John Downer (sign painter)

John Downer (born 1951) is an American sign painter, typeface and logo designer.[1][2] Downer began his career as a painter of signs.[3][4][5] Among his best-known digital fonts are Iowan Old Style, Roxy, Triplex Italic, and Brothers.[6][7][8]

John Downer
Tacoma, Wa
OccupationTypeface Designer, Logo Designer, Sign Painter
Years active1969-present

Downer studied at Washington State University and the University of Iowa.[9][10][11] His work was featured amongst that of others in the 2014 documentary Sign Painters.[12][13][14] He has lectured on type and sign design at conferences and at The Cooper Union.[15]

Typeface designs

  • Iowan Old Style - Venetian old-style serif
  • Roxy (Font Bureau) - stroke-modulated sans-serif
  • Triplex Italic (Emigre)
  • Brothers (Emigre) - chamfered display wedge-serif influenced by nineteenth-century lettering[16]
  • Paperback (House Industries) - text serif face with optical sizes
  • SamSans - humanist sans-serif
  • Vendetta (Emigre) - inspired by old-style Venetian serif fonts but with sharpened serifs
  • Council (Emigre) - condensed display wedge-serif, capitals-only
  • Ironmonger (Font Bureau) - angular all-caps display alphabet inspired by lettering on buildings
  • Simona (Design Lab) - serif, similar to the work of Fournier and Bodoni

Proprietary typefaces

  • Gonnick [for cartoonist Larry Gonnick]
  • Screenmax (bitmap serif typefaces at 7 pixel x-height in Roman, Italic, Bold and Black)


  1. Downer, John. "The Art of Founding Type". Emigre. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  2. "A sign painter at work". Kombinat. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  3. Hoefler, Jonathan. "John Downer at The Propagandist". Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  4. "Défense D'Af: Faux Ghostsign from John Downer". Ghost Signs (blog). Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  5. Hansford, Vanessa. "Sign Painter, John Downer". The Simple Things. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  6. Butterick, Matthew. "Iowan Old Style". Typography for Lawyers. Archived from the original on January 16, 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  7. Berry, John. "An American Typeface Comes of Age". dot creative. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
  8. Downer, John. "Call It What It Is". Emigre. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  9. "Alastair Johnston interviews John Downer" (PDF). Alastair Johnston. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  10. Thomas, Shelbi. "The Iowan Type". Iowa Alumni Magazine. University of Iowa Alumni Association. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  11. Peters, Yyves. "An Exhibition of Hand Lettered Posters by John Downer". FontFeed. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  12. Peters, Yyves. "Sign Painters Movie Explores Contemporary Sign Painting". Font Feed. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  13. Uuong, An. "Sign Painters: a Sign of the Times". Artscope. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  14. Davies, Bree. "Sign Painters Shines A Colorful Light on the History of a Hidden Craft". Westword. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  15. "Introduction to Sign Painting". Cooper Union. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  16. Heck, Bethany. "Brothers review". Font Review Journal. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
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