FontCast #10 — Jim Parkinson, Part 1

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News | Stephen Coles | March 25, 2010

In FontCast’s search for typographic designers with interesting stories to tell we knew we didn’t have to go far to find Jim Parkinson — he’s just across the water from FontShop San Francisco in Oakland.

Jim is a Bay Area native, returning after a short stint at Hallmark in Kansas City to design the iconic logotype for Rolling Stone during its heyday in the early ’70s. That work led to hundreds of other magazine and newspaper nameplates (Newsweek, Billboard, Esquire, LA Times), band logos, and typeface designs over the next four decades.

At 69, Jim is still going strong, wielding FontLab and paintbrush to create new works of art. We met him at his home studio to talk about letters and life, from the days of beatniks and hippies to his takes on art school and businessmen (AKA “cigar-smoking twits”). This is the first of two parts from our visit. Look for Part Two next week.

Click here to watch the FontCast or simply push play below.

Update: Apr 7, 2010 — Part two of our two part interview with Jim Parkinson can be viewed here: FontCast #11.

FontCast is FontShop’s video podcast featuring the most interesting figures in typography and design. Subscribe in iTunes or watch individual episodes on Vimeo and YouTube.

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  1. Jim is affable and funny and incredibly humble, despite the caliber and profile of his work. It was a joy to spend time in his studio as he casually pulled from his flat files one landmark piece of design history after another. Here is a gallery of shots from our visit. I’ll be adding more soon.
    Jim Parkinson

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Mar. 25, 2010
  2. Excellent interview! Parkinson is one of my favorite type designers. He’s so talented, and a great guy to hang around with. I hadn’t heard a couple of those stories. Looking forward to Part 2.

    Posted by Delve Withrington on Mar. 25, 2010
  3. What joy to see this master at work.
    As someone who has had the honor and pleasure of working with Jim Parkinson over the years, this was a special treat. And, like people of his talent and genius, a humble, wonderful human being that was always ready to listen as we presented a potential project to him. He is a great listener, a fantastic learner, and, for him, each project is uniquely different. He would not draw a first sketch for redrawing the logo of a newspaper or magazine when we collaborated without first asking dozens of questions about the place, the culture, the publication itself. For me, in my 40-year career, working with Jim Parkinson has been a big highlight.

    Posted by Mario Garcia on Mar. 26, 2010
  4. hey, where’d that photo of Zapf come from?

    Posted by Paul D. Hunt on Mar. 26, 2010
  5. The first photo of Zapf came from Wikipedia:
    The second from Paradox3314’s photostream on flickr:
    If anyone has more info on the second photo we’d like to get in contact with the photographer for proper attribution.

    Posted by Chris Hamamoto on Mar. 26, 2010
  6. Incredible video, looking forward to part two! :)

    Posted by steve mehallo on Mar. 27, 2010
  7. The second photo of HZ is from his house in Darmstadt. Well, the back patio, with the backyard behind him. The photo looks quite recent, too. At least from within the past few years.

    Posted by Dan Reynolds on Mar. 27, 2010
  8. I first met Jim in 1952 when his parents bought my grandmother’s house (she had recently passed away). We went through junior and senior high school together and when ever there was a project having to do with anything that was artistic (play, music, skits, decoration) Jim was the man. What Jim would probably not tell you was that he was also vice president of the student body, president of the junior class, president of what we then called “boys clubs” (all we did was drink and raise hell), first place in the talent show, editor of our year book and on and on and on! We got together again last year after many years for our 50th class reunion and have had some good times laughing (and nobody laughs like Jim) about old times. Jim is a cool guy who did it his way and did it successfully

    Posted by barney pierpont on Mar. 29, 2010
  9. That new FontCast preview is sweeeet. B)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Apr. 2, 2010
  10. An old friend rediscovered…what a treat. Best part? He’s turned out as goofy as I am. Although our career paths have taken different paths we have ended up at the same place…controlled, contented’s wonderful. Do I want to see him again; probably not…unless he buys of course. Both of us age 69…makes you wonder doesn’t it. Drugs, sex and rock and roll, it really works. Well, not in my case.

    Posted by Phil Glaiberman on Apr. 20, 2010
  11. Thanks for this interview Stewf & Co.
    I admire Jim mightily.

    Posted by beejay on May. 16, 2010
  12. HI Jim….
    What a pleasure to read this about you and your great success…….of course I always knew you were “the most talented” person…certainly in “our” neighborhood!
    Obviously many others agree!
    All the best…after so many years!
    Cynthia Finch Cohn

    Posted by cynthia finch on Sep. 8, 2010

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