TypeCon 2014 Conference Trip Report

27 Jun 2015 Update: Registration is now open for TypeCon 2015: Condensed, 12–16 August 2015 in Denver, Colorado, USA. Save $50 by first becoming a member of SOTA. Check out the great workshops and a preview of the program! Hope to see you there!

Update: TypeCon 2015: Condensed will be held 12–16 August 2015 in Denver, Colorado, USA. Videos from 2014 are added as SOTA releases them and linked throughout this post and in the Links section.

It’s that time of year: another type design conference. TypeCon (@typecon / @typesociety) was held in Washington, D.C., 28 July 2014 through 4 August 2014. Though a number of friends (and regular attendees) were not in attendance this year, it still managed to be a great conference. Lots of great folk, past attendees and ones at their first TypeCon.

Jump to: WednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySundayType Crit,
Fiona Ross SOTA AwardIndependent Type Designer Business Workshop,
KeynoteEducation ForumLinks (write-ups, presentations, photos)Feedback.

I arrived on Tuesday afternoon into DCA, took the Metro to the hotel. It’s been over 20 years since my last visit to D.C. Nice to have a good metro, again. A large group of us walked along H Street to find dinner, for a long while. The place we attempted to eat had a 1.5 hour wait. So, a few split off to head to the south asian place that smelled good. I joined them at Cusbah (Yelp). Indeed, it was quite tasty. Another group of four showed up a little while later.

Wednesday: I’d signed up for the Devanagari: Simplifying the Complex workshop by Rob Keller (@rnkeller) & Kimya Gandhi (@KimyaGandhi), partially due to input from Erin McLaughlin (@HindiRinny). Unfortunately, the buses left very late from the hotel to head to the Corcoran College of Art + Design—I heard that at least one went to the wrong location, first—so, the workshop started 45 minutes late. The best part was the 44-page booklet they put together for us as an overview and reference to Devanagari. Though OpenType & Unicode are finally being used more, there are still lots of proprietary font formats and encoding in use. Though we practiced handwriting and reviewed features useful for Indic scripts in Glyphs (@glyphsapp), we did not get to working on any exercises designing/digitizing Devanagari glyphs with Glyphs. They probably needed another hour or two to cover everything they wanted. I had hoped to do some work designing digitally in the class. Still, a useful class, especially due to the booklet. A good group of folk in the class, including Eben Sorkin (@ebensorkin), Lisa Maione (@lisamaione), Lila Symons (@daycalligraphy), Amit Patel (@apatel314), James Puckett (@Dunwich_Type), Chris Lozos (@dezcom), and others.

The Glyphs.app for the Pros class had a good group in it. It sounded like some good discussions occurred, though I was not in the class to hear. This workshop was aimed for those coming from another type design software program, such as FontLab. I’d been using Glyphs for the past couple years, but I always like to hear about other folks’ workflow and how they’ve chosen to use Glyphs. Now, to get back to some of those type design workflow tools projects.

Wednesday night: Dana Tanamachi talked about her path to chalk lettering and design. She graduated from the University of North Texas (@UNTnews), Denton, TX. Also created the posters for Roundabout Theatre’s (@RTC_NYC) production of Bye Bye Birdie. (As an aside, Roundabout’s archivist Tiffany Nixon was helpful in getting a photo of Bill Irwin & Mary Bond Davis from Scapin for the 2012 tribute presentation & 6-piece dance performance I put together for Stanford University dance historian Richard Powers at the New York Baroque Dance Company’s Santa Barbara Historical Dance Workshop [Tribute videos]; Richard was choreographer and dance historian for Bill Irwin’s Scapin.)

Thursday: The first workshop I signed up for when registering was Between the Letters: The Business of Being an Independent Type Designer. It filled up very quickly. Luckily, they found space at the hotel (bonus: we didn’t have to take the long bus ride!) and added another 15 slots. So, we had 30 independent type designers in the room. The panel was run by Silas Dilworth (@silasdilworth), Matthew Butterick (@mbutterick), & Jackson Cavanaugh (@okaytype). Attendees included a great mix of type folk, from a few wanting to get started to those who’ve been doing this for 50 years. A great workshop! I’ll hopefully transcribe some of my notes in another post and will link to it here.

I also really wanted to take Liron Lavi Turkenich‘s (@LironLaviTur) workshop on Hebrew Type Design: Tasting of a Square Script, but the Independent Type Designer Business workshop was more important for me, right now, even though I have Hebrew designs completed and in-progress. She gave a talk at TDC (@TypeDirectors) in New York City right after TypeCon on her Aravrit project, ambitiously blending Hebrew & Arabic.

Education Forum

Here are a few mentions of the talks in the Education Forum. It looked like a good program this year. If I hadn’t been in the Business workshop, I’d have attended.

The superb Aoife Mooney (@aoifemooney) of Kent State University, Ohio talked about The Design Process Made Manifest: Teaching to Learn, Learning to Teach. Gerry Leonidas (@typefacedesignagrees. Heard her talk went quite well. Later, I made sure to introduce Max Phillips (@signaltype) and Aoife; Max is currently in Dublin while Aoife is from there.

Martina Flor‘s (@martinaflor) Golden Secrets of Lettering: Look, Explore, Sketch Fast, Practice.

Martina’s student’s answers to “What is the work of a type designer like?”

They take days to draw a single letter. Work on the same project for years. It’s a lonely job. Don’t have to deal with clients. Take pills to stay up.

She also has Wallpapers for Type Nerds available.

Sumner Stone (@sthoths) on Teaching Letterform: Modularity & Refinement.

Thursday night started with the keynote by Tobias Frere-Jones (@tobias_fj). Some were wondering what he might talk about. He presented exactly what I’d hoped: some of the fabulous historical research he’d been doing recently on the typography of bank notes and counterfeit reduction techniques using type that he’d uncovered. Great stuff. He does the kind of research that I like to do. I hope that Tobias publishes a book of the material he’s found. It would make a good one. A fun slide from his talk with a quote from U.S. President Barack Obama on U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew’s illegible signature (looks like a series of loops).

I had never noticed Jack’s signature, and when this has highlighted in the press, I considered rescinding my offer to appoint him. Jack assures me that he is going to work to make at least one letter legible, in order not to debase our currency, should he be confirmed as secretary of the Treasury.

Check out some of the banknote images on his blog plus a couple lottery tickets from France (1936) & Latvia (1965).

As a related aside…For the first time, I finally walked into The Jehning Family Lock Museum of Mountain View. My dad did pioneering work in security that included working with locks and was also in the Navy. Al Jehning was in the Navy in WWII. It was great to talk with Audrey & Al. Other unexpected connections appeared. Daniel T. Ames (who built the building in 1903) was also a handwriting and forgery expert in addition to being a prolific calligrapher and teacher during the mid to late 1800s. They had a copy of his book Ames on Forgery: Its Detection & Illustration (1900) and samples of his pen work. Reminded me of Tobias’ TypeCon keynote on banknotes; I’ll pass along contact info and such. Other books he authored include Ames’ Alphabets, adapted to the use of Architects, Engravers, Engineers, Artists, Sign Painters, Draughtsmen (1884), Ames’ Guide to Self-Instruction in Practical and Artistic Penmanship (1884), The Daniel T. Ames Notebook (1860s), and Ames’ Compendium of Practical and Artistic Penmanship. He was also the founder and editor for 20 years of The Penman’s Art Journal of New York (link for Volume 1, 1877).

Indra Kupferschmid (@kupfers) & Jacob Heftmann (@jheftmann) put together a web page about Tobias’s early typefaces at FontBureau (@fontbureau). Totally worth reading.

Conference talks

The main conference program started Friday morning with Rob Saunders (@lettarc) of the fabulous Letterform Archive showed 20th Century Metal Type Foundry Ephemera with great, fun type specimens from 1900 to the 1960s. If you’re in the San Francisco, California area, you should make an appointment to visit extensive collection at the Letterform Archive. During Rob’s talk, I recognized some of the pieces I viewed, such as the Hebrew one here, during my last visit. He also had an exhibit of the specimens on display throughout the conference. 

TypeCon 2014: Rob Saunders on 20th Century Metal Type Foundry Ephemera

John Collins of MyFonts (@MyFonts) talked about the business of MyFonts and how it’s helped type designers to make a living. From his “Some Amazing Successes” slide:

  • Dozens of independent font designers have been able to quit their day jobs and focus on type design.
  • 6–8 out of 10 of the MyFonts Top 50 fonts are typically from independent designers.
  • Not unusual for #10 on the MyFonts Top 50 to sell $20K per month.

Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) & Dustin Senos (@dustin) talked about Crafting Type at Medium. Talking about the work they did seemed to get a number of type folk more interested in Medium. Good job. There was mention of the previous work on Crafting Link Underlines on MediumAlas, I missed introducing myself to Marcin and thanking him; I used a photo of his (under a CC BY 2.0 license) to introduce my TypeCon 2013 talk Resurrecting Type of the IBM 1403. 

Mitch Goldstein (@mgoldst) showed his experiments with typography and photography/videography, creating new images, in Typo + Photo. Reminded of experiments with cameras many of us did in the past, exploring the media.

Nancy Sharon Collins (@thengravinglady) shared the history & examples of calling cards from the Victorian era through the 1950s in Codes and Cards: Symbology from Victorian-Era Calling Cards. It’s great to see the etiquette of the past. My dance troupe Academy of Danse Libre (@danselibre) recreates and performs social dances as they were danced from the Victorian era through the 1930s, bringing to life that period of history, including mannerisms and attire. I thought I took some notes, but haven’t located them, yet.

Mark Simonson (@marksimonson) showed his fun history with offset press in The Romance of Offset [video]. Lots of fun experiments and images.

Hrant Papzian (@hhpapazian) talked about libre type design and helping improve typography support for minority cultures in Liberation from Mediocrity, or, The Freedom of Paying Bills [video]

Friday evening: Krista Radoeva (@kristaradoeva) received the 2014 SOTA Catalyst Award. Well deserved. She’s been doing some fabulous work.


In David + the Machine, Aaron Bell (@aaronbell) gave an interesting talk on how an Intertype machine had been modified by Rev. Dae-Wii (David) Lee in the early 1900s to fit Hangeul onto the 90-key keyboard, allowing Korean typesetting.

Mila Waldeck showed The Typography of George Maciunas (leader in the Fluxus group). Some of the music groups that Fluxus worked with include John Cage, Velvet Underground, John Lennon, among many others. Always nice to see the crossover into my music world. Their exploration with experimental music makes me think of the fabulous contemporary art music, mostly improvised, house concerts at my friend Tom’s Place in Berkeley, California.

Mark Jamra showed work of his class on creating wood type with a CNC router in Word Type Teamwork: From Analog to Digital and Back Again, talking about the Philasoro project, so named for sisterly love, as the ladies in this class were doing all the work with the project in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. And, the guys in the class had dropped out. 12-line 4A wood type.

Thierry Blancpain (@blancpain), co-founder of Grilli Type, described the current state of Swiss design in Young Swiss Style: Contemporary Swiss Graphic Design, showing samples of the variety of work coming from good, young designers in Switzerland.

Sample of Grilli Type Foundry’s (@grillitype) work.

David Lemon (@typenerd1) showed the process of the past Three Decades of “Getting Better” in type design at Adobe from the first PostScript fonts until today. The tweet photo is the first version of Courier, stroke + offset. It’s also worth reading The Adobe Originals Silver Anniversary Story, a nice overview of some of the history of type at Adobe (@adobetype).

Nick Shinn showed The Look of Sound: Branding and Marketing of New Technology in the American Record Industry, 1888-1967. Though I saw a related talk of his at TYPO SF 2013, there was new material and other interesting work in here. Always fun to see. Plus, given my photography work with bands (albums, tour posters, etc.), my own music work, and love of history, I have a strong affinity to this type of presentation. Folk I know in The Recording Academy (@grammypro) and TapeOp (@tapeopmag) communities would have enjoyed this presentation, also.

TypeCon 2014: Nick Shinn on The Look of Sound

Liron Lavi Turkenich (@LironLaviTur) talked about a great oddity in the history of Hebrew type design—the Schoenfieldian script in Radical Anecdotes in Search for Solutions.

TypeCon 2014: Scott Boms on Type at Scale: An Inside Look at Typography at Facebook

Scott Boms (@scottboms) talked about Type at Scale: An Inside Look at Typography at Facebook [video] and how they find ways to integrate typography throughout the Facebook campus.

What is everybody doing here?

He talked about the Analog Research Lab printing studio and workshop at Facebook. Here’s an inside look photo spread from 2010–2013 by Ben Barry (@benbarry).

Scott Boms also mentioned the customized version of Process Type Foundry’s (@processtypeKlavika (designed by Eric Olson @xeolsonx), customized by Neil Summerour (@positype) with help from Erin McLaughlin (@HindiRinny) for the Arabic wordmark.

Carl Crossgrove (@CarlCrossgrove) showed a history of The Sans with Contrast: Seriflessness Across Time. Fun examples of sans-serif designs with contrast. As Theresa Dela Cruz (@theresadelacruzwrote, “The Serifless Romans in Carl Crossgrove’s talk are really lovely.” Agreed.

Matthew Carter gave a lovely tribute to Hans Eduard Meier, who passed away on 15 July 2014.

TypeCon 2014: Tribute to Hans Eduard Meier by Matthew Carter

TypeCon 2014: Tribute to Hans Eduard Meier by Matthew Carter

There’s a nice 2012 piece on Hans Eduard Meier, a life dedicated to letter design by Roxane Jubert at Typotheque (@typotheque) in English, Français, & Español with added illustrations; totally worth reading. My copy of his Die Schriftentwicklung arrived while at TypeCon, along with the updated edition of Size-specific adjustments to type designs by Tim Ahrens & Shoko Mugikura (@timandshoko)!

Here are some tributes for Hans Eduard Meier from:

Nadine Chahine (@arabictype) showed her design process and work on Zapfino Arabic: A Question of Slanted Writing and working with Hermann Zapf. She had some nice quotes in praise of the type design program in which I do most of my current type design, Glyphs (@glyphsapp).

Glyphs improved my quality of life. How many use Glyphs? How many who design typefaces use something else? All of you should switch!—Nadine Chahine

SOTA Typography Award

It was great to see Fiona Ross one night. We’d met at a previous conference; I always enjoy talking with her. At the time, I didn’t know she’d be receiving the 2014 SOTA Typography Award. Well-deserved! A great choice. In addition to all the non-Latin work Fiona’s accomplished, she also pioneered phonetic keyboard input. John Hudson presented the award to Fiona. [Presentation video.] A quote from Fiona that Thomas Phinney captured:

300M Bengali speakers, but they still send text msgs in Latin because no good Bengali font exists on cell phones.—Fiona Ross

Let’s get to work, then!

Here are some other write-ups about Fiona receiving the award, from:

This year, the Type Quiz was extra fun since Nick Sherman (@NickSherman) & Stephen Coles (@stewf / @typographica) were leading! Awesome fun! Martina Flors and I scored around the middle area. I even missed some things I remember reading about in the past week or two. D’oh. There was a fun three-way tie at the end for top score. It took a while to break that tie. And, here was a fun question; I believe the answer was covered in the original question slide. Typefaces for National Geographic (@NatGeo). Here’s a nice Smithsonian (@SmithsonianMag) post on The Secret to National Geographic’s Maps Is an 80-Year-Old Font, showing this image.

TypeCon 2014: Type Quiz!

Sunday morning started with David Jonathan Ross (@djrrb) of FontBureau (@fontbureau) talking about Cracking the Code and his work on looking at typefaces used for coding, considering proportional, differing widths and styles, and other typography. He included a history of monospace typefaces. This presentation also showed his design for and introduced his latest typeface Input. It was quickly used in Nicholas Felton’s (@feltronFeltron Annual Report (FontBureau blog post). 

It was quite nice of David to call out my talk on Resurrecting Type of the IBM 1403 mainframe line printer from TypeCon 2013, showing a specimen of my resultant 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface. Thanks, David!

TypeCon 2014: David Jonathan Ross on Cracking the Code

John Hudson of Tiro Typeworks (@TiroTypeworks) talked about the Problems of Adjacency [annotated slides PDF with new ideas in the afterword from Q&A with Nadine Chahine (@arabictype)]. John always provides great information and insight with the technical detail, knowledge, and history he presents.

Here’s some info about DecoType’s Advanced Composition Engine (ACE), formerly known at the Arabic Calligraphic Engine. The manual for the Tasmeem fonts [PDF] and this video on Tasmeem describe some of ACE. Thomas Milo (@ThomasMiloNL) talked about it at the Stanford University Library (@StanfordLibs), 7 February 2014, in Raising the Stakes in Arabic Text Handling. Ramzi Salta (@ramzisalti) wrote a nice post about the talk. Nice to catch up with Thomas there.

Kimberly Elam showed the work of Josef Müller-Brockmann, like this Beethoven concert poster.

TypeCon 2014: Kimberly Elam on work of Josef Müller-Brockmann

The Type Crit is one of my favorite parts of TypeCon. A type designer gets 10 minutes of quick critique with three master type designers: Akira Kobayashi, John Downer, & Matthew Carter. You can learn a lot by listening and watching the proceedings. Here’s one shot of James Todd’s (@JamesToddDesign) critique with James and Akira smiling.

TypeCon 2014: Type Crit

I also got permission to use a nice quote from Matthew Carter during last year’s Type Crit with me regarding my 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface.

 I may steal that…you may see that again.—Matthew Carter

This year, I donated a copy of Michael Harvey’s Creative Lettering Today book to the Silent Auction; I believe that Shelley Gruendler (@dr_shelley) managed to get that one. I also donated a couple copies of Microsoft’s Mathematical Typesetting booklet. There was a great Mathematical Typesetting book that John Hudson had donated (along with the Microsoft booklet)—it might have been The Printing of Mathematics, Oxford Press; I let JR Osborn (@jrosborn) get that book, since he’d have a more immediate use for it. I did manage to pick up a few items:

Hrant Papazian‘s (@hhpapazian) photo of the Webtype (@Webtype) demo table for David Jonathan Ross’s (@djrrb) new Input typeface, showing “three eras of monospaced fonts.” Hrant and I talked about Armenian type design and other things. It would be fun to someday include Armenian designs in my typefaces. Good to finally meet.

Some random discussions occurred during meals and in the hallways. Max Phillips (@SignalType) and I discussed type design workflow patterns, tools, and Glyphs at the West Wing Cafe, across the way. The cafe was good for breakfast, each day, with an English muffin egg over hard sandwich. Yum. Dinner with James Todd (@JamesToddDesign), Taylor Bryn Hultquist (@Taylor_Bryn), Paul Hunt (@pauldhunt), & Mark Simonson (@marksimonson). At the bar with Gerry Leonidas (@gerryleonidas / @typefacedesign), Liron Lavi Turkenich (@LironLaviTur), Rob McKaughan (@robmck), and others. I wanted to talk more with Jimmy from FontLab; met him with Emily Connors (@emilylimedesign). I met Frank Martinez (interview), briefly, but didn’t run into him again for chat, alas; it would be interesting to talk about font licenses in today’s world. Some nice conversations with Monika Bartels (@MoniBPython) & Sonja Keller (@sonja_keller); Sonja’s also doing font production work with TypeTogether (@typetogether). And, it’s great to have James T. Edmondson (@jamestedmondson) back in the bay area. Jan Middendorp (@JanMiddendorp) and I talked about music and how his nicely designed Shaping Text: Type, Typography, and the Reader book would make a great introductory typography course. The music side related to my return to music notation type design.

I also had the chance to chat with Irina Petrova & Alexandra Korolkova of ParaType about my possible trips to Russia (and my past) for dance and type. They mentioned the Serebro Nabora conference at the end of November 2014. I already had that on my list to consider attending, especially since I canceled a Europe & Russia dance & type trip this summer. Though, I just found out that a wedding may cause me to miss the conference this year. Other type folk I know will be speaking, including John Hudson (@TiroTypeworks) and David Jonathan Ross (@djrrb). Would be fun to connect with other type designers in Russia. 


TypeCon 2014: Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Ocean Hall

TypeCon 2014: Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Ocean Hall

On Sunday afternoon, I finally took a walk along The National Mall, popped into the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (@NMNH), and checked out the Sant Ocean Hall (@OceanPortal) exhibit. Taylor Hultquist (@Taylor_Bryn), an illustrator with a love of ocean stuff, recommended checking out the Coelacanth in the exhibit. Alas, The National Fossil Hall was closed for renovation (photos + time-lapse). The future exhibit looks to have some fun potential. Rainer (Eric) Scheichelbauer (@mekkablue) and I caught up with each other and walked around the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden (@ngadc). My phone battery had died, so there are no photos of the Sculpture Garden. We also ran into Rob Keller (@rnkeller) & Kimya Gandhi (@KimyaGandhi) on the way back to the hotel. If I hadn’t told folk that I’d join them before the evening events, we would have gone with Rob & Kimya to a café.

TypeCon 2014: David Sudweeks, always stylish. Seahorse socks!

I carpooled with Theresa Dela Cruz (@theresadelacruz) and David Sudweeks (@nondescriptes) to the Sunday evening party. David was preparing video for the revival of the FontCast video series. Check out the first one (#18) with John Hudson (@TiroTypeworks)! The music was composed by Theresa, too. More musician + type folk! David is always fashionable. Check out his seahorse socks. He might have picked them up at the Sock Shop on Telegraph, Berkeley, California. The party was at Lucky Strike Bowling. A good job with continuous food, bowling (and attempts thereof), some random fun fusion dancing (a mix of tango, salsa, blues, etc.) with fellow dancer Andrea Leksen (@leksendesign) in between frames, plus some nice conversations and a bit of salsa dancing. There was also a salsa dance & class happening in Lucky Strike. Later, I found that some friends had managed to grab one of the three pool tables. So, I joined them for some pairs 8-ball. Ages ago, I used to play billiards regularly. Alas, the local pool halls with all the pros coming in closed.

After the party was over, a bunch of us ended up across the street at the Rocket Bar (@rocketbardc). Turns out they had a bunch of pool tables, also. Plus shuffleboard and skee ball. Fun to pull up some nostalgia by playing skee ball with Erin Ellis (@rrrellis) and make some attempts at shuffleboard. With the conference over, JP Porter finally gets to relax, too. She does a fabulous job of running the show smoothly, each year, for us!

TypeCon 2014: After Party with bowling and a little billiards.

Feedback for conference

The Independent Type Designer Business workshop could’ve been a full day for more in-depth discussions. We should also try to have related talks more incorporated into the conference program. The workshop would still likely be useful even with that integration, I think, for some smaller face-to-face introductions and discussions.

How to make Education Forum better attended? I always want to attend, but sometimes have conflicts. This year, it sounded like talks were better than last year. Good job! There was mention of a discount for conference attendees to encourage more participation, but I don’t recall seeing it. Consider making that more obvious. Also, the Education Forum link should perhaps be a first class citizen.

Other Posts about TypeCon

Here are some other posts about TypeCon 2014:

Presentations / Slide decks:

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, atypi, conference, presentation, tripreport, typecon, typecon2014 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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