Oh look, it’s May again! Time to close the office and head out to Tiergarten, where TYPO Berlin 2014 is taking place.
As in 2013, I’m going to collect my thoughts and observations on this page, updating as time and Wi-Fi coverage permit. As I wrote last year: Not necessarily live-blogging (that’s what Twitter is for) but rather time-shifted commentary.
So let’s get going …
First question: Have I packed everything?
Registration and pre-show mingling
This years swag-bag is a stylish affair with back-pack like straps that works really well as a conference bag if you don’t already carry a bag with you like every sensible person does. It’s great on its own but interferes with everything else you might be carrying with you (a large, unwieldy photo shoulder bag in my case).
The Stone Strategy
Keynote speaker Holm Friebe argues for taking things slowly.
- “The best way to get more done is to do less.”
- “We overestimate the impact of the new.”
- “Be suspicious of the imperative of change.”
- “Keep calm and carry on”.
Stupid Studio creates dynamic identities (with heavy emphasis on motion graphics). Daniel Gjøde gives 13 tips how to get there in less time than he needed.
- “Creativity is messy!”
- “If you’re not having fun you’re doing it wrong.”
- “We employ younger people because they take lower salaries.” (Seriously?)
- “We will never pitch again!” (Applause)
25 years of digital type, without all the experience
Frank Grießhammer, who is barely older than Adobe’s Type Library, waxes nostalgic about some not-so-well-known typefaces from Adobe to a packed audience. Short and sweet, but the TYPO team needs to reconsider using the STAGE for anything other than absolutely fringe special-interest topics. As soon as more than a handful of people show up, folks have to stand or sit on the stairs and can’t see the slides anymore.
Type Design at Adobe
David Lemon presents a more official retrospective of the history of type at Adobe.
- “Time flies when you’re having fonts.”
- Tekton was originally intended for architects, who were the only people who didn’t buy it.
Neon Muzeum Warsaw
Another interesting presentation on a way too small stage. David Hill and Ilona Karwinska are rescuing Polish neon signs from the junkyard and rediscover a unique tradition: electro-graphic design from the period of the “great neonization initiative” during the Cold War.
“Polish School of Posters”: ten facts and myths
Katarzyna Matul explains the controversy surrounding the resurgence of the Polish School of Poster Design. Informative talk but a little light on examples.
Hamish Muir and Paul McNeil
Grid-based posters and typefaces. Meh. (I know, I know, it’s all Wim Crouwel and shit and you’re supposed to love that but still …)
Make Enemies and gain Fans
Some Swedish kids with rock star aspirations.
- “Buy a bike for 900 Euros and you get our book for free”.
- “This is people posting our book on Instagram.”
Bad rock music and self-aggrandizing drivel. Irony-free waste of time.
Day One Summary
By now I’ve learned not to worry if the first day of a TYPO starts a little slow without too many highlights. The exciting stuff usually happens on days two and three. But I do worry a bit about my ability of picking the right talks. Going with my gut feelings usually worked out pretty well in previous years, but this time my conference Kung-fu seems weak.
Living type legend Gerrit Noordzij didn’t feel his health permitted him to travel to Berlin, so the TYPO organizers went to his home instead and recorded a lecture/interview there.
- “The alphabet used to be a numeric system.”
- “Everything I have done was based in a certain dissatisfaction.”
- “Typefaces should have an internal necessity. They should address my dissatisfactions.”
Designing Books for the Digital Age
- “I love architecture monographs but I hate making them.”
- Showing buildings not only during or after construction, but also being in use.
- Crowd-sourced architectural photography
- Univers at 93% width. (Don’t tell Frutiger.)
- “Atlases without maps.”
- “Making a book takes longer than making a child.”
Nice portfolio show, even though the title was a bit misleading.
Is it possible to invent the book today?
- Books today are an industrial product. The used to be carriers of information but that function is now fulfilled by other media.
- “Is digital digital enough? Is analogue really analogue?”
Paul van der Laan
Something Old for the Present, something New for the Past
Nice talk about just what the title says: A new typeface (Oscar) for old Railway stations and a reworked old typeface (Futura) for the relaunch of USA Today. Also a new font (based on Panno) for the Rijksmuseum.
Art with Punk sensibilities: work quick, work cheap, exhibit in bars and clubs, travel a lot, go to Dokumenta uninvited, know no scruples, work for Swatch, MTV, suddenly find your art on McDonalds beverage cups, have a crisis, change your style, drop art, start with music and end up with street art …
Embrace the Oxymoron
Working at MoMA: Designing for a global audience in a local context. Working at Etsy: Designing for a local audience in global context.
Petr van Blokland
The End of CSS
Petr van Blokland advocates the use of prefab components for assembling designs over starting from scratch. He shows how the TYPO 14 website can be programmed with his framework/library Xierpa3.
- “Most web designers are not designing any more, they are styling.”
- “Separate what can be automated and what really needs to be done by hand.”
- Sketch modular
- Create hierarchy
- Design parameters
- Manage the details
The Art of Theft (Originality is an Illusion)
Roger Law, the mind behind the British magazine/TV show “Spitting Image”, shows some of his great cartoon work, much of which is inspired/lifted/swiped from great caricaturists of the 18th and 19th century.
“If you rip people off, you must expect to be ripped off as well.”
drinks beer and shows his home movies. Pretty much business as usual, only this time he is really drunk.
(I’m never really sure if Carson isn’t just shitting on his clients/audience, going “YOLO mofos!”.)
Grzegorz Laszuk and the Raiders of the Lost Things
First Things – Last Things
Performance riffing on Ken Garland’s “First Things First” manifesto. Intriguing but definitively from the WTF-did-I-just-see? department. Maybe not the optimal choice for a first lecture after a night of
heavy moderate drinking.
Peter Biľak presents Works That Work Magazine (which is not a design magazine) and some new ideas on how distribution (a major obstacle for independent publishers) could be changed.
- 99% of magazines look alike because they share the same business model
- Magazines are funded by advertising and not by sales.
- Some papers were able to reverse the trend and make more money from readers than from ads.
- Crowd-funding may be an answer because it not only raises money but also builds a community.
- Print is not dead. The old business models need to die but print will remain.
My favourite talk so far.
Pictograms in Context
Portfolio show with interesting juxtapositions.
New Rave Typography
From “almost boring” to New Wave aesthetic: Overlapping fonts, combining too similar typefaces, making a font out of 26 other fonts (one for each letter), embracing the accident, spending a lot of time on things no one notices …
(Not my cup of tea but very interesting nonetheless)
Under the influence
David Heasty and Stefanie do posh identities for posh upscale clients. Nothing really bad, but nothing exciting either.
Ordnung & Eccentricity Thomas Manss shows some great logo work.
- “Processes don’t produce ideas, people do.”
narrates how he came to love electronic music
- “Artists develop the viewpoints of people. ”
- “Can you digitize truth?”
Not every TYPO Berlin can be a winner and this one certainly didn’t rank among the best TYPOs I’ve been to. Although the range of topics was fairly wide, nothing really stood out. This year’s motto “ROOTS” didn’t help starting a broader discussion about the state of the industry either (unlike SHIFT or SUSTAIN did in recent years). Everything felt kind of safe and even the portfolio shows did nothing to inspire me (apart maybe from Thomas Manss).
Oh well, there’s always next year’s TYPO. See you in 2015.
(As always, I have put up a Flickr album with my photos from the event. See if you find yourself in there.)