. He continues to explore the endless nuance of giving expression to our alphabet.