Last week, a titan of typesetting, Monotype Imaging Holdings, was acquired for $825m by the private equity company HGGC.
Monotype — which has cranked out fonts for 132 years now — survived the decline of the typewriter. But now, it must face a challenge of an entirely different type…
Can a typesetter still print money in the age of the emoji?
When Monotype was founded in 1887, it pioneered a new type of printing that used hot sheet metal to create individual letters.
The company typed its own ticket to success, opening a London office and designing iconic fonts like Times New Roman and Perpetua.
But in the 1960s, Monotype was almost written off as the typesetting industry moved away from metal and toward photographic paper.
Then, Monotype was saved by an Arial from above
After a few ugly years, Monotype scored just the kind of all-caps client it needed to turn things around: IBM.
Monotype designed a font called Arial for IBM printers in 1982. Then, it attracted the attention of Microsoft (and, later, Apple).
Soon, as a standard-issue font in Windows and macOS, Arial became one of the most widespread fonts on the planet.
Computer companies helped Monotype reset its margins…
But that didn’t mean things were easy at the font factory.
Over the past few years, Monotype has acquired a string of companies — ranging from marketing firms to e-sticker startups (remember what we said about emojis?!?) — to transition to a more digital future.
Yet Monotype, which has been traded on the Nasdaq as “TYPE,” has steadily lost value over the past 5 years. Now, under private ownership, Monotype has the chance to rearrange its letters without public oversight.
No matter what happens to Monotype, its fonts will endure: As part of a partnership with Google called Noto, Monotype is developing a unified, global font that will cover 800 languages and 100 different alphabets.
Get the 5-minute roundup you’ll actually read in your inbox
Business and tech news in 5 minutes or less