Takeaways from ATypI 2016

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Last week, many Alphabettes traveled to Warsaw for the 60th annual ATypI conference. ICYMI and aren’t suffering from enough type conference fomo, you can live vicariously through their personal impressions, takeaways and favorite talks. Photos by Alessia Mazzarella.

Alice Savoie:

ATypI Warsaw was my fourth time attending the conference since 2007, and my second as a speaker. Having attended a large number of the presentations over the four days of the Forum + the main conference, I was genuinely impressed with the overall quality of the talks and the variety of topics covered. Here I cherry-pick a few of my favorite presentations:

As part of the technology forum, Frederik De Bleser and Louis-Rémi Babé demonstrated how their library OpenType.js used Javascript in unexpected and playful ways, enabling users to manipulate and generate fonts directly in a web browser. In the business strand, Joyce Ketterer from Darden Studio provided an insightful account of the challenges of writing and deciphering EULAS, both from the foundry and the customer’s perspective. I enjoyed her open and concrete approach to a subject that can often appear incredibly tedious.

In terms of more hands-on type design projects, Laura Meseguer, Kristyan Sarkis and Juan Luis Blanco presented their multilingual type family, produced as part of the Typographic Matchmaking in the Maghreb project. Named Qandus, the family includes Latin, Maghribi and Tifinagh. It is a very lively design, which is planned to be developed in a variety of weights (so you may want to keep an eye out for it). The collaborative process between these three talented designers seems to have been such a fruitful experience, their presentation was heartwarming to watch.

And last but not least, picking a single talk on academic research has proved terribly difficult, as there were more than a few excellent ones! Eric Kindel & Pierre Pané-Farré presented their fascinating research on 19th century stencilled posters in France. I particularly enjoyed discovering their research process, as Eric and Pierre took us on their journey analysing an impressive number of photographic and lithographic images of the period, in order to find specific occurrences of stencilled posters. And of course I have to finish here with Briar Levit’s excellent talk on the democratization of typesetting technologies before DTP and her upcoming film “Graphic Means” – to me, seeing so many phototypesetting machines and paste-up boards in a single feature film is about as good as it gets.

María Ramos:

I could mention some presentations of people whose work I admire even before ATypI 2016. However what I enjoy the most at conferences is to discover new talented people and motivating projects. I want to highlight the presentations by 4 young designers/researchers. The panel “Different needs, different stories” showed us some examples of what is happening design wise in Poland. The talks by Zofia Oslislo, Marian Misiak, Viktoriya Grabowska and Jan Bajtlik were presented in a clear and straightforward manner. We learned about typographic cultural needs, branding and national identity, tactile alphabets for the blind and type education for children. Hearing new voices and knowing a bit more of what is happening in Poland was of special importance to me, a real immersion in a country I was visiting for the first time.

Alessia Mazzarella:

ATypI, for me, is not just an event but a special time of the year when I get to meet friends who live far away and have the opportunity to talk to people that I’ve never met before.

This was my third ATypI and following were some of my highlights.

The main conference started with an extremely well-researched talk about typefaces for phone books by Alice Savoie and Dorine Sauzet, who focused on the work of Ladislas Mandel and his Galfra (a design for the Italian phone directories, used from late 1970s till the beginning of 2000s). The day continued with equally interesting talks on topics that varied from collaboration in design, both as a concept (Bianca Berning) and in a more practical way on how three different people can design for three different scripts and retain harmony in the type family (Juan Luis Blanco/Laura Meseguer/Kristyan Sarkis). Topics included a wide variety, such as the process behind a custom design for a car company (Jean-Baptiste Levée), to a series of standards to raise the bar of lettering work (Martina Flor).

I particularly appreciated how talks were combined together following a common theme. My picks for the last day were the brilliantly delivered talk about the Mincho style (Reiko Hirai and Osamu Torinoumi); the always-so-good talk on typography for the Harvard Murty Library showing how to accomplish bilingual settings with care, in a variety of Indian scripts and in different literary genres (Rathna Ramanathan); and lastly the timely and relevant talk about the difference between speaking a language and designing for a script (Titus Nemeth).

It was really good to have a business track on the Forums day, I’ve always felt that there is not enough discussion about all that surrounds the design of a typeface.

On the less bright side, I would have preferred some time for questions at the end of each talk.

Laura Meseguer:

ATypI Warsaw was my seventh time attending since 1995 (that year was the first in Barcelona), and my first as a speaker. Thanks to Alice, Elena and Alessia for their comments on our talk, we got very positive feedback that gave me a lot of happiness. That is something that probably only happens among type designers, and what makes our community even more special.

I enjoyed many talks, but as I couldn’t attend the talks on the first day, I will focus on the main conference.

If I choose two or three talks per day, my highlights for the second day start with Alice Savoie and Dorine Sauzet. I have always been very fond of Ladislas Mandel, and their talk paid tribute to his huge talent. I learned a lot about his processes and way of thinking, and also about how research in type can be brilliant and necessary, I congratulate them and ESAD Amiens. The talks by Sonja Knecht and Bianca Berning also gave another dimension to the term convergence, meaningful from the start.

For the third day, I loved the presentations given at the panel “Different needs, different stories” great examples of what’s going on in Poland and from totally different perspectives, by Zofia Oslislo, Marian Misiak, Viktoriya Grabowska and Jan Bajtlik.

For the fourth and last, I choose Eric Kindel & Pierre Pané-Farré and the hypnotizing (for me at least) research on 19th century stencilled posters in France. Such inspiring material, meticulous research, type detectives 🙂 My big applause goes to Aleksandra Samulenkova and her talk about Diacritics in the Latvian Alphabet and to Mariko Takagi about Tanaka Ikko and the Japanese Modern Typography. Both were straight to the point and also completely new subjects (to me), presented in a very pedagogical and enthusiastic way.

The programme was fully packed, and there was very little time to talk to people. One had to skip talks, or go to bed late at night, both things happened, as expected.

Tanya George:

Last week I got to attend my very first ATypI conference. It came just on the heels of having finished all submissions for my Masters programme at Reading. The days leading up to it had me brimming with anxiety and excitement as I was not sure what to expect at THE conference for type designers. Could I even call myself that already? Would I be able to find my voice amongst all those speakers? How do I talk about type to people who know so much more than me?

So what did I do? I started by feeling awkward and overwhelmed on being surrounded by people I have admired, gradually becoming brave enough to waltz up to them and tell them exactly that. The serpentine line for lunch was a good icebreaker and greatly aided such endeavours. However, the name tags could have used a bigger type size so that I would be warned before I asked John D. Berry directions to the loo. I also got to listen to a bunch of people talk about why type excites them and realised that there are so many different ways to be crazy about the same topic. To a recent graduate with lots of ideas and a desire to experiment with everything, this was extremely reassuring.

Even before the main conference had started, the reveal of the new OpenType standard and Variable fonts at the technology forum had everyone abuzz. I got to hear the “grown ups” talk about the new possibilities that would open up, and their excitement was infectious. They made me feel like a kid with a new toy and I couldn’t wait to go home, rip the cover off, and play with it. Alice Savoie and Dorine Sauzet’s opening talk on Ladislas Mandel’s Galfra was a nice slice of history while also showing how archival research can inform and enrich current practices. It set the tone for what I was to expect from speakers in the coming days. The case studies presented by Jan Bajtlik, Viktoriya Grabowska, Marian Misiak, and Zofia Oslislo on their work were also extremely interesting and provided a refreshing Polish perspective on typographic expression. The conference was also home to an informal exhibition of sentient folding table tops. Provided at the back of each seat, these tables lead to the downfall of many a drink and Mac. The contraptions were especially useful in case you wanted to learn curse words in various languages, as it indiscriminately snapped shut on its users without any warning. On the whole, the conference was a rich amalgamation of different yet interrelated topics, ranging from historical research to cultural investigations, all through the critical lens of type design.

For me, this conference has also been a whirlwind of emotions. It was the last time I got to hang out with most of my fellow classmates – who have become more like family – from the MATD. It also gave me the opportunity to meet people whose works I have devoured over the last year or longer. Thus in some ways, the conference has been a concentrated extract of my time at Reading. Warsaw provided a wonderful backdrop to say these hellos and goodbyes, and I can’t wait to apply for my visa to ATypI Montreal.

Elena Veguillas:

Attending ATypI is always an exciting experience. It’s that combination of old friends that are only seen at this time of the year, new friends to be, talks with a level of quality that I hardly see in other conferences, plus a new city to be discovered, that makes this conference special.

Although it is hard to choose a few talks, here are my highlights. Starting on the first day, after the workshops, Verena Gerlach, Laura Meseguer and Veronika Burian talked about their paths as type designers, their inspiration and particular projects. The fact that they presented three completely different approaches is what it made it so interesting. It was a parallel event to ATypI, organised by Projektantki, a recently born graphic design association.

On Wednesday, while everyone was trying to digest the news about OpenType variable fonts, track B was looking into education and business. I would highlight CJ Dunn’s talk about the possibility of creating a common model of EULA, aiming to make such an arid field into something, at least, understandable. The significance of a business track was evident with a completely full room and a large part of the audience standing. If I am not wrong this was a follow up after last year’s panel lead by Indra Kupferschmid and the first business track at ATypI, and it definitely showed the interest in the business side of type design.

Laura Meseguer, Kristyan Sarkis and Juan Luis Blanco’s talk about the Typographic Matchmaking in the Maghreb was definitely a peak moment. For me it was a unique presentation, a magical moment. The project consisted of designing a typographic family with the three main writing systems of Maghreb and Al-Andalus: Latin, Arabic and Tifinagh. The result is Qandus, a type family that conveys a historical approach and respect but without the dust of nostalgia.

Another noteworthy talk was given by Petra Černe Oven about Ciciban, a children’s magazine published in socialist Slovenia for about 70 years. Petra’s research focused on the 1940s to the 1980s, when the topics were still highly political and satirical. The covers were a fine mix of lettering, later typography, and illustration.

Finally, in my short list and from the final day, I’d like to highlight the fine curation of the talks, when Rathna Ramanathan discussed the Murty Classical Library of India, Titus Nemeth presented on the real implication of being a native-script type designer versus the research, and Aleksandra Samuļenkova who showed the need of knowing your field and your culture as in the case of Latvian diacritics. Three different approaches to the significance and implication of cultural values.