TYPE DESIGN INFORMATION PAGE last updated on Thu Nov 23 14:12:53 EST 2023






Digital Typeface Corp (or: DTC)

This early digital type foundry managed by Jon Stern was based on 7156 Shady Oak Rd in Eden Prairie, MN, and was active from the late 1980s until 1991. Other related companies or company names include ColorSpan and Lasermaster. The quote below is from an ex-employee.

The original DTC was not truly a type foundry, but rather a division of LaserMaster Corporation based in Eden Prairie, MN. LaserMaster was started in 1985 by Mel Masters (Melvin Newsom) and Lawrence Lukis (the tech guy) whose mission was to bring true WYSIWYG technology to the computer world. Their product was a circuit board that was inserted into the computer's existing system along with a laser printer that housed the same technology. It allowed the computer to accurately display, in high resolution (not bitmapped as the computers of the time), and output equally well. To ensure that the hardware performed as promised, they started with a package of 35 fonts including what they considered essentials such as Avant Garde and Goudy (see attached pdf).

While the technology worked as promised, the fonts they bundled with it were not quality. They were purchasing all of their raw data from URW, and originally, they did nothing to improve or enhance them aside from improving their onscreen appearance with a proprietary PC program built to alter only the bitmapped portion of the two-part postscript fonts of the day. It allowed custom bitmapping and hinting of the typefaces, but did nothing to the font's outlines or metrics (spacing/kerning). As such, when included in a review of typeface manufacturers, they received a very poor rating.

They realized if the fonts were to be a major selling point of their product, it would benefit them to create a team of typographers. DTC was established in the late 80s, but still lacked dedicated supervision and quality control. I was the one hired as Senior Typeface Designer in early 1990. They had just released their first 100 font package and were working on the second. My primary job responsibilities included the design of missing characters (all of the fonts had to have a full 256-glyph complement) and quality control. I spent literally hours upon hours scanning through print outs of each font at varying sizes printed by different manufacturer's printers, pointing out inconsistencies and calling for spacing/kerning adjustments. This lead to the developments of some rules for quality outlines that all designers employed there were required to follow.

We produced the second 100-font set and were getting ready to decide on what was to be contained in the next set when a major shift in the industry happened, the development of TrueType. To help use make the transition into producing fonts in this new format, they brought in one of the designers from Bitstream (Adobe and Bitstream were the major players of the day) to teach us what was different about the process and how it is rendered and how to produce quality TrueType fonts.

As training was going on, we received a request for a large 1000-font package from a software manufacturer that wanted to include a hand-picked set of fonts to be bundled with their software. We were never told who the client was, as the software was still in the development phase, but we worked diligently to finish the package within their specified timeframe. Shortly after we completed the project in mid-1991, we were informed that LaserMaster was dissolving DTC. With the advent of TrueType, their dedicated boards and technology were no longer required to get WYSIWYG performance. Sales were declining rapidly and the company made a huge shift into the large format printer field abandoning the type division completely.

I am not certain how or when ProFonts obtained the DTC fonts, but I suspect the URW relationship had something to do with it, since ProFonts has a strong relationship to URW. As far as I know, there was absolutely no connection between DTC in the US and DTC in Hungary.

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Extinct 20th century foundries ⦿ Type scene in Minnesota ⦿

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