John Downer was born in 1951, and began training as a sign painter while he was in high school. He finished his apprenticeship after college, then started graduate studies in art at The University of Iowa, where he received MA and MFA degrees in painting. He currently resides in Iowa City, and lectures throughout the U.S. and Europe. His essays on type history and hand lettering have appeared in Emigré magazine and House magazine.
Downer's professional activities include sign painting, lettering, glass gilding, type design, typography, and logo design. Among his published faces are Triplex Italic, Brothers, Council, and Vendetta (Emigré, Sacramento); Ironmonger, Roxy, and SamSans (The Font Bureau, Boston); and Simona (Design Lab, Milan). He has also designed custom fonts for individuals and corporations.
Downer's debut text family Iowan Old Style BT was published in 1991 (without expert sets). Iowan Old Style is classified as a Venetian old style typeface design. It is related to earlier, 20th-century American interpretations of Italian Renaissance types cut by Nicolas Jenson and Francesco Griffo, but it is modeled also on classical inscriptional lettering and sign painting seen in certain regions of eastern Iowa.
[John Downer, March 2002]