Who’s Who in Graphic Design: Robert Slimbach!

American Type designer Robert Slimbach was born in Evanston, Illinois, and grew up in the area of Southern California. Although he is now a known designer, he surprisingly attended University of California Los Angeles on an athletic scholarship for gymnastics. He later discovered the love he had for design and typography, and worked to run a small print screenprinting shop that manufactured goods such as greeting cards, posters, and other products. Working here led to him landing a position to work with Autologic Inc, a company located in Newbury Park, California. Here he gained valuable experience as a type designer as well as in the area of calligraphy. For two years Slimbach did freelance work, and during this time he developed ITC Slimbach and ITC Giovanni, two typefaces that were used by the International Typeface Corporation. During this period, however, Slimbach was not really making much of a stable or sufficient income.

In 1987, Robert Slimbach started his journey of working with Adobe Systems! He has since had a primary focus of creating typefaces for digital media. Some of his earliest works at Adobe include the Utopia, Adobe Garamond, Minion and Poetica font families. Slimbach has received numerous awards and accolades for his design works. In 1991, he was awarded the Prix Charles Peignot from the Association Typographique Internationale for his excellence in typography design, as well as the SoTA Typography Award, and various TDC2 awards. 

Today, Slimbach is the director of Adobe’s type design program. He has designed various “Adobe Originals” typefaces, such as: Acumin, Arno, Brioso, Caflisch Script, Cronos, Garamond Premier, Adobe Jenson, Kepler, Sanvito, Adobe Text, Warnock, Myriad (which he designed in collaboration with designer Carol Twombly), Myriad Arabic, Myriad Hebrew, and Adobe Clean (Adobe’s current corporate typeface). Since the year 2000, the rate at which Slimbach (and therefore Adobe) have been producing new fonts has somewhat slowed down. Nowadays a typical new Slimbach work has somewhere around 1500-3000 glyphs. Before, it would have been somewhere closer to about 200-500 glyphs (characters). A signature of Slimbach’s designs is his frequent usage of a “Th” ligature. This is when the spacing between these two letters is reduced, increasing the level of legibility. In addition to design, Slimbach has done some personal photography work as well. In these works, unlike in his more technical typefaces, he explores the weaknesses and peculiar behaviors of human beings.

Robert Slimbach has actually designed some of the most commonly used book fonts, such as the well known Garamond. Slimbach’s work is prolific and widely known/used by designers around the world. Many of his fonts are ones my friends and I actually have downloaded on our devices through Adobe Fonts and have used for many design projects! When reviewing his work, book designer Joel Friedlander said “No one over that time influenced my work as much as Robert Slimbach. His type designs had such elegance and economy, without sacrificing an individual character, that they instantly became favorites, and have been ever since.” I think this really speaks to the versatility and impact of Slimbach’s design work, as he has positively affected the works of various individuals that get to use his typefaces!


3 Typefaces for Books from Adobe’s Robert Slimbach