Jack Stauffacher

2004 AIGA Medal
1920, San Francisco, California

2017, Tiburon, California


Jack Stauffacher's work in printing books, typography and design combines an informed reverence for the Classics with an insightful appreciation of innovation. He has published a definitive collection of the 17th century Dutch typeface Janson; and is a proponent of modern design, using the principles of minimalism to organize two-dimensional space. His exquisite mastery of the craft of printing is demonstrated in the many books and limited editions he published under the imprint of the Greenwood Press that he founded in 1936. Stauffacher is also an educator, having taught at Carnegie Institute of Technology and at San Francisco Art Institute.

Stauffacher's fascination with the craft of printing and the potential of the printed word began at a young age. In 1936 he established the Greenwood Press, named after the street on which it was located, in a small building that he and his father built behind the family home in San Mateo, CA. He purchased a Chandler & Price 10 by15 platen press and a large selection of Garamond fonts from American Type Foundry with which to print business cards and tickets. His first books appeared when he was in his early 20's.

The Fullbright grant he received in 1955 for three years of study in Florence provided the perfect opportunity for deep research into the origins of the book in relation to the ethos of place, and led to a lifelong connection to traditions of the past. Here he met master printers Giovanni Mardersteig and Alberto Tallone whose work and ideas influenced him profoundly.

Upon his return to the U.S., an appointment as assistant professor of Typographic Design at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, led to the formation of the New Laboratory Press. He then went on to become typographic director at the Stanford University Press and to teach at the San Francisco Art Institute.

In 1966 he reopened the Greenwood Press in a building at 300 Broadway in San Francisco and resumed producing books and limited editions such as Albert Camus and the Men of Stone (1971). At this time he also began a series of typographic experiments that consisted mainly of repeated letterforms and words that produced graduated typographic patterns and shapes. In 1967 he was commissioned to redesign the Journal of Typographic Research, later renamed Visible Language. The typographic composition he used for its cover was used for many years and became something of a design icon.

“Jack Stauffacher describes himself as a printer. It is a somewhat deceptive term for us today. His use of the term connects him to a five-hundred-year tradition of the entrepreneur-publisher-designer-typographer-printer. Like the best who made up that custom, he possesses a love of type and printing and the ability to convey meaningful words and thought.”

—Chuck Byrne, “Jack Stauffacher, Printer,”1998