TYPOSF 2013 Conference Trip Report

On 10-11 April 2013, I attended the TYPOSF 2013 conference (@typosf) at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (@ybca) in San Francisco, California. It was more of a design conference with a side of type design. Though I’m more interested in the typeface side of things, I still enjoyed the conference. Plus, it was great to reconnect with type designers I’d met at TypeCon 2012, starting with a nice lunch at Samovar Tea Lounge (@samovarlife), a favorite place, with fun type designers Laura Worthington (@L_Worthington), Delve Withrington (@delvew), Andrea Leksen (@leksendesign), and Steve Mahallo (@mehallo). Andrea and I are both on our way to our first typeface releases in 2013. Here are some random things I found interesting at this conference.

It was fun to see the various album cover designs in Nick Shinn‘s talk on The Look of Sound: Marketing, products and technology in the American record industry, 1888-1967 (conference blog post). I’m also a musician and used to photograph performing musicians in the mid-1990s; many of my photos were used to showcase bands through magazines, album artwork, and tour posters.

Marian Bantjes (@bantjes) showed the patterns in type during Type and Pattern Systems (conference blog post). An example in which all the Latin uppercase are represented. And a couple on steganography in design using one of her pattern systems (and the hidden lettering within).

Matthew Butterick (@mbutterick), author of the good book Typography for Lawyers (and useful for all, not just lawyers), talked about The Bomb in the Garden (transcript with slides) showing the poor design of many websites including those of organizations who’ve won awards for their print publications. He did mention an outlier example of good online book design, The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero. Read the talk’s transcript; you might come away with some ideas to think about. Here’s the Amazon page for Typography for Lawyers.

Peter Biľak (@PeterBilak) showed how having a wide array of interests can make your work better in Depth and Width (conference blog post). Inspiration and ideas can come from many places; unexpectedly, too. His video type specimens demonstrated how useful they can be in showcasing a typeface and how to use it, especially with regard to OpenType features. Here’s video of how they introduced Greta Sans. He also talked about his work with dancers. Fun to have that mix since I’m both a dancer and type designer. With his work on the new magazine Works That Work (@WorksThatWork), showcasing good design, “a kind of National Geographic [@natgeo] of design.” As part of work on the magazine, his team has been building a publishing system to publish all versions from single spot. Look forward to seeing that software released someday. Looks potentially interesting and useful. Peter also co-founded Indian Type Foundry (@itfoundry), creating quality fonts for the Indian market..

Christoph Niemann (@abstractsunday) ended the first day of TYPOSF with an engaging and funny presentation That’s Where I Draw the Line (conference blog post) on illustration, process, and finding ideas in the process. A funny lesson he learned “yoga will destroy your design career.” Yoga made him more relaxed so that he was okay with drawings that he thought sucked. You had to be there. He writes and illustrates the New York Times blog Abstract Sunday. He also showed off his cute Petting Zoo iOS app. The Abstract City book, an archive of the 2008–2011 blog is also available (and via Amazon). 

Ivo Gabrowitsch (@gabrowitsch), Marketing Director of FontFont (@FontFont) talked about the future challenges of the font business in Let There be Extra Light (conference blog post). A couple of the web tools he mentioned were FontFonter.com to “try web FontFonts on any website” and FF Subsetter.com to optimize/subset web FontFonts. OpenType feature preview is important. And the biggest piece, I think, is the idea of simplified licenses. Ivo mentioned briefly about their upcoming App+ simplified licensing model. Complexity of licensing often confuses customers. I look forward to seeing their results.

I think that Peter Biľak’s Typotheque (@typotheque) type foundry does a good job of explaining the variety of licensing scenarios, along with helping the customer understand the potential costs. Their EULA (End-User License Agreement) has a sidebar with a summary of the meaning of each section in clearer terms.

Travis Kochel (@traviskochel) talked about using Type as Interface (conference blog post). Using his FF Chartwell symbol typeface as a model, he showed how one could use the descender area as a preview. Like Peter Biľak, he also talked about using video to demonstrate OpenType features.

Stephen Coles (@typographica) enlightened us on how A Typeface is a Chair (conference blog post). Before type, Stephen was a birder as seen by his collection of bird books. Makes a lot of sense. Many similarities between the two. He also gave away two copies of his recommended book The Anatomy of Type (here’s the Amazon page) to folk who spotted the secret word. The chair illustrations were created by the talented Laura Serra (@laureola); unfortunately, she was unable to attend and missed a fun talk.

Meena Kadri (@meanestindian) talked about the talented hand-lettering, sign painting, and type in India, pervasive among the local landscape, in Indo-centric, Typo-centric: Hand-lettered Typography of the Streets of India. Here’s one image from the talk. She mentioned the HandPaintedType project (@HandPaintedType), dedicated to preserving the typographic practice of street painters in India by documenting and digitizing the typefaces found.

Erik Spiekermann (@espiekermann) closed the conference with Life is in Beta (includes video of the talk), about change and finding ways to keep enjoying your work (conference blog post). See how he accesses books from his two-story bookcase. I liked his list of rules on writing they follow at Edenspiekermann (@edenspiekermann), applied to marketing content on websites:

  1. no ornamental adjectives
  2. no self-praise
  3. hard facts as proof of concept
  4. no words where pictures suffice
  5. present tense, active language
  6. subheads as teasers
  7. 800-1200 characters (200 words)
  8. one editor writes final version
Of course, I didn’t follow them for this post since I’m just trying to quickly transcribe my notes for archival purposes.
Friday night, though tired, I joined folk at the after-party. Steve Ross (@steveross1956) suggested the Yucatan restaurant Poc-Chuc for dinner beforehand. A great choice; I had the yummy Cochinita Pibil, a typical Mayan dish. Though there was mostly club dancing at the very loud after-party, Andrea Leksen allowed me the honor of leading her through a mix of tango, blues, club two-step, and salsa.
It was great to see other type folk such as Christopher and Christy Slye (@ChristopherSlye & @ckslye), Tiffany Wardle (@typegirl), Miguel Sousa (@forcebold), Tânia Raposo (@ainat_), Jessica Hische (@jessicahische), Rob S., and others (some already mentioned elsewhere).
On Saturday, I joined a picnic with other type designers. I brought my mango chutney deviled eggs for the potluck and my in-progress 1403 monospaced uppercase typeface. It was nice to hear feedback from a variety of folk at the picnic and conference, including David Sudweeks (@nondescriptes), Stephen Coles (@stewf), Frank Grießhammer (@kioskfonts), Remy Chwae (@remychwae), Thomas Jockin (@ThomasJockin), Paul Hunt (@pauldhunt), and others. I’ve been enjoying the challenges of fitting designs into a fixed width, especially with my recent addition of uppercase Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew; it was interesting to hear about others working on monospaced typefaces, like Paul Hunt and Lila Symons (@daycalligraphy). I’m looking forward to seeing more of their work and hope to talk more about the designs. I liked seeing samples of the works of others. David Sudweeks’ new italic looks great, fitting quite well with the rest of his typeface.
Rod Cavazos (@rxc) brought his Bitblox Alphabet Blocks. Nice to see Lizy Gershenzon (@lizyjoy) & Travis Kochel (@traviskochel) of Scribble Tone (@scribbletone) in Portland, Oregon; Antonio Serrano of BAMF in Mexico. There were so many other type designers I’ve missed mentioning, but still enjoyed seeing, again.
The only really bad thing of attending: Found that some idiot kicked in the fender of my car. 😦 
Time for me to get back to typeface work and prepare for a performance of Victorian era choreographies with Danse Libre tonight in Palo Alto, California.
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1 Response to TYPOSF 2013 Conference Trip Report

  1. Pingback: IBM 1403 inspired typeface update (Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew) | Slanted Hall

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