TYPE DESIGN INFORMATION PAGE last updated on Fri Dec 8 19:16:40 EST 2023






Martin Fehle

Born in 1925, died in 2008. Former president of ATypI who was also a board member of a Swiss chocolate company. Unknown to most, he supported many ATypI meetings privately, behind the scenes. I quote a text written by Erich Alb in 2008 which describes part of the history of ATypI:

[...] There was never an official language [at ATypI]. But since it was a Swiss based society/association with international focus it was clear and normal, language would be English, French and German. I have a programm from the Budapest congress 1992 in hand, which is printed both in english and German. - Lectures and the General Meeting in the Annual Congress was mostly in english, and has been simultaniously (!!) translated by Gertraude Benöhr, Secretary for Walter Greisner at Stempel Foundry (she worked later in the Gutenberg-Gesellschaft Mainz for decades). I remember in the 70's, when John Dreyfus organized lectures and speaking in the General Assembly, he did that in english and french himself. This was the same when Martin Fehle (also a former President) organized the Meetings. - During the Paris congress mid 80's we all visited the National Museum, when I was translating infos from the guide simultaneously into English and German.

Big changes came with Type'90, when a huge load of Americans attended the congress, and from then on suddenly english became the "official language". From that year onwards no translations were done anymore. (Occasionally some professsional simultan-translators have been organized like at Rome, but this has cost a fortune).

Sponsoring: It never has been said in public, that prior to Type'90 mostly Type foundries (Haas'sche, Linotype, Agfa et.al) paid/sponsored the congress, and reasonable congress fees were payable by some 100 to 150 attendees. The financer and Board member of a Swiss chocolate company, Mr Fehle, was sponsoring congress' to a large amount from his own pocket, when Foundries closed one after the other. Fehle never wanted people to know that he was helping out, but by being quiet it probably led many guys to think, that the type companies were paying for all of ATypI. Only insiders knew the truth. And that gave a false perspective to the new people taking over ATypI about how the finances were. (BTW: The word "sponsoring" started in late 80's I think, and if one had an idea, he was looking for sponsors first. But earlier we've had an idea and just did it (!), looking afterwards how we maybe could raise some money). Changes came early 90's when the organization needs lots of members to be able to afford fancy conferences. And to get lots of attendees they have to do entertainment ...

Earlier Mr Fehle helped bankroll ATypI for many years. An incredible story. But no one knew it (except the Swiss) and so he was treated very rudely. An embarrassment. - Around Christmas '07 his wife died after many years of illness, and Mr Fehle looked after her for a long time. He is now in bad health himself. I always wanted to see him for an interview re early years in ATYPI, but he was too busy as "nurse". I still feel bad for what happened to him at ATypI. That is the reason I'm not member anymore since a few years. Beside that, I didn't like the fancy conferences (in contrast to the serious ones we've had with 100 engaged attendees). After Fehle's death, Alb wrote this to the type board: Mr. Fehle was a very gentle person. He was a long standing member of the Board for Lindt&Sprüngli chocolate company in his home town Kilchberg/Zürich (Switzerland). With his great know how on finance and organisation he was an important consultant. Furthermore he worked for Haas'sche Schriftgiesserei (Type foundry) for almost 30 years, being responsible for the whole licening business and financial consulting. For about 8 years he was President of ATypI end of 80s to early 1990s. He spoke German/French/English, but his English was a bit funny to listen. American members (many joining because of Type 87 and Type90) did not take him seriously and got a bit suspicious who Fehle was. Martin Fehle had been generously financing ATypI. He organized with his close friend Alfred Hoffmann the congress at Basle which was mainly sponsored by Fehle, but also many congresses have been paid by Martin Fehle - probably not many knew that. He wasn't the man to make a big fuss about his own public relation. Sadly he never was accepted much at ATypI, but his big involvement was for Sprüngli chocolate, Haas'sche, and also for the liberal Party in his home town. At his time for ATypI the organization seemed sclerotic and he got voted out. The old board probably never believed they would be booted out. It was a real shame. I have felt very bad for Martin Fehle. He was a great man, very important for ATypI. I was going to visit him last summer but he was ill. I will miss him - he was one of those great sample of the "old generation".

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Type personalities ⦿ Type design in Switzerland ⦿

Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html