RIP Jan Middendorp

*09.04.1956 → †08.12.2023

I’m not a writer, Jan was. I won’t be able do him even a fraction of justice the way he championed design. But I am still compelled to share a bit about him and our friendship.

Jan Middendorp has been one of the most respected design writers since at least 2003 when I got interested in type. He was known for his well-researched articles, his reviews of typeface & conferences, his thoughtful interviews with other designers, and for his critiques of the design industry and politics. He penned, designed, and contributed to many books. A few include: Dutch Type is the ultimate encyclopedia of all things letters from Holland, Shaping Text is a brilliant textbook for students of graphic design, and his final large project was designing a series of books for Repeater books.

Aside from his books, Jan was also a journalist and a regular contributor to numerous design magazines. Eye magazine has a nice archive of many of his articles.

MyFonts became the most popular font distributor for several years in a large part thanks to Jan’s special texts. It’s no coincidence the popularity of MyFonts wither after his departure in 2016. He had tried for years (on a weekly basis) to convince me to sell my typefaces on MyFonts – I nearly gave in, but ultimately, I stayed strong. (Jan’s promise was sound: I’d make way more money if I was on MyFonts. I probably should have taken his advice…)

Earlier this year at ATypI, Jan received the TDC Metal (a lifetime achievement award). There is a video of the ceremony with several insightful and heartfelt tributes to Jan – he unfortunately wasn’t able to attend the conference. The stories by Petra Dočekalová, Laurence Penney, and Gerry Leonidas are touching and I’d recommend watching it to hear more firsthand accounts of what an exceptional person Jan was.

Beyond typography, Jan was also passionate about music – this was the other interest the two of us bonded over. Every time I’d visit his apartment he’d share some obscure artists from his extensive CD & vinyl collection. Many of my favorite memories with Jan were from 2010-2014 when he was my goto concert buddy. We saw many amazing live shows together. My favorite was Dr. John in 2012 for his Locked Down tour.

It pains me that we didn’t keep in touch more after I moved to India in 2014. Upon my return to Berlin in 2020, between Covid and his illness, we only met a handful of times. Even though he was unwell for years, it always felt like there would be more time. Jan is the first close friend I’ve lost, and I’ll never forget him. His passing has taught me that I need to keep my friends closer and make more of an effort to stay in each other’s lives.

I will forever be thankful for my time with Jan. I’m also grateful for the chance to see him a few weeks ago and that we could re-listen to Locked Down together one last time.

He will be missed.

RIP Jan.