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SEEN AND NOTED · August 20, 2012

Font Bureau at TypeCon 2012

Every time I come back from TypeCon, I always promise myself I am not going to ramble on about how awesome it was for days after it’s over. But once again, I’ve failed. TypeCon 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin: You were wonderful!

As a graphic designer, I find the experience of attending TypeCon to be one that is both inspiring, but also welcoming. And while this is only the second of these conferences that I’ve been a part of, the feeling has not wavered.

Both type designers and graphic designers are keen to make things they care about, to make smart choices about form/function (in design and type design), and both are enthusiastic about collaboration. These common interests were in some way present throughout the conference lectures.

Some great examples of this included the talk from Erik Vorhes, Press Checks in the Age of Web Type. Erik touched on some great points of how to use type on the web the right way and how to make sure that designers' beautiful work is being translated properly across different browsers. He posted his presentation online here.

Another was Inside Paragraphs from Cyrus Highsmith on his book. Cyrus explained his process in developing the book, showing early sketches and ideas. He talked about how he was able to sit down after he'd figured out what a book on type needed to contain if it was meant to fill a void. Not to replace the great classic type books, but to accompany them. He said this was the book he wanted when he was a student, and probably as close to a comic book as he’ll ever get.

And wrapping up the program, was the much-tweeted about Technological Shifts and Their Effect on Letter Shapes from Indra Kupferschmid. It was so cool to see letter forms evolve with changes in materials being used in printing. In letterpress or flexo printing, as Indra put it, “The serifs became thicker because of the Quetschrand” (That’s German for the halo effect that occurs with ink crawling out from under the letterform). Whereas the shift to photo typesetting had the opposite effect of overexposing the letter edges (Überstrahlung). I love how printing terms sound purposeful and important no matter what language they are in.

In addition to hearing the fantastic speakers, I had the opportunity to visit the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. What an amazing collection! The workshop experience there afforded participants half a day to print with some of the museum’s pieces, inks, and paper on Vandercook presses. The other half we spent carving our own wood type and making unique prints. Though I’m not a type designer by trade, I tried my hand at carving a “g” — I did alright. But going through the process certainly made me appreciate the craft of hand carving, as well as using those handsome presses.

Finally, the biggest highlight for many attendees, including those of us from Font Bureau, was watching Mike Parker receive the 2012 SoTA Typography Award. Mike has accomplished so much in his lifetime, and the world of type and design alike would not be what they are today without him. Frank Romano put it well when he wrote, “Mike Parker helped to advance digital design and production, desktop publishing, and personal computer use and made them all virtually universal.”

Thanks again to SoTA and everyone who made TypeCon possible. We’ll see you next year!

Photographs (clockwise from top):
Indra Kupferschmid, Cyrus Highsmith, David Berlow and Mike Parker at dinner.
Nick Sherman and Stephen Coles at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum.
Mike Parker’s 2012 SoTA Typography Award keepsake booklet.
My “g” carved in wood veneer and printed on an extra heavy press from The Ostrander Seymour Co.


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