The Many Faces of Mr. Keedy

By Coupland, Ken | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, May 1, 1996 | Go to article overview

The Many Faces of Mr. Keedy

Coupland, Ken, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management

With a wink and a nudge, Jeffery Keedy's digital typefaces twit the type establishment's traditions. But to hear him tell it, it's Keedy who's the real keeper of the typographic flame.

Jeffery Keedy--Mr. Keedy to you--designs type that makes the tastemakers of typographic design mighty uncomfortable. The experimental fonts of the I maverick Mr. Keedy are calculated exercises that jar our expectations about what "good" type is and how it should behave. Although rooted in traditional type forms, his iconoclastic approach to type is definitely working on some people's nerves: One respected design commentator called Keedy's Lushus font "taking vernacular to the point of stupidity."

Keedy dismisses such criticisms; he,d rather argue for the need for more experimentation. Besides, his bastardized type families are turning up all over the place these days--from magazine layouts and broadcast graphics to gas-station signage. He's probably best known for Keedy Sans, which borrows freely--very freely--from prim Helvetica. "Old typefaces have been used up in endless rehashes," he says. "If you,re going to do new typography, you need new type."

And, he adds, "You have to understand that typefaces we consider classics today looked just as strange when they made their appearance as Keedy Sans seems to people today. When Baskerville first came out, for example, they said you,d go blind from reading it."

The historical reference is to the point, since typical Keedy designs are based on some common typefaces familiar to everyone. "People will say I'm all kinds of wacky things, but I see myself as an experimental type designer in the tradition of Americans like Dwiggins, Goudy and Cooper," Keedy says. "And traditionally, you build on the shoulders of giants."

Back to the future

He prefers to be called Mr. Keedy because, as he once stated in an interview in the graphic design magazine, Emigre, "`I like the fact that ,Mr., is about formality and respect, while also having a cheesy commercial connotation about it--like Mr. Clean, Mr. Frosty, etc. and the teacher thing, Mr. Chips. The ,Mr., designation is a really loaded signifier in our culture."

Keedy, who is 38, was born in Battle Creek, Michigan, came of age in Arizona, and worked in Boston and Hawaii before finally settling in Los Angeles. Along the way, he put in time at various agencies and design studios, even working in television graphics. "I wanted to go out and work before I got into teaching," recalls Keedy, who has taught at California State Institute of the Arts (CAL Arts) in Valencia since 1985.

Keedy first emerged into prominence as a type designer with his work for Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), an experimental arts organization for which he designed monthly calendars, announcements and invitations. The eponymous Keedy Sans, which mixes echoes of Futura and other early 20th-century sans serifs with his signature wry misstatements of classic type elements, figured prominently in LACE publications of that time.

In fact, Keedy Sans wasn't the first digital typeface he designed; it was preceded by Neo Theo, a minimalist font that paid homage to the style of the Dutch modernist graphic designer Theo van Doesburg. Neo Theo surfaced about the same time that British designer Neville Brody's Industria family was attracting attention. "That sort of look was hot then; basically, it was the easiest kind of type to draw," Keedy notes. "We were all working with the early version of Fontographer, which was pretty crude."

Keedy Sans, initially distributed by Sacramento, California-based Emigre, Inc., reflected further improvements in Fontographer. "It was a bit more sophisticated in terms of forms and ideas," Keedy recalls. Every inch the type designer of the nineties, Keedy today sells his fonts exclusively online.

Keedy Sans was followed by Hard Times, the designer's witty reworking of venerable Times Roman; and Skelter, loosely based on Franklin Gothic, followed soon after. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Many Faces of Mr. Keedy


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.