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ATypI#13 Contextual, Conclusions, aftermath

Today’s my birthday (36 fanfares if you please) and I got cake and presents in bed. Bengt Jangfelts latest book about Маяко́вский was one and this of course brings me back to the conference,  whose nearest underground station was the Mayakovskaja, adorned with a strong graphical portrait of the poet.

The last time I set foot in Russia was in 1989, in Moscow. I traded  cigarettes for fake medals and some nifty fitting uniforms. This time around the cigarettes were ridiculously cheap and perhaps the arrogance of my youthful wheelings and dealings came back and bit me in the ass.

So, time to sum up the parts and make an evaluation.

There were no photos taken the last day for obvious reasons (but do check out flickr sets here and here, Oleg Koshelets and Daria Dombrovskayas Russian blog and Yves Peters Fontfeeds).

I very much enjoyed Eben Sorkins talk on contextual ligatures, and I found we shared a common inspiration. He had used a quote by Gerrit Noordzij that he thought revealing and summed up a lot of his ideas. So is our admiration for Gerrit what unites us? No. You see Eben contacted him to make sure he had understood him correctly – and he hadn’t. This is the creative short-cut, the genius of every day sloppiness – the Misunderstanding. Some of my best ideas have come through simply not listening properly, trying to read signs from a distance pretending to have elflike eyesight, losing focus, misinterpreting. Once I realize how far off I was, that other association is already at work, like a conceptual cancer. Anyway, his research and occasional postings at Typophile on the subject had made me interested. He was also really nice in person during the party the night before, with a cosmic cherubic coolness accepting my deranged ramblings on Mardersteigs Zeno.

It has to be said: The arrangement was really OK, in regards to the program. Good speakers, although Adam Twardochs contributions to the type tech sessions was uncharacteristically unfocused and unrehearsed. I say this because he’s usually really good. It felt a bit like FontLab fillers. I sat and listened to Frank Blokland on the latest updates on DTL Fontmaster. We were about 20 persons attending, quite possibly – me excluded – the FontMaster user group in its entirety.

The book shop was of absolutely no interest unless you read cyrillic. Some books on latin/cyrillic design relations/conventions would have been nice, but no. As a complement to a bigger and better shop like Morris it would have been OK, but this was just lazy, considering they weren’t even asked to set up shop this year.

The food left a lot to be desired. Not least if You were a vegetarian. The goody bag was as I’ve stated previously, weak (Yves agrees), I heard someone say Fontshop got stuff stopped in customs which of course is sad if it’s true. A Linotype matrix and some more american contributions would have been welcome, whatever leftovers from TypeCon would have been cool with me.

The last two days there’s been a disturbance in the ATypI list regarding Russia, and the wildly misunderstood concept of democracy resulting in some of the weirdest posts ever. Among the highlights (far from the most paranoid ramblings) was the one example saying Russia is more democratic than most european democracies, because you can bring your dog unleashed in the underground. Honestly. If that proves anything, a more sober reflection would probably be that it proves the opposite. Having your dog on a leash is done out of concern for your fellow man. but there you go. I would never say that countries have the governments they deserve. That’s one thing European history of the last 100 years should have taught us.

Obviously, it’s easy to be mature about matters like these since I’m not the one to peek an extra time in my miso soup for polonium the next time i pick up sushi.

To wrap this up, in possibly my last post in English for a long while: So it wasn’t perfect. I got robbed. So what! Key note speaker Oleg Genisaretskiy said he much regretted the disappearance of his favorite letter, the 33d in the glagolitic alphabet I believe it was. He also said of this: a good object is always a missing object. OK, not if the object is a cork screw and You want to open a bottle of wine, but you get the idea. It was a good conference, with some good stories. Let’s look forward to the next one.

september 29, 2008   Inga kommentarer

ATypI#12 Envy

One of the things I really hated missing (the class was full) was the John Downer sign painting workshop. Seeing Yanek’s flickr pictures from it is both interesting and annoying.

september 23, 2008   Inga kommentarer

ATypi#11 I fought the law

I have a problem, but I’m uncertain as to where I should turn.

After the ATypI party I followed Nick Shinn and Eben Sorkin to another venue. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see Nick do the boogie so I had no choice really.

Suddenly I realised I was completely lost, so I left, asked my way around and headed back to the Nevskij Prospekt. Close to the street I got stopped by two soldiers. They started asking me questions (Are you a tourist, do you have drugs, where is your passport, where do you stay) in not a good cop/bad cop kind of way, more like weird Russian military intervention by midnight kind of way. All the while they were asking  they went through my bag and my wallet, asking what was in my water bottle (water, if you wonder). I had nothing compromising in my bag, not even a subversive typographic specimen set in Georgia. So they told me to get back to my hotel (where I was heading anyway, thank you very much).

10 minutes later I’m being stopped again. This time by two cops (a third joins in for no good reason) and we go through the same hassle again.

Back at the hotel I noticed my digital camera was missing. But who took it, the soldiers or the cops? And who do I turn to for justice? The mafia?

september 23, 2008   2 kommentarer

ATypI#10 More giants

Akira Kobayashi replaced Erik Spiekermann, after Roger Black replaced Robert Bringhurst.

Akira tells us about his collaborations with two of the giants, or Gods as he refers to them, of typography, Hermann Zapf and Adrian Frutiger

His first example is Optima, initially done for the photo type setting technique. Certain changes were made just to optimize the font to the current technology. There was still no proper italic, it was simply a slanted version Zapf made mechanically in a few hours. No divine type God technique there.

When Akira asked Hermann Zapf for a new italic Zapf said You should draw the optima italic. ”The god has no ideas” thought a freaked Akira, and drew three versions of which Zapf chose one.

Once Zapf realized how ridiculously simple digital type design is today he started to drop in at Linotype 8.30 every morning, giving suggestions for every letter.

The other giant, god, legend, etc, is Frutiger.

On one of Akiras visits to Frutiger in his Frutigerized village (every sign, every timetable…) they discuss one of his novaficated typefaces. The W, doesnt it look better without the serifs? suggested Akira. Yes said the God-Legend-Giant-Genius.

The god admits his mistakes Akira thought, and including Zapf here, concludes They are not Gods after all as they accept criticism and are curious of what other think.

Well, Amen to that!

september 22, 2008   2 kommentarer

ATypI#9 The mark that dare speak its name

Timothy Donaldson epitomises much of what visiting an ATypI conference can give You: Someone anal enough to engage themselves in a script (the Glagolithic, mother of the Cyrillic and like it never developed a proper miniscule, just a shrunken version of the majuscule, ”with fancy bits”) that shares the developing curve of the well known snowball in hell. He does this with good humour, a shameless use of the Keynote software and obviously an extended research in the history and shapes of the letters, tracing them down to their circular and – almost – quadratic base.

Introduced by Adam Twardoch as the man behind the world’s biggest hamburgefonts (done at the ATypi conference in Reading in 97) he has also designed typefaces. He shows these typefaces extended with glagolithic letters.

Whenever I see letters in foreign scripts I tend to reduce them to almost graphic symbols, stylized doodles, after which I judge them either nice, funny or interesting. Probably the worst kind of review any serious type designer can hear, but it does seem Timothy has done a thorough job all right. As food for thought or if it was part of his research or he got bored and had to much time at his hands he also shows alternative ways of how our latin script could have developed instead of how it looks now, the current set of letters he considers Lucky winners.

september 22, 2008   Inga kommentarer

ATypI#8 Me old Frutiger

Right after Susanne Dechants tribute to the women of type I’m back in the world of super men, watching Heidruns Osterers lecture on Adrian Frutiger, whose monography she recently finished (together with Phillip Stamm).

From Monotypes archive in Salford.

september 21, 2008   Inga kommentarer

ATypI#7 Paul Beaujon & pals

The friday have so far consisted of men.  Jerry Kelly, John Downer and Nick Shinn, introducing a greek unicase. Finally! as Swedish comedian Gert Fylking cries out every time the Nobel prize winner in litterature is announced.

How refreshing then, with some gender awareness (and besides, Tagir Safayevs Discovering the Cyrillic letterforms of Cheltenham through the century was completely in russian) in Susanne Dechants 50 women typographers in 50 years of ATypi.

Where are the women? What has she been told?

– there are hardly women in type

– those who do mainly produce unserious fonts

– if they work on type they don’t like it because of its demand on technical skills


& Cetera.

It is an appropriate tribute to the women in our business – Women has always worked in typography, primarily behind the scenes… to make men look good, as Linnea Lundquist puts it in correspondence with Susanne, who in her lecture keeps her focus on the type world. The problem is obviously a much bigger, broader and a structural one and in no way exclusive to this particular sphere.

Thankfully Susanne isn’t making a point of women being more sensitive, designs cuddly type and loves cats. Rather straight forward she takes us from the early pioneers up til the current crop of Reading graduates.

Among the early pioneers are Gudrun Zapf von Hesse, Rosemary Sassoon and the nameless office girls. This has been raised on Typophile by Bill Troop as well, in the thread about Carol Twombly. But how to find and identify one of these type office girls?

Margaret Calvert designed the road sign typeface Transport together with Jock Kinneir. It was, in fact mainly her doing the design, but it is usually thought Kinneir designed it and Calvert was a mere assistant. It’s also reflected in many collaborations between men and women that the name of the man is always written before that of the woman. Or so Susanne claims. And the structural theory would agree.

Other mentioned along the way: Nicolete Gray (Letters on buildings), Freda Sack, Veronika Elsner, Fiona Ross, Patrica Saunders and Carol Twombly – would have been coronated the queen of type, but jumped ship.

For those of You who lurk at type forums you’ll be well aware of more type persons who happen to be female,that have emerged the last decade. Stand up and be counted: Tiffany Wardle, Shelley Gruendler, Dyana Weissmann, Zara Evans, Andrea Tinnes, Sibylle Hagmann, Verena Gerlach, Veronika Burian, Laura Meseguer, Elena Albertoni, Yvonne Diedrich, Nicole Dotin, Nicolien van den Keur, Christina Bee, Eva Masoura, Vera Estefieva and Seonil Yun.

I have of course missed a lot.

Eventually Susanne coronates Zuzana Licko as the uncrowned queen of type. Not my cup. But as a white, middle class, male designer I think I should shut up for once.

Rosemarie Tissis Sinaloa. Susanne calls it the unbeatable cheesy font

september 19, 2008   4 kommentarer

ATypI#6 Keynote presentation

So we’ve arrived at that defining moment when the keynote is given. More words, less hands on macros. Type tech grunts give way for the Type world glitterati.

Tonight’s talk is given by Oleg Genisaretskiy (In praise of the letter), with Maxim Zhukov as interpreter. It’s been a long day and my mind wanders. I do however focus when he mentions Josef Brodsky and his In praise of boredom in which he eulogises the lower-case letters. I’ve been reading his Nobel prize lecture a few times, and I’m attracted to his theory about aesthetics as mother of ethics. Sometimes it seems clear to me, other times the idea sort of evaporates. I’m attracted, yet I don’t really get it. So it must be good, then.

september 19, 2008   Inga kommentarer

ATypI#5 the Poster Sessions

Typographic researcher Ann Bessemans in action


David Foster Wallace [RIP] is no match for me. As someone who sleuthes around reference libraries and antique book stores, searching for that book which was referenced in that book which was referenced in an limited edition typophile chap book which I found in an essay by Harry Carter (which was found in a foot note… You already got the idea!) I get excited by the idea of being a small potato next to the typographic researchers who dive even further into the black and see my efforts as just another day at work.

Introduced by Gerry Leonidas, he muses over the potential problems of how researchers are approaching and defining research; How do we justify why we use stuff from other fields? Is it research based practise or practised based research? And then, as this was also referred to as Poster sessions, the researchers are presenting their projects with a poster and are given a few minutes to present themselves and their project, in a sort of extended Pecha Kucha way. A refreshing change and for the focus challenged attendees it’s very easy to follow.

Poster sessionesque presentation techniques could also be a way to trim future presentations as they don’t necessarily gain from being stretched to 40–50 minutes.

september 18, 2008   1 kommentar

ATypI#4 People’s poet at the delegates meeting

Not again! Kevin Larsons giant forehead stuck to Gerry Leonidas keyboard.
Now what‽


I’m at the Country delegates meeting. I’m not representing Sweden, more than in, well, spirit. I am however an employee of Pangea design, and since Pangea means all land, referring to that early supercontinent which consisted of all continents, You could say I represent everyone. And noone, the alert blog reader might add. Too true.

september 18, 2008   1 kommentar