Akira Kobayashi

Akira Kobayashi began his career as a type designer at Sha-Ken Co., Ltd. in 1983. He went to London in 1989 to study calligraphy and typography. On his return to Japan in 1990, he joined Jiyu-Kobo, Ltd. and worked to design and digitise the Japanese Hiragino Mincho and Hiragino Gothic fonts. From 1993 to 1997, he worked for TypeBank Co., Ltd., where he designed Latin typefaces to accompany the foundry’s digital Japanese fonts. From 1997 to 2001, he worked as a freelance type designer and won numerous international awards for his typefaces.

After completing the design of the Latin alphabet to accompany Type Project Inc.’s Japanese Axis font in 2000, he moved to Germany in 2001 to assume the position of type director at Linotype GmbH (now Monotype GmbH). There, he worked together with the two legendary designers Hermann Zapf and Adrian Frutiger to modernise their earlier type designs. His recent works include directing the development of the Japanese typefaces Tazugane Gothic (released in 2017) and Shorai Sans (2022) by the Monotype Design Studio. He has also authored books on typefaces and served as a juror for prestigious international type design competitions. 

Red Dot: What mistakes do you frequently notice in typography design?
Akira Kobayashi: The meaning of the content of the written language should take precedence while typography should remain in the background. Typography only makes sense if it allows the text to express itself.

What new challenges do you believe lie ahead in the field of typography?
Type design and typography will increasingly be responsible for designing texts in different languages.

What advice would you give young designers for a successful career start?
In typography, it is always important to think of the white space around the letters or punctuation marks. Train yourself not just to focus on the black letters, but also on the white background.

Akira Kobayashi