Illustrator Memories from CJ Dunn

Thanks to CJ Dunn of CJ Type, a Type Network foundry partner, for sharing memories of Illustrator. Check out the rest of the series here.

What is your earliest memory of using Adobe Illustrator?
I remember using Illustrator 5 when I was in high school. Photoshop still didn’t have layers, but Illustrator did! At first I didn’t fully grasp the vector versus pixel distinction—but eventually, when someone showed me how the pathfinder could add and subtract shapes, I was completely hooked.

How did Illustrator impact your career path as a type designer?
I first tried making a vector alphabet in Illustrator. This was mainly done by starting with a circle and using pathfinder subtract until I got the letter shape I wanted—a very crude process. But it was the ’90s and it seemed cool to make fonts like that.

Later, while working as a graphic designer, I honed my vector drawing skills with the pen tool in Illustrator. This was a crucial skill for starting to learn type design.

How did your relationship to Illustrator change over the years?
Early on, I was very interested in effects. As time goes on, though, I use those very sparingly. The tools I use change depending on the project I’m working on; I often find new useful functionality in Illustrator, even after using the application for over twenty years. At one point, when I was designing graphics for apparel, I learned all about making repeating patterns and using rasterized swatches layered with vector shapes and transparencies, and all of this fun stuff I had no idea about previously.

How do you use Illustrator in your work today?
I design my typefaces in RoboFont, but sometimes Illustrator is handy for lettering projects. I recently did some lettering for a store based on an old hand-painted sign from their archives. Illustrator was great for doing a quick trace of the sign from a photo. And occasionally I’ll make graphics for screen printing with color separations, which is easy to do in Illustrator.

What do you think Illustrator’s biggest type-related legacy has been?
Sumner Stone told me about how the first PostScript fonts were made in a proprietary Adobe application based on Illustrator, and I think that’s a really big deal. It’s also a gateway into vector drawing for most designers, and that’s a crucial skill for type design.

Anything else to add?
I’m hopeful that your collaboration with the Adobe Typography Customer Advisory Board will keep improving the typographic features in Illustrator because I think all kinds of design need good typography, not just multipage documents in InDesign. I can see that Photoshop now supports named stylistic sets, which is great, though Illustrator unfortunately doesn’t have this yet (even the 2017 version). But I hope that more work will go into this area so that our users can access all of the OpenType features that we type designers work so hard to include in our fonts.

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Meghan Arnold

Meghan Arnold

Community engagement at Typekit. Former TYPO San Francisco conference director. Probably taking photos of signs or San Francisco sunsets. Will one day write about her adventures.