Emigre, also known as Emigre Graphics, is a digital type foundry, publisher and distributor of graphic design centered information based in Berkeley, California, that was founded in 1984 by husband-and-wife team Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko. The type foundry also published Emigre magazine between 1984 and 2005. Note that unlike the word émigré, Emigre is officially spelled without accents.
Emigre was founded in 1984 as an independent foundry, developing typefaces without an association to a typesetting equipment manufacturer. Coinciding with the advent of the Macintosh computer, Emigre took advantage of the new medium to design digital typefaces, as such they did not require the manufacturing infrastructure of a traditional type foundry. Licko began designing fonts that, rather than trying to imitate letterpress technology, capitalized on the idiosyncrasies of bitmap design and dot matrix printing, and later, vector-based design. The company is credited with being the first type foundry to design original fonts made on and for a computer.
Through a good part of the late 1980s and most of the 1990s, some of the most cutting-edge typefaces were developed or released by Emigre. Its magazine, in the meantime, provided an outlet showcasing the potential of its typeface designs, and was well known for its graphical experimentation, criticism and essays on contemporary design.
Emigre was often criticized for rejecting standard design rules. Designer Massimo Vignelli was highly critical against Emigre and viewed their designs as a direct threat to Modernist ideals. Vignelli called Emigre a "typographic garbage factory," and to him, their work represented "the degradation of culture."
Despite denunciation from traditionalists in the realm of design, Emigre became influential in the field. "People read best what they read most," was a manifesto that VanderLans and Licko held to when facing critics. Citing that what is deemed readable is only so because of the prevalence of a particular font.
Eventually, Vignelli, even after strongly criticizing the work of Emigre, directly promoted Licko's font Filosofia, to which Licko responded, "Massimo's willingness to collaborate on our announcement reflects Emigre's ability to bridge different approaches."