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Ilene Strizver: A Special Type Of Woman

The debates rage: Should you use one space — or two — after a period?

Are free fonts worth it?

And those pesky apostrophes — is the glyph used the same one as for a closed (or right) single quote?

If these questions keep you up at night, Ilene Strizver is your woman.

If they don’t — well, your typography IQ is way low. And Strizver thinks that’s a shame.

Ilene Strizver

From her Westport home, the Queens native has become one of America’s preeminent experts on typography. The Type Studio — headquartered right here — offers workshops, seminars, webinars, consulting and graphic design.

Expert witness testimony too. Strizver once was deposed in a lawsuit against a major credit card company. She testified as to the legibility and readability of the small print in its contract.

The Type Studio teaches technical and aesthetic skills that are rarely taught in design schools — or even fully understood by professionals. Strizver consults with marketers designing ads, packaging and logos; writers writing newsletters; publishers creating book jackets … anyone with any material of any “type” (ho ho).

“I’m anal retentive,” Strizver says. “Those are good qualities for what I do.” She’s also patient, detail-oriented, and has excellent hand-eye coordination. (That last quality was much more important when typesetting was done manually, not on a computer.)

She received excellent training at the School of Visual Arts from Ed Benguiat — “one of the greatest living type designers.” He then hired her at International Typeface Corporation, which designed, licensed and marketed typefaces for computers. Steve Jobs was a client.

The cover of Ilene Strizver’s book. It’s now in its 4th edition.

Strizver was involved in “U&lc (Upper and lower case), ITC’s  magazine showcasing their typefaces in creative ways. She later became ITC’s director of typeface development, where she created more than 300 typefaces. When the company was sold, she started her own.

Strizver has earned renown as an educator, author (“Type Rules!“, a typography guide) and consultant.

“Most people don’t know what I do,” Strizver says. “But type affects everything. It helps you make decisions. You see it everywhere: on book covers, in movie titles and grocery stores. Typefaces have personalities. They communicate messages and moods.”

If you can’t read the instructions on medication, Ilene notes, that’s a typography problem.

Or if you can’t read signs on a store or restaurant, from a distance. Driving around Westport, she sees those issues every day. She’s too polite to name names. But she says the rest of us non-typographers just have to open our eyes. We’ll notice bad typography everywhere.

Aging eyes are a challenge for typographers. Ilene Strizver says the setting on the left is more challenging to read due to the the narrow column width and the typeface’s “short x-height, tight counters, and decorative characters.” The one on the right — with “clean, open characters, generous type size and line spacing” — is easier to read.

Strizver’s mission is to educate designers. “Most of them don’t know what they don’t know,” she says. In other words: They’ve taken plenty of design courses. But they still don’t realize the role type plays in imparting a message about a package, product or catalog.

That was not always true. When type was set by hand, professionals learned on the job. Today, with personal computers, everyone uses fonts and “sets” their own type. But very few of us know what we’re doing.

Even fewer know that help of every “type” is available right here in Westport. We just have to look.

The logo for Ilene Strizver’s company is simple and clean.

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