Mike Parker Passes Away At Age 84

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News | Yves Peters | February 25, 2014

It has been a dark weekend for the type world. The sudden and unexpected death at age 45 of Peter Bruhn of Fountain last Friday night, February 21, sent ripples of shock and disbelief through the type community. We were still mourning our colleague and friend when news reached us Monday night that Mike Parker, consultant, type historian and type designer at Font Bureau, too had passed away. Both deaths have a significant impact on our community, for different reasons. For Mike Parker, it is because we lost one of the greats in our industry, or as his ex-wife turned caregiver Sibyl Masquelier described him: a Font God, “the man responsible for both over 1100 fonts including Helvetica and the development of Pages Software.” Masquelier also penned the Wikipedia entry he more than deserves.


Mike Parker from Type Directors Club on Vimeo.

The TDC website beautifully captures Mike Parker’s stellar achievements in one single paragraph, published at the occasion of Parker receiving the 2011 TDC Medal.

For more than 50 years, print historian and industry leader Mike Parker has been shepherding the development of typography: from hot metal, to photocomposition, to digital. As Director of Typography for Mergenthaler Linotype, he managed the production of more than a thousand typefaces. In 1981, he and Matthew Carter co-founded Bitstream, the first all-digital type company. And in 2000, Parker joined David Berlow and Roger Black at the Font Bureau as a consultant, type historian, and type designer. In 2009, he released Starling, a new typeface series based on the 1904 proto-Times Roman designs of Starling Burgess.

The video above was produced for that same occasion, and compiled from an interview conducted by Nick Sherman. On his Cyrumblr Cyrus Highsmith posted his recollections of working with Mike, a text he originally presented at the TDC Medal ceremony.


Mike Parker by Cyrus Highsmith

One year later Mike Parker also won the 2012 SOTA Typography Award. The jury reported:

Parker’s knowledge, passion, infectious enthusiasm, and incredible impact on the type industry were just some of the factors in making him the jury’s unanimous choice to receive SOTA’s 10th annual Typography Award.

I only met Mike Parker a few times, and it was always a blast. The first time at TypeCon2005 in NYC he joined us for an impromptu hotel room party. Even though he was at least twice the age of anyone else in the room, he stayed up until 3am telling some of the best stories about the type business and beyond I have ever heard. His interview for Helvetica – The Movie merely hints at his formidable knowledge, enthusiasm and wit, and that constant twinkle in his eye was extremely infectious. The type world has lost one of its giants.

In his reply to my e-mail yesterday Cyrus wrote this comforting thought:

Mike made a big impression on everyone he met. His son Harry told me that Mike felt he lived life to its fullest and had no regrets.

And this is how it should be.

Header image: Mike Parker at TypeCon2008 Punkt in Buffalo, NY
Photo © Eben Sorkin

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2 Comments:

  1. Pretty much say I use Helvetica everyday. Simple, beautiful and effective.

    Posted by Crooks on Feb. 27, 2014
  2. Mike, thanks for your work

    Posted by Designer on Feb. 27, 2014

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