When he was two years old, Tim Donaldson amazed his parents by being able to name each of the ships that passed by his home on the Manchester Ship Canal, near Manchester, England. “Apparently I had memorized the peculiarities of each ship’s mast, which was all I could see,” he recalls, “and linked these to the ship’s name.” Donaldson believes this heightened awareness of minute details has served him well in the world of typography.
By late adolescence, Donaldson’s knack for things nautical had given way to an obsession with handwriting. He spent countless hours experimenting with different writing tools and materials, which led to his first career, as a sign painter. (Donaldson notes that, at various times, he has also earned a living as a window cleaner and by “selling junk” in market stalls.)
Donaldson’s desire to create more-detailed lettering, along with encouragement from exotically-named mentors like Gunnlaugur SE Briem (the Icelandic type designer), Villu Toots (famed Lithuanian calligrapher), Werner Schneider and Hermann Zapf (both noted German type designers), propelled him into a second career: as an award-winning typeface designer.
Donaldson is currently expanding his design studio interests to include book-jacket design and animating his imagery, typography and calligraphy in collaboration with modern classical composers. He teaches graphic design and multimedia at Stafford College, in England. And, like other exceptional type designers, including Frederic Goudy and W. A. Dwiggins, Donaldson is a lover of cats. Rumor has it that he has even named a typeface or two after his feline friends.
ITC released its first Donaldson typeface in the early 1990s. In the years since, Donaldson has added more than two-dozen faces and families to the ITC typeface library. From the exceptionally versatile ITC Humana family, to the slightly scary Orange and Spooky, to the affable Jellybaby, the range of Donaldson’s work is broad and deep enough to sail a ship through.