Cleo Huggins came to font design through a fascination with the computer’s ability to manipulate and generate shapes. In 1978, in her undergraduate work in the Graphic Design department of the Rhode Island School, she experimented with mainframe computers to create shape transformations. Disappointed by the vector based “Spirograph”-like results, she explored spline curves by using splines to create a 40’ yacht design. Encouraged by visionary professor Charles Bigelow, Cleo interned at the company that first used spline algorithms to define type, URW in Hamburg Germany in 1979, using their software IKARUS.
In 1982, she joined the handful of computer type experimentalists in the Digital Typography Master’s program at Stanford University, headed by Charles Bigelow and Donald Knuth, using Metafont as the type-generating program. Cleo took a summer job at Adobe Systems in 1983, where she coded PostScript in a text editor to design a calendar promoting the typographic abilities of PostScript, which won a New York Type Director’s award. Cleo took a full-time job at Adobe in the type department in 1984 and started on the design of a font for musical notation. It was the first Adobe Original, and even predated software used to set music. In 1988 Cleo finished her masters at Stanford with the design of a font of Egyptian hieroglyphs used today by most publishers of Egyptology.
On the non-font front, Cleo taught at the Maine College of Art, co-founded a design company, created and managed the Human Interface Group of Apple’s Online Service where she coined eWorld. For the last few years Cleo and her partner Michael Wadleigh have had a foundation, Gritty.org, which does media projects in Africa and Asia and has recently been granted a construction license for a low-power FM radio station. Finally, using her favorite software, Adobe Illustrator, Cleo has designed a self-contained timber-frame house using solar energy, and grey/black and desalination water systems on a small island in Maine, which Cleo and Michael built last year and where they plan to work year ’round.