TypeCon 2013 Conference Trip Report

Another great type design conference happened in Portland, Oregon, August 2013: TypeCon 2013: portl&. I ended up not taking as many notes, this year, so this trip report may be less extensive than the TypeCon 2012 trip report. The weekend prior to TypeCon, I was lucky enough to visit a good friend on the coast. A nice way to prepare. Lovely, relaxing serenity.

I submitted a simple type specimen for my 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface to the TypeGallery. My presentation on Resurrecting Type of the IBM 1403 was on Friday, 23 August 2013, at 3:25pm. Here’s my program speaker bio. During the weekend before, I decided to rework the narrative and probably shuffled things three times before the actual talk on Friday.

Jump to: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, SundayType Crit,
Links (write-ups, presentations, photos).

Tuesday night, I ran into Eric (@mekkablue), Remy Chwae (@remychwae), and John Downer. While walking to a nearby sushi boat place, John gave an impromptu lesson on sign painting technique. It can be difficult to go very far without finding an example of work to talk about; and that’s a good thing.

On Wednesday, I took Neil Summerour‘s (@positype) fun Tickling Béziers workshop. Some of Neil’s useful tips (and matching some of the ways I already work in designing type):

  • Plan for future adjustments.
  • Use overlaps and leave them for future adjustments.
  • Draw quickly, to capture the essence.
  • Put nodes at extremes (0° and 90°); rarely do anything else for curves.
  • Leave off the extremum for a curve at the beginning of a path, for future adjustment.
  • Use a grid for reference when drawing by hand.
  • Draw strokes separately, e.g., separate paths for each marker stroke.
  • Align overlaps at nodes.
Neil mentioned some techniques he’d found for making geometric sans-serif letters work better. Someday I’ll try some comparisons of his and other typical techniques, along with my own experiments. Here’s the early d I digitized based on the doodle he presented in the workshop:

While finding the bus earlier that morning, I ran into Shelley Gruendler (@dr_shelley). Luckily, a friend of hers called, they waited, and we were able to catch the bus to the workshops.

Wed night: Latin American type designer Alejandro Paul (@alepaul) of Sudtipos gave a nice talk about his work.

I had originally planned to consider attending the Education Forum on Thursday, but wanted to rework my presentation. I took a break from that to sit in on the forum so that Stephen Coles (@typographica) could join Paul Shaw‘s (@paulshawletterslettering walk around Portland. If I’d realized that’s what he wanted to head off to, I might have offered to take his place there instead of working the room. ;-)

Karin Jager (@Design__ed) of University of the Frasier Valley Graphic + Digital Design Program wrote about the forum in TypeCon’s Educators Day in The Society of Graphic Designer’s of Canada (@gdcnational) September 2013 newsletter.

Monika Bartels of FontWerk shared her hinting flipbook. Her Hinting is the Design after the Design workshop sounded interesting. I also wish my schedule could have allowed me to take Kalapi Gajjar‘s Indic Type Design: An Approach Towards Gujarati Display Typography workshop. I’ve been finding myself more and more interested in learning about Arabic and Indian type design, along with considering some script designs.

In Introducing the Figure Ground Relationship via Your Mother TongueColleen Ellis talked about using student examples in their native language/scripts in type education. Onur Yazıcıgil, co-creator of ISType (@ISType), talked about getting students to use OpenType substitution to disrupt and deconstruct text flow in his Text Invader project (examples here). Reminded me of what could be done with early PostScript fonts (because of my background in Forth and PostScript programming in the 1980s). Annabelle Gould showed some interesting assignment results using text, image, and text+image to design a typographic poster using only text from a monologue. Aggie Toppins (@aggietoppins) talked about getting students to experiment and produce large-format zine publications (receiving physical copies, in the end).

Adrian Shaughnessy‘s (@ajwshaughnessy) keynote on his work with music packaging and his publishing company Unit Editions (@uniteditions) was great fun for me since I’m also a musician and have been involved with music album packaging design as a photographer. He worked on many albums you may have seen, especially with Mute Records (@muteUK, @muteUSA) and others. Adrian also announced that Unit Editions hopes to publish a comprehensive history of Letraset! He referenced Michael Bierut’s On (Design) Bullshit article. He mentioned that the Wim Crouwel Digital Catalogue book is now free on the iPad. The 3,000 copies of the Herb Lubalin book sold out, quickly. I thought I had details on the good Korean designer at the Royal College of Art whom Adrian mentioned, but can’t find those notes. A couple quotes from the talk:

Hire people better than you.
Partner with non-designers; don’t partner with a designer. Re: setting up business partnerships.

Friday morning came. John Labovitz (@jslabovitz) shared stories and photographs of letterpress printers and such around the United States. One that I wrote down to consider checking out is Brian Allen in Durham, NC. I had a related note about IBM in the 1970s, but don’t recall the full details. I’ve been interested in possible ways to reproduce the IBM 1403 print chain, so that’s likely why I wrote the note. John D. Berry (@johndberry) & Jules Remedios Faye (of Stern & Faye, Letterpress Printers) gave a nice talk on C. Christopher Stern. We visited the C. C. Stern metal shop (@typefoundry) during the weekend. Definitely worth a visit when you’re in Portland, Oregon.

Paul Shaw (@paulshawletters) gave a great showing of George Salter and Philip Grushkin‘s calligraphic book jackets. Carl Crossgrove reviewed ornamental lettering history, showing some great images. Michelle Perham talked about emoji and its impact on type technology innovation. “Microsoft doesn’t smile.” re: 💩 (Unicode 1F4A9). I missed talking with her at the conference, alas. It’ll be interesting to see where COLR and CPAL OpenType table support ends up (already in Windows 8.1 Preview). I forgot to put the Color Fonts meeting on my calendar and missed the gathering at TypeCon. Here’s Adam Twardoch‘s analysis (from that same thread). The @W3C Open Font Format for Exchange (OFF/X) Community Group was also created after discussions at TypeCon, looking for more widespread participation “from typographers, font vendors, font bureaux, web designers and web browser developers.”

Erin McLaughlin (@HindiRinny) gave a great talk on the history and relationships of the Kannada and Telugu writing systems. So much good research, information, and images (mostly her own). Interesting to see the use of a metal stylus, resting in a notch of one’s fingernail, to draw letters in palm leaves. That reminds me, I forgot to talk with Erin about an idea for drawing one of the letters she said she hadn’t yet figured out.

David Ross (@djrrb) gave a fun talk on reversed-stress typefaces. “Funkiness has a special place in my heart.” See his demo of Backasswords on his site. Later that night at a concert, Eric noticed reversed-stress typefaces on the Marian Call / The Doubleclicks poster (partially shown here).

Amelia Hugill-Fontanel (@ameliafont) encouraged everyone to get to know their local library scientist, showing nice examples from the fabulous RIT Cary Library (which I hope to visit, soon). We also talked about a possible future writing project.

Kitty Maryatt talked about the undergraduate class at Scripps College Press in which students carved letters, created plates, and printed books by letterpress from the results. The students also digitized the 1.5 inch wood type, calling it NeoSchmidt.

Christopher Slye (@ChristopherSlye) provided a nice, funny introduction for me (@composerjk) and my Resurrecting Type of the IBM 1403 presentation. Since my background includes a wide variety of areas, I’m always curious to hear what people say. I presented aspects of my research into the IBM 1403, including a visit to the Computer History Museum‘s (@ComputerHistory) restored 1401 mainframes and 1403 printers. The public 1401 Experience exhibit is scheduled to open on 17 Nov 2013. The talk concluded with the custom subset of the resultant typeface in use in a clip from Trevor Brymer’s film 6EQUJ5 (currently in post production for release in 2014). Some folk seemed to even enjoy the presentation. A few folk either gave some history details or will hopefully connect me with others who worked on type and the 1403 printer back then. Matthew Carter mentioned that he’d done work with IBM on the later 3800(?); they supplied bitmaps to IBM. Here’s a nice interview with Matthew Carter by Paul Shaw (@paulshawletters). Neil Patel (@greyletter) came up afterwards to mention work he’d done on creating type based on NCR thermal printers (for NCR); I’m curious to see those results. John Labovitz (@jslabovitz) is interested in the FORMAT program used on IBM mainframes for print layout/output using punchcards for input. Steve Matteson shared about his experience designing many monospace typefaces and gave some nice comments about mine.

Thanks for all the nice comments and suggestions for contacts about further history research related to the IBM 1403 mainframe line printer. Here are some historical progress notes on my 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface development. I’m hoping to get the type website/storefront and typeface released in the next month or two. Thanks to encouragement from a few folk, I may turn the presentation into written prose for a couple different venues.

Jim Kidwell of Extensis (@extensis) showed results of their recent survey on perception of font licensing and their wants/needs. Interesting, though I’d have preferred to see more on ideas and suggestions for evolving licensing, especially starting today. But, that’s just my personal bias showing up.

The 2013 SOTA Catalyst Award was presented to Kyle Read (@kyleread). Well deserved! He had the fun project of designing type that would be used for print, embroidery, and appliqué; talked about the challenges and solutions. For one client: “Notice there’s no z in this font. The CEO hated Zs.” Check out Kyle’s work.

Eric (@mekkablue) and I skipped the Sign Painters documentary screening to see Marian Call (@mariancall), an Alaskan musician I know. He’d missed her shows when she came through Vienna, Austria. Due to my schedule of dance workshops and other projects, I’d also just missed a number of her recent shows. Thanks to Marian and the event organizer for being able to squeeze us in. The show opened with local Portland group The Doubleclicks (@thedoubleclicks); they organized this gig. From the very first song, I was smiling and knew I’d enjoy the night. Such a fun show. Marian (who owns 5 typewriters and uses them in her performances) mentioned that one was in the shop at the recommended Blue Moon Camera (@bluemooncamera) in Portland.

Saturday morning, Kevin Larson showed some of the experiments they did at Microsoft on trying to understand the differences between various text rendering implementations. They found some of the results surprising.

Paul D. Hunt (@pauldhunt) & Miguel Sousa (@forcebold) talked about their experience with releasing the open source font families Source Sans Pro and Source Code Pro, how it changed some of the workflow and tools, and how to improve processes, communication, and interaction. They also announced that the Adobe Font Development Kit for OpenType (AFDKO) now supports UFO files (as of build 60838, 10 Sep 2013). One suggestion I made afterwards was to add more specific documentation on how to participate, examples of taking on a task that they’d like others to do, suggestions for tasks to take on, etc. Quick notes on how to get started on helping will likely be useful. I started with open source projects nearly 30 years ago. The community of type designers is small compared to the number of programmers in the world. I think it’s perfectly fine if you only end up with a small community working on a project. For me, I definitely had interest in helping out, but have been too busy with other projects; I do hope to see if there are areas in which I can contribute.

I ended up missing the next session due to hallway conversations, though I was interested in hearing both. Jeff Shay (@rtistwon) talked about Why Metal Typography Matters in the 21st Century. I did manage to talk with Jeff over at the C. C. Stern Foundry, later, about ways one might recreate the metal slugs and print chains of the IBM 1403 printer. Fu-Chieh Wu (@fuchwu) talked about the Type of Taiwan. Also, take a look at her Typography Book project. Aaron Bell (@aaronbell) gave a great talk on Pureosseugi. What, you ask? Linear Hangeul. “The curious story of pureosseugi” in Korea during the age of Linotype and Monotype machines. It didn’t catch on. Wish I had more notes and slides to share. Nahid Tootoonchi talked about poster design in Iran.

Thomas Phinney (@ThomasPhinney) moderated a panel on Fonts by Subscription: Threat or Menace? I was happy to find that the panel actually included views on both sides. Dave Crossland’s (@davelab6live blog notes have some good details on the panel. Search for “threat.”

Steve Matteson shared the beauty and scholarship of the 1937 Diggings from Many Ampersandhogs by Paul Bennet of the NY Typophiles. I want a copy of this book for my library. Only 125 were printed. Here’s a description from the Alexander S. Lawson archive. Kurt Campbell talked about the challenges of developing a visual identity for South Africa when the guidelines have strict font requirements. Jeff Moore (@greenoliveeats) showed vintage record label design and typography of 7″ 45rpm singles. Pete McCracken gave an enjoyable and fun(ny) talk on Fame & Fortune.

Zuzana Licko (one of the founders of Emigre) gave a lovely thank you as she was presented the 2013 SOTA Typography Award. Very well deserved. Meant to talk with her, but missed doing so, as happens at busy and good conferences.

Over dinner at the good East India Co. (@eastindiacopdx), Nadine Chahine (@arabictype) and I had a lovely conversation about the combination of dance and type. We even ended up with an idea for a choreography/story to tell fusing multiple dance styles from belly dance to Greek to blues/waltz that I may have to develop someday. I also need to look into the Greek dance zeibekiko. A very nice dinner and conversation with other type folk, including Gerry Leonidas (@gerryleonidas), Rob McKaughan (@robmck) (who also tango dances), John Hudson, and John D. Berry (@johndberry).

Other very good food was had on Saturday at Shigezo. Highly recommended. Our group got split up, but still had good conversations with Eben Sorkin (@ebensorkin), John Downer, Rainer Erich Scheichelbauer (@mekkablue), and Onur Yazıcıgil. We also had a good lunch crowd at The Picnic House. I remember the food being good; just don’t look at the menu typography. I remember having nice conversations, but am blanking on the names of those around me. We found that Chris Lozos (@dezcom) had left a book; so, I was able to return it to him back at the conference.

Sunday. Crystian Cruz (@crystiancruz) showed ways of using OpenType features to play with design issues. Steve Mehallo (@mehallo) described his new modern art video game from the 1920s, FLomm (@flommus). Check it out. Erik Vorhes (@erikvorhes) talked about making the web more accessible with type and typography. Here’s his slide deck for Accessibilitype!

Frank Grießhammer (@kioskfonts) got people interested in The Amazing World of Box Drawing Characters. Now that his scripts are on github, you have no excuse not to include box drawing glyphs in your monospace fonts. Works with Glyphs, Robofont, and FontLab; and, also from the command line using Robofab.

Richard Kegler (@rkegler) shared how the Hamilton Wood Type Foundry came to be to support the fabulous Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

The closing session had Rob Saunders showcasing lovely samples of William Addison Dwiggins work, part of Rob’s new Letterform Archive (@LettArc). One publication that I hope to see in person is the 1937 Now that you Belong guide for new employees of New England Telephone. See pages 58–59 of his presentation.

The Type Crit was one of my favorite parts of TypeCon 2012. This year, I decided to sign up for one of the 10-minute blocks. Critique was handled by the trio of Akira Kobayashi, John Downer, and Matthew Carter. There were some great designs being shown again this year. At one point, Matthew Carter remarked, Roman narrow types are useful, good to have; there aren’t many good ones.” While printing final critique sheets (thanks to David Ross (@djrrb) for the suggested addition), I missed Thomas Jockin‘s (@thomasjockin) critique, but heard good things. Tom Conroy (@_tomconroy) showed his Marteau typeface to great response; I think Matthew Carter’s quote of “It’s perfect. Next.” was how that critique began (unless I’m misremembering). Tom started work on Marteau while attending the Type@Cooper Condensed Program (@CooperType). Carolina de Bartolo (@carodebartolo) showed her fun TXT101 typeface for mock text and borders. Kevin Coleman (@kevinncoleman) said he survived. I wish I’d written down other names of who was showing, but I was distracted waiting for my own critique session.

Most of the comments were related to decisions I made to match historical context or were small things I already had on my list to think about. Surprisingly, John Downer noted something that worked “exceptionally well.” Matthew Carter agreed and gave the unexpected quote of “I may steal that … you may see that again.” Thanks to Ksenya Samarskaya (@samarskaya) for reviewing my Cyrillic at the conference and capturing the quote. Thanks for nice comments and notes from Toshi Omagari (@Tosche_E), Steve Matteson, Carolina de Bartolo, Meir Sadan (@meirsadan) (and for comments on Hebrew and potential historical connections), Harry Parker, Steven SkaggsSteven Rapp, and others. Apologies for not capturing everyone’s names; I quite appreciated all the comments. Toshi also shared with me the monospace typeface he’s been designing; look forward to seeing it released, someday. [Update: MyFonts (@myfontsCreative Characters interview with Matthew Carter, October 2013.]

Andrea Leksen‘s (@leksendesign) specimen for her lovely Bemis typeface (which became available on MyFonts during the conference) was in the same area of the TypeGallery as my 1403 Vintage Mono Pro type specimen. Andrea participated in the Type Crit last year. Rumor has it that David Sudweeks‘ (@nondescriptes) lovely text typeface may be released later this year! He also participated in last year’s Type Crit. It was great to see Jim Parkinson‘s fabulous paintings in the gallery.

My specimen on right; @leksendesign on left. @typecon TypeGallery at #typecon2013.

A photo posted by Jeff Kellem (@composerjk) on

Throughout the conference, a number of ideas for future talks and workshops popped up. I remember ideas from discussions with Erin McLaughlin (@HindiRinny), Nadine Chahine (@arabictype), David Jonathan Ross (@djrrb), at least. I hope to encourage others to propose some of those ideas and may develop some on my own. Perhaps I’ll write about those, another time.

Also, I had some nice discussions on technology ideas that align with my interests, other projects, and past experience. Rob Saunders (@LettArc) and I talked about book scanning with a desire to capture texture and page spreads, beyond just the content. Rob writes more about his raisons d’être for the Letterform Archive with more on the imaging aspects . Places like Brewster’s Internet Archive book scanning and Google Books & their linear book scanner focus mainly on capturing content. I’m curious to see what other tools may exist for capturing texture detail, what tools are missing and should be created. There’s the related post by Robert MacLean (@Bob_MacLean) of the University of Glasgow Library (@GUspcoll) on Digitising the topography of typography. [Hat tip to Laurence Penney (@lorp).]

Thanks to David Lemon (@typenerd1) of @AdobeType for reminding me to mention a couple other projects. Rob had mentioned E. M. Ginger’s 42-line in Oakland, California as doing the best book scanning work. During a steering committee meeting for a conference I help organize, Tom Duff (@tomduff) had remembered John Warnock‘s (@jewarnockOctavo project and forwarded an interview mentioning John’s Rare Book Room. Here’s a post about E. M. Ginger’s work on digitizing the art of the book.

I’m interested to see Indra Kupferschmid (@kupfers) and Nick Sherman (@nicksherman)’s Type Record; they’ll talk about it at ATypI Amsterdam 2013 (@ATypI) on Sunday, 13 October 2013, 10:50am. It relates to some other projects I’ve had in mind for curated archive tools (both general and dance history specific). The dance history side came from discussions with other dance historians. Nick and I talked briefly about that.

It was great to reconnect with folk and meet others. Some I had the pleasure of chatting with, at times, included Ross MillsDelve Withrington (@delvew), Laura Worthington (@L_Worthington), Grant Hutchinson (@splorp), David Sudweeks (@nondescriptes), Steve Ross (@steveross1956), Antonio Cavedoni (@verbosus), Emily Connors (@emilylimedesign), Laura Serra (@laureola), Erin Ellis (@rrrellis), Priyanka Batra (@ankatank), Isabel Urbina (@bellera), Lizy Gershenzon (@lizyjoy) & Travis Kochel (@traviskochel) of Scribbletone (@scribbletone), Sean King, Kalapi Gajjar, Michael Ibach of FontBros (@fontbros), Charles Borges de Oliveira (@borgeslettering), Debi Sementelli ‏(@Letterheadgirl), Lila Symons (@daycalligraphy), Remy Chwae (@remychwae), Theresa dela Cruz (@theresadelacruz), Joseph Alessio (@alessio_joseph), James Edmondson (@jamestedmondsonJames Todd (@JamesToddDesign), JP Porter (who ran all the great A/V for the conference), and many, many others. The longer I spend working on this post, the more nice conversations I recall having.

I only played piano for a little bit. Later, I quite enjoyed hearing both Andrea Leksen and Jim Wasco (@JimWasco) play. Andrea played various old songs with others joining in on singing. There was a very good, former punk singer whose name I’m forgetting right now. Jim played some fabulous jazz.

Alas, I didn’t get around to playing with Fontographer 4.0 running on a Mac SE/30 that was in the TypeCon store. Thanks to Pete McCracken for setting it up. Here’s a link to a photo of the screen from @nicksherman.

I bought a few things. Two books not shown in the instagram photo are Doyald Young’s The Art of the Letter and The Modification of Letterforms by Stanley Hess. Hat tip to Jessica Hische (@jessicahische) for posting about the Doyald Young documentary. The @feltandwire post Doyald Young: Appreciations from his friends is also a nice read. It was nice to see some of the old Interrobang issues being available. I’d been wanting to read Tiffany Wardle‘s (@typegirl) article The Case for a User Friendly EULA in Interrobang 2 since I’m figuring out details for new license agreements. There are some other EULA info links on typophile.

Old Interrobang issues & @LettArc postcard from @typecon #typecon2013

A photo posted by Jeff Kellem (@composerjk) on

Here are some other posts about TypeCon 2013:

Presentations / Slide decks:

Photos: typecon flickr pool and TypeCon tumblr. Also search for #typecon2013 or just typecon on twitter and instagram.

Please let me know if any corrections are needed. I look forward to seeing folk at future type gatherings. If I can find space in the peninsula/south bay of the bay area, California (and people would be interested), I may try to organize type get-togethers. Probably near Mountain View, CA.

—Jeff Kellem (@composerjk / @slantedhall)

This entry was posted in 1403 vintage mono pro, conference, presentation, typecon, typecon2013, typeface and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to TypeCon 2013 Conference Trip Report

  1. David Lemon says:

    Jeff, re book scanning you may want to look into 42 Line (42-line.com), a successor to John Warnock’s all-too-short-lived Octavo project.

  2. Jeff – what a tremendous writeup of what sounds like an awesome event – thanks for the detail.

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