Cyrus Highsmith receives the 2015 Gerrit Noordzij Prize

5 February 2015

This year the Gerrit Noordzij Prize is being awarded to the American font designer, Cyrus Highsmith.

The prize is an international award for typography and font design that is given to a successful designer once every three years. The Gerrit Noordzij Prize is jointly organised by the Royal Academy of Art, Museum Meermanno and the Dr P.A. Tiele Foundation.

Cyrus Highsmith

Cyrus Highsmith (born 1973, Providence, Rhode Island, the US) works for the renowned American type foundry, Font Bureau. He also teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design and publishes in numerous media and blogs. His fonts are used the world over; he has developed fonts for Rolling Stone MagazineMen’s Health and The Wall Street Journal, for example, and he has written a much-used introduction to typography, Inside Paragraphs: Typographic Fundamentals.

According to the jury report: “With this prize, the jury expresses its appreciation for the high level of Highsmith’s typographic qualities and the way in which he manages to share these with the public. He moves with ease between complex and elementary parts of the discipline. His style is recognisable and original; whether he is working on a font or a large publication, on a children’s book or on an educational text, Highsmith uses the same sharp pen everywhere.” 

Read the full jury report below.

Cyrus Highsmith will be awarded the prize on Friday 6 March 2015 at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) by the 2012 laureate, Karel Martens. After the award ceremony, an exhibition on the work of Karel Martens, the laureate of 2012, will be opened. This exhibition will be on view at the KABK between 6 March and 3 April. A publication (Roma Publications) is being issued to accompany the exhibition. On Saturday 7 March 2015, the Gerrit Noordzij seminar will be held at the KABK for students and other interested parties, at which the work of Karel Martens will be discussed by a number of colleagues from the discipline.

Museum Meermanno | House of the Book will be devoting a small presentation to the work of the laureate Cyrus Highsmith between 6 March and 3 April.

On the day before the presentation of the Gerrit Noordzij Prize, the international Robothon congress will be held. This three-yearly conference on font design and technology is being organised by two associate professors in Type & Media from the KABK, Erik van Blokland and Paul van der Laan.

The Gerrit Noordzij Prize is an initiative of the Master’s programme in Type & Media at the KABK. It is organised in collaboration with Museum Meermanno| House of the Book in The Hague, under the auspices of the Dr P.A. Tiele Foundation. The prize is awarded once every three years. Following the example of the font designer Gerrit Noordzij, the winner is someone who has distinguished themselves in the following three areas: font design, teaching and publications. 

The Gerrit Noordzij prize has been awarded in turn to Gerrit Noordzij, Fred Smeijers, Erik Spiekermann, Tobias Frere-Jones, Wim Crouwel and Karel Martens.

The jury consisted of: Els van Eijck van Heslinga (chair), chair of the Dr P.A. Tiele Foundation, Marieke Schoenmakers, director of the KABK, Rickey Tax, Head of Collection Management at Museum Meermanno, Jan Willem Stas (KABK) and Erik van Blokland (secretary), associate professors in Type & Media at the KABK.

The prize consists of an exhibition, a publication and a seminar to share the background to the discipline with students and colleagues.

The 2015 award ceremony and exhibition are supported by the Creative Industries Fund NL, the J.E. Jurriaanse Foundation and the Frederik Mullerfonds Foundation. 

Every three years, the Gerrit Noordzij Prize is awarded to a typographer, type designer or graphic designer. The prize is given to a person who combines practice in type design and typography with teaching and research. While there are awards for excellence in each of these qualities individually, the Gerrit Noordzij Prize focuses on the combination of the three, allowing these disciplines to influence and challenge each other.

The Gerrit Noordzij Prize 2015 has been awarded to Cyrus Highsmith (born 1973, Providence, Rhode Island), who is a type designer, teacher, lecturer and writer. His work for Font Bureau is diverse and the list of his achievements is long. It includes workhorse typefaces for publications and corporations, but also whimsical designs that reveal humour and skill. Highsmith is a senior critic at the graphic design department of the Rhode Island School of Design.

Highsmith’s book, Inside Paragraphs, Typographic Fundamentals, initially written and drawn for his students, now reaches a global audience with editions in French, Spanish and Japanese. The book exposes the fundamental problems in typography, the white in the letters, between the letters and the lines. The illustrations are just as important as the text and the ideas.

His style, both in drawing and type, is original and immediately recognizable. His sketchbooks, which are often just in black and white, document his fascination with contrast and form. Even a casual sketch is a study in contrast. Gerrit Noordzij has remarked that, “In every drawing I see how he balances white and black.”