Write-up: TYPO London 2011 (Thursday)


From 20-22 October, London was host to the TYPO 2011 conference. The conference started sixteen years ago in Berlin, continuing without interruption since. London holds the distinction as the first event held outside of Germany. The format: three days of talks with appearances by more than forty speakers. The schedule is quite ambitious. Talks begin in the early morning and continue well into the evening: there is no filler and the expectation of quality is high. Erik Spiekermann (always direct, brutally honest, wonderfully hilarious) and Adrian Shaughnessy acted as the glue of the conference, holding the space between speakers in place.

The theme of the conference is perhaps best summarised by a point Dale Herigstad made in the very first talk, later expanded upon by Tim Fendley. Spaces become places when they contain meaning; places gain definition with name. The speakers, organisers and audience members all arrived from a great many places, and the work and conversation shared amongst them reaches even further.

While I currently design and develop for the web, my background is in print. I formally studied as a Graphic Designer, schooled in the principles of the Bauhaus and Swiss design. Towards the latter half of university, I experienced the autumn years of post-modernism in design — a divergence that encouraged experimentation and insisted on questioning legibility — an experience that certainly influenced my understanding of design as much as formal modernism. The speakers who volunteered their time for this conference came from a genuine mix of design and art backgrounds. Design conferences of this scale are quite rare, and I feel quite fortunate to have had the opportunity to see the work of so many of my peers and heroes, to view the work as presented.

The quality and tempo of the conference was perhaps set by the first day of talks, a series to kick off the weekend in great anticipation.

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Snapshots: Week of 28 February, 2011

Typographic faux pas

IKEA adopting Verdana is a bit perplexing. My initial suspicion was that the decision was intended as a strategy to unite the typography used in print to that on the web — Futura hasn’t achieved ubiquity on personal computers due to licensing restrictions. Unfortunately it seems the official reason is that the company wants to use the same typeface in every country, a fairly weak argument. If internal standards have suddenly become so dire, they surely could have found an opentype font — Helvetica/Arial perhaps — that is actually intended for viewing at the sizes the new catalogue is typeset in. On a related note, the website seems to degrade further from the brilliant concept Huge composed for them on a nearly daily basis.