Designers who enjoy using the graceful characters found in typefaces such as Trajan and Charlemagne should be thankful that Carol Twombly strayed from her initial artistic endeavors. During her childhood in New England, Carol spent much of her time exploring various artistic disciplines. Settling on sculpture, Carol followed her architect brother to Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Once there, however, she decided that graphic design would be a more practical course of study. About this decision Carol says, “I discovered that communicating through graphics - by placing black shapes on a white page - offered a welcome balance between freedom and structure.” Though graphic design became her career focus, Carol hasn’t abandoned her other artistic pursuits, which include basketweaving, drawing, painting, and jewelry making.
One of her RISD professors, Chuck Bigelow, and his partner, Kris Holmes, gradually introduced Carol to the world of type design. Working during summer months in their studio, she began to understand the intricate process of designing type. In addition to editing letters numerically (“hands-on” drawing apps weren’t around yet) on an early digital type design system, she gained valuable experience by drawing outline letters on vellum, inking them in, and then tacking them to a wall where she would view them through a reducing glass.
After graduation from RISD and a year spent working in a Boston graphic design studio, Carol accepted an invitation from Bigelow to join a small group of students in a newly formed digital typography program at Stanford University. The program, since discontinued, awarded Carol and her colleagues Masters of Science degrees after two years of study in computer science and typographic design. Carol continued to work for the Bigelow and Holmes studio for the next four years and, during this time, entered her first type design in an international competition sponsored by Morisawa Ltd., a Japanese manufacturer of typesetting equipment. To Twombly’s surprise and delight, she won first prize in the Latin text category, and Morisawa subsequently licensed and marketed her design under the name Mirarae™. Soon after, Carol began working for Adobe Systems and in 1988 became a full-time type designer in the Adobe Originals program.
During her eleven+ years with Adobe, Carol has designed a number of very popular text and display typefaces. Designs like Trajan, Charlemagne, Lithos, and Adobe Caslon are inspired by classic letterforms of the past - from early Greek inscriptions, circa 400 B.C., to William Caslon’s typefaces of the 1700s. Designs like Viva and Nueva explore new territory while maintaining traditional roots. In 1994, she received the Charles Peignot award from the Association Typographique Internationale for outstanding contributions to type design. She was the first woman and only the second American to receive this prestigious honor.
Since leaving Adobe, Carol has continued to explore other non-computer-based arts including weaving, natural-object sculpture, silk painting, and making gourd shekeres (hand-held African percussion instrument), with which to accompany her fellow conga players. She lives quietly in a small community in the Sierra foothills, practicing Qi Gong and Afrocuban drumming, hiking, volunteering locally.