Home from TypeCon

I’m back from Milwaukee. After spending five days and nights participating in lectures, critiques, and generally staying up late chatting about type design, the type industry as a whole, the webfont market in particular, religion, and politics, I re-embrace the steadier pace of home-and-work life. And while the model here is more sustainable for personal growth and getting things done, I miss already the chaotic and inviting atmosphere of TypeCon. I’m amazed each time at how many new friends I’ve made, and what great connections have happened, and what great direction and advice I’ve gotten both as a writer, and designer.

I’ll now step you through some of the more memorable moments I had during the program, beginning with Thursday night’s intro to the single track conference.

On a side stage, audiovisual production manager JP Porter dissolves to the first title slide of Christian Helms’s talk.

Not only do TypeCon presentations have an all-star cast, they also have an all-star audience. It’s hard to attend the event without literally bumping into an accomplished designer or industry leader like Kent Lew, Steve Matteson, or Daniel Rhatigan, only to name a few in the above shot.

Graphic designer and studio proprietor Christian Helms walks us through his typographically rich and personally invested approach to working.

Educator and type designer Craig Eliason steps through a series of pangrams he’s written, remarking that to him, the perfect pangram is not the one that’s most compact, but the one that most subtly includes all the letters of the alphabet. Number 1113 is my favorite in this regard.

Just outside the conference hall doors, Bill Moran and company from the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum make and sell letterpress posters while you wait.

Mike Parker is recognized for his work advancing the type industry—separating the distribution of typefaces from the technologies that output them. He receives the Society of Typographic Aficionados’s SoTA Award Friday evening.

Saturday night, Alan Haley directs the infamous Type Quiz. If you’ve not seen it first hand, imagine all the front-row-sitting nerds you remember from college—the ones who corrected your art history professors on the obscurest details—packed tightly into the first six rows of the venue, licking their lips at the thought of testing their knowledge and taking home t-shirts and other prizes as a result. With both a crowd-response portion, and a written section, needless to say it could get out of hand.

The Type Quiz re-earns its reputation each year.

In one of the more fun talks of the conference, type designer Antonio Cavedoni points out the ubiquity of customized Stop, ending with this parting thought from its designer Aldo Novarese, “It’s better to be criticized than ignored.”

And Sunday afternoon’s Type Crit was a complete success, exposing young and enthusiastic type designers and their work, myself and my work included, to the wise comments and suggestions of Roger Black, John Downer, and Akira Kobayashi.

Designer Roger Black commented afterward that the past five years have been marked by a dramatic uptick in quality from new type designers.

In sum, there’s no business like the type business, where people whose work you’ve admired your whole life welcome you in, put an arm around you, and help you to become the designer you wish you were. Thanks to the organizers and TypeCon attendees for making another great one happen this year.

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