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 (@ChristopherSlyeprovided 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 (released online in 2016). 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.

Update: 16 February 2016: The 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface has been updated, extensively, now over 2,300 glyphs supporting 160+ languages. Check out the 1403.slantedhall.com web specimen:

1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface specimen site

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.

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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

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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)

Posted in 1403 vintage mono pro, conference, fonts in use, presentation, typecon, typecon2013, typeface | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

IBM 1403 inspired typeface update (Vietnamese added)

I added a first pass at uppercase Vietnamese (tiếng Việt) to my IBM 1403 inspired monospace typeface. So, now, what started as a combination of the 52 characters represented by the A & H chains of the IBM 1403 printer has become over 1,500 glyphs supporting most languages that use the Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew alphabets, including the recent addition of Vietnamese glyphs.  It’s difficult to find example output, photographs, or actual print chains of the IBM 1403, especially beyond the initial English alphabet.

It looks like there was a Vietnamese print chain designed, as mentioned in Data Processing Goes to War with IBM’s Bachelor Computer Experts by Dan Feltham. I reached out to him, as I did with Jóhann Gunnarsson to see the Icelandic chains, to see if he has samples or can describe how it compared to other chains. There is some description of the process for integrating Vietnamese with the IBM 1401 and designing the 1403 print chain by Curt Maxwell and background information on the IBM customer USAID in Dan Feltham’s book When Big Blue Went to War: The History of the IBM Corporation’s Mission in Southeast Asia During the Vietnam War (1965-1975) (Amazon). Here’s Dan’s page about the book. Some additional research shows that the Vietnamese print chain may be based on the TN “text” chain (basically, Courier), but with new slugs design and code to allow overprinting for more rare diacritic marks. Dan will also be putting me in contact with some of the other SEs and CE involved in the project in Vietnam in the late 1960s. Thanks, Dan! And check out his book; it looks interesting!

Again, as mentioned in the previous Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew update, the translations have not yet been verified.  Here’s an updated sample of the soon-to-be-released 1403 Vintage Mono Pro all uppercase typeface.

1403 Vintage Mono Pro type sample with Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew, and Vietnamese

The website/storefront design is in-progress. I’m also getting ready for my TypeCon (@typecon) presentation Resurrecting Type of the IBM 1403; it’ll be on Friday, 23 August 2013, at 3:25pm in Portland, Oregon, USA.

Update: 21 November 2013: The 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface has been released and is now available for licensing, going from 52 glyphs to over 1,500, supporting 140+ languages across Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew scripts.

Update: 16 February 2016: The 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface has been updated, extensively, now over 2,300 glyphs supporting 160+ languages. Check out the 1403.slantedhall.com web specimen:

1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface specimen site

Jeff Kellem (@composerjk / @slantedhall)

Posted in 1403 vintage mono pro, typecon, typeface, typography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

IBM 1403 inspired typeface update (Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew)

I’ve been busy. As a break, I added a first pass at uppercase Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew to the IBM 1403 inspired typeface. There are fun challenges in fitting these scripts into a fixed width (especially one set initially for the Latin letters). Cyrillic has wide letters; Hebrew has a few narrow letters. After the TYPOSF 2013 conference (my trip report), I incorporated some feedback from other type designers. (Thanks!) I still need to do a detailed review, along with a spacing check, since there’ve been many changes along the way. With that caveat, here’s a sample of the in-progress 1403 Vintage Mono all uppercase typeface. [N.B. The translations have not yet been verified, though the Russian is from a fun dance workshop I attended in Moscow.]

1403 Vintage Mono Type Sample with Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew

Update: 21 November 2013: The 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface has been released and is now available for licensing, going from 52 glyphs to over 1,500, supporting 140+ languages across Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew scripts.

Update: 16 February 2016: The 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface has been updated, extensively, now over 2,300 glyphs supporting 160+ languages. Check out the 1403.slantedhall.com web specimen:

1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface specimen site

Jeff Kellem (@composerjk / @slantedhall)

Posted in 1403 vintage mono pro, typeface, typography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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.
Posted in conference, typeface, typography, typosf | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

IBM 1403 inspired typeface update

It’s been about a month since I started designing my IBM 1403 printer inspired typeface (initial post about it with an early sample image).  The typeface has grown from 52 glyphs covering the A and H print chains to over 730 glyphs, currently in two weights (regular and semibold).  I created a small caps variant to act as lowercase.  There is nearly full coverage of most languages that use the Latin alphabet, now, along with a number of symbols and OpenType features.  Though there’s a lot of testing to be done (and I don’t like to talk about release dates ahead of time), I do hope to release this typeface in the first half of 2013.

Jóhann Gunnarsson, who maintained the two 1401s in Iceland back in the 1960s, was kind enough to send me a couple printouts that included the modifications to the A and H chains to support parts of the Icelandic alphabet.  I’ve included a historical variant of the squished Ö they used, along with Æ, Ð, and Þ in the default set. [As a side note, check out the pipe organ that Jóhann is building.]

On 27 Feb 2013, Cade Metz (@cademetz) published the nice article The Strange Beauty of Historic Computers Brought Back From The Dead in Wired (@wired) about the IBM 1401 restoration at the Computer History Museum (@ComputerHistory). 

Someday it would be great to see the various language specific variants of the IBM 1403 printer chains.  I also hope to see an APL chain, sometime.  Let me know if you have sample output or photographs of these chains.

Update: 21 November 2013: The 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface has been released and is now available for licensing, going from 52 glyphs to over 1,500, supporting 140+ languages across Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew scripts.

Update: 16 February 2016: The 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface has been updated, extensively, now over 2,300 glyphs supporting 160+ languages. Check out the 1403.slantedhall.com web specimen:

1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface specimen site

Jeff Kellem (@composerjk / @slantedhall)

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Nest thermostat almost paid for itself in less than a year

A number of friends have been involved in developing the Nest thermostat and service (@nest).  If I’d known that this is what a friend was coming out of retirement to work on when I departed Tellme in 2010, I might have tried to join them instead of venturing out on my own.  I finally convinced myself to get the second revision of the first generation Nest thermostat when it was available, again, in early 2012.  I figured that I was mostly supporting friends and purchasing an expensive remote temperature sensor.  Well, and a more accurate one. The ~40 year old thermostat (with an error bar of probably 5–10ºF) was being replaced:

Old (~40 years) next to new @nest thermostat.

A post shared by Jeff Kellem (@composerjk) on

Admittedly, the old thermostat may still work in another 40 years, whereas the Nest probably won’t.

Though I haven’t pulled in weather data to adjust for those differences nor changes in natural gas prices, I recently looked at billing numbers for May–December 2008–2011 to compare to 2012.  If Opower (@opower) and PG&E (@pge4me) allowed for arbitrary bill/cost comparisons beyond just the current bill, it’d be easier to show real differences since they adjust for weather and costs.  But, still the numbers are interesting.

The 2012 numbers were the smallest of the past 5 years.  Smallest savings difference was just over $100.  Largest was $270!   Averaging the costs from 2008–2011 showed a savings of $195 when compared to 2012.  So, in less than a year, the Nest thermostat almost paid for itself.  Admittedly, my scenario was the easiest to provide savings: I’d often just set the thermostat once and leave it, except when traveling. I have a simple heating system. For those that turn down the thermostat at night, regularly, it might take longer.  I was still surprised at how quickly it paid for itself.

I wish Nest had an API for in-depth data access and showed more details, immediately, too. I’ve noticed claims of auto-away savings for 1 hour when it should’ve said 6+ hours; would be easier to diagnose if data was available, immediately.

Now, I’m experimenting with turning it down at night and letting it learn more about that routine.  I’ll be curious to see how the numbers change next year.  You can purchase a Nest from Amazon or any of the stores listed at Nest.com (Apple, BestBuy, Home Deport, Lowes, directly from Nest, etc.).

Jeff Kellem (@composerjk / @slantedhall)

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An IBM 1403 Printer Inspired Typeface (in progress)

1403 print samples


The other day, 18 January 2013, Mark VandeWettering (@brainwagon) wondered aloud on twitter about the existence of a typeface reminiscent of the IBM 1403 line printer.  Mark wrote about his path to this query.  Stan Paddock (his 1401 blog) had created a scanned font (artifacts and all) from a 1403 test printout during an IBM 1401 restoration at the Computer History Museum (@ComputerHistory).  I decided I could probably throw something together that Mark might be able to use.  Plus, I’d be combining two long-time interests: my love of history with typeface design. I knew that Mark was playing with simh on a Raspberry Pi (@Raspberry_Pi), simulating a DEC PDP-10 and the IBM 1401 (@IBM) and probably wanted to see the typeface while working with the 1401 simulator.  So, that was the start of researching aspects of this printer and the various type chains produced for it.  I also happened to have worked for both DEC and IBM, a while back.

Beginning of the IBM 1403 Printer Inspired Typeface

Here’s an in-progress sample of one of the typeface projects I’m working on, inspired by the IBM 1403 printer.  Work on this monospaced typeface has only just begun.  I started on the heavier side, perhaps slightly wider, and definitely tighter spacing.  Samples were minimal, so I was taking a guess at the shapes.  It’d be great to take a look at the various typeface printer chains (and subsequent printouts) produced for the 1403, especially the TN “Text” chain, used for producing books and such.  I started with the basic 48 glyphs (26 letters, 10 digits, and 12 symbols) used on the early 1403 A chain.  I started mixing between a couple of the chains (A and H) to add some additional characters.  The squareLozenge ⌑ is included, of course.  There was some great technology in the 1403; it was a workhorse, one of the early high speed printers.  Perhaps I’ll write more about that when this typeface is released.  In the meanwhile, here’s the IBM 1401 System 50th Anniversary panel (video: 2 hours) held at the Computer History Museum (@ComputerHistory), 10 November 2009.

Sample printout of IBM 1403 inspired typeface

The listing in the sample printout was copied from the 1403 printout photo by Marcin Wichary (@mwichary), found after the font was designed. Glyphs (@glyphsapp) was used for designing the typeface.

Update: The typeface has been expanded to 730+ glyphs over two weights with an hopeful release in the first half of 2013.

Update: 24 April 2013: Initial support for Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew has been added. Here’s an early preview.

Update: 7 August 2013: Initial support for Vietnamese has been added.

Update: 21 November 2013: The 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface has been released and is now available for licensing, going from 52 glyphs to over 1,500, supporting 140+ languages across Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, and Hebrew scripts.

Update: 16 February 2016: The 1403 Vintage Mono Pro typeface has been updated, extensively, now over 2,300 glyphs supporting 160+ languages. Check out the 1403.slantedhall.com web specimen:

1403 print samples

Jeff Kellem (@composerjk / @slantedhall)

Posted in 1403 vintage mono pro, typeface, typography | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments