Akira Kobayashi.
Creative Type Director.

In his words.

It’s important to remember that letters do not stand by themselves; they have to work together to form words. When they do not satisfy me, I change letterforms rather freely.

Creative Type Director Akira Kobayashi has nearly four decades of experience and an extensive background in Japanese typeface design and is a 2022 TDC Medal and Keinosuke Sato Award winner. After studying at Musashino Art University in Tokyo for four years, Akira Kobayashi accepted his first job at phototypesetting manufacturer Sha-Ken Co., where he was involved in the lengthy and intricate process of designing Japanese fonts.

After leaving this role he studied calligraphy at the London College of Printing. Akira worked at Jiyu-kobo Ltd. and Japan TypeBank Co., Ltd. before becoming a freelance type designer. In 2002 Kobayashi released Optima Nova – a modernization of Hermann Zapf’s Optima design – and in 2009 he partnered with Adrian Frutiger to update his eponymous typeface family. Most recently in 2022, Akira directed the development of Shorai Sans, after designing Tazugane Gothic, Monotype’s first original Japanese typeface in 2017.

Over the course of his career, Akira has designed more than 50 font families including DIN Next, Akko Pro and Neue Frutiger, and worked with major brands including Sony, UBS and Panasonic.

Akira has worked on custom type for Alibaba, Bridgestone, Garena, Mazda, Mercari, and English and Japanese families for Sony. 

Additional designs by Akira include FF Acanthus, Akko, Calcite Pro, FF Clifford, Conrad, Cosmiqua, Eurostile Candy, ITC Japanese Garden, TX Lithium, ITC Luna, ITC Magnifico, ITC Scarborough, ITC Seven Treasures, ITC Silvermoon, Skid Row, ITC Vineyard, and ITC Woodland. Akira also designed Eurostile Next, Tazugane Gothic Info and Trade Gothic Next, coauthored with the Monotype Studio. In addition to Neue Frutiger, Akira worked with Adrian Frutiger to design Avenir Next, Frutiger Capitalis and Nami. He co-designed Diotima Classic with Gudrun Zapf von Hesse; and Optima Nova, Palatino Nova, Palatino Sans, Virtuosa Classic, and  Zapfino Extra with Hermann Zapf. 

Akira has won a number of prestigious awards, including the 2022 Type Directors Club Medal, a Keinosuke Sato Award, Red Dot, Good Design Award, Japan Typography Annual 2023 Best Work award, all for his work on Shorai Sans. 

Aside from designing, Akira keeps busy. He serves as a juror for Red Dot, the Tokyo Type Directors Club, Japan Sign Design Association and is a lifetime member of the TDC. 

Akira also serves as a visiting professor at Tama Art University (Japan) and is an honorary visiting professor at Kanazawa College of Art (Japan). He also does educational outreach at the following universities: Central Academy of Fine Arts (PRC), Donghua University (PRC), Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Hong Kong), International School Communication Design, Beijing Normal University (PRC), Kanazawa College of Art (Japan), Kyoto Institute of Technology (Japan), Macao Polytechnic Institute (Macao), Musashino Art University (Japan), National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (Taiwan), and Shanghai Institute of Visual Art (PRC).

Studio releases.

Akira Kobayashi

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