$20 Million Font War Ends With a Truce

Tobias Frere-Jones, left, and Jonathan Hoefler Photograph by Kathy Willens/AP Photo

Two of the country’s most prominent typographers have settled the legal dispute over their broken partnership.

Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, whose firm was best known for the iconic font Gotham, put out a joint statement late Thursday saying that they have settled their ugly lawsuit. To recap: Frere-Jones accused Hoefler of conning him into believing they were business partners then claiming that, legally, Frere-Jones was Hoefler’s employee. The dispute transcended the design world in part because Hoefler and Frere-Jones designed the typeface made ubiquitous by Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and had their work canonized in the Museum of Modern Art.

In 2008, Barack Obama’s team chose Gotham as the official typeface of the campaign and used it to spell out the word HOPE on its iconic posters

Photograph by Charlie Neibergall/AP

Frere-Jones had asked Hoefler for $20 million, which he calculated to be his fair share of the business. Terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed, and a statement released on Thursday isn’t very revealing. What we do know is that both sides had an incentive to put this behind them. Hoefler has been fighting reputational damage that accompanied charges that he cheated a business associate and close friend. And Frere-Jones, who had signed a noncompete agreement with Hoefler’s firm, was eager to start his own firm but reluctant to do so with the lawsuit hanging over his head. ”I’m glad we’ve resolved our disagreement,” he said. “I’m eager to return to design work and to launch my own type design practice in the new year.”