Legendary Typography Duo is Splitting Up: Frere-Jones is Suing Hoefler

by . January 22nd, 2014

If you haven’t heard the news lately H&FJ or Hoefler & Frere-Jones, respected type foundry around the world just entered into a multi-million dollar legal battle.

The Typography Duo: Tobias Frere-Jones (left) and Jonathan Hoefler (right)

January 17, Frere-Jones, of type-foundry Hoefler and Frere-Jones or H&FJ, enters a multi-million dollar legal battle with his company. Frere-Jones claims that Hoefler had agreed to the idea that he would be become an equal partner of H&FJ. Frere-Jones was working on the promise of 50% ownership of the company. In addition to that, Frere-Jones claimes he was promised the right to some of the typefaces he designed. Among them, Whitney, which he sold to the company back in 2004 for $10.

The Hoefler & Frere-Jones is a type foundry founded by Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones. A company which has produced a handsome collection of 800 fonts, some of which are are designer’s favorites such as Gotham and Whitney. Back in 1999, Frere-Jones joined Hoefler’s company which was then called HTF or Hoefler Type Foundry and then was changed and called H&FJ. The type foundry has worked with a variety famous and high profiled clientele such as Nike, New York Times, Wired, Wall Street Journal and Esquire only to name a few.


Despite not having a legal contract to prove his claim, in Frere-Jones’ is claiming that he had an oral contract with Hoefler and according to an article of the Verge, Frere-Jones is also stating that a public relations release that was commissioned by Hoefler’s wife strengthens his (Frere-Jones) claim. According to Fredric Newman who is Frere-Jones lawyer in an article in Quartz there have been attempts to resolve the issue between Hoefler and Frere-Jones but none work which is why Frere-Jones is pushing for his rights.

While it is sad to learn that, two of the industry best typography think tanks are splitting up. We can learn a thing or two from this event. One biggest take away we  is the importance of contracts. A good signed contract legalizes and sets everything in stone. At the least, it gives one a trail to cover. This is why many strongly advise that any freelancer, regardless of industry, should make use of contracts. Contracts not only puts the specifics on paper; it also helps in safe guarding both parties in the case of future disputes.

Hoefler has yet to comment. His company has released a statement wherein the Hoefler & Frere-Jones or H&FJ is now changing into Hoefler & Co. after Frere-Jones filed a lawsuit. The document also mentions that Frere-Jones statements are allegations against the company.


Patrick Jude Ilagan is a graphic designer/photographer hailing from the vast jungles of urban Manila. Always on the look out for visually appealing stuff he scours the internet and the bustling city in search of inspiration. His tools for mass creation is a Canon 500D along with a wide array of lights and lenses plus a 4 year old (but still fighting) laptop. Check out his work on Tumblr.

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