Oliver Reichenstein: Typographic Therapy
When a speaker falls ill the night before their talk, it is never an easy task to fill in at a few hours notice. Oliver Reichenstein rose to the task tremendously this afternoon at TYPO. Bringing a distinctivley Swiss sense of humor to the proceedings, Reichenstein, information architect and owner of agency IA, delivered an ‘off the cuff’ speech after scheduled speaker Moritz Eckert fell ill the night before.
His speech dealt with an eclectic range of topics (all delivered flawlessly even without a format visual presentation on screen), from the grading of fonts for the iPad 3, to discussing the new, minimalist IA website (tentatively penned to be launched tomorrow). However, the bulk of his talk focused on his personal experience of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and the aftermath.
Reichenstein was living in Japan, where his IA agency is based, around the time of the quake. Touching on the experiences of the event, and the subsequent aftermath, Reichenstein described how he suddenly “lost optimism”, and was “not sure what to so”. After flying back to Switzerland with his family, and while deciding what to do with the agency, he started designing a logo for a friend. Even though Reichenstein did not consider himself a type designer in the traditional sense, his logo began to develop into a typeface.
Reichenstein’s talk turned to how he went about designing a typeface, somewhat naively at the beginning, and how the process became a ‘therapeutic’ escape from the events that preceded it. As a first time type designer, Reichenstein described the process of trial and errors, and the mistakes made along the way (in particular, his anecdote about the lowercase ‘w’ was particularly funny). Coincidentally, his first breakthrough with the typeface came after discovering an old book on the subject of earthquakes. He copied the handwriting out, turned it into a font and “it didn’t turn out too bad!”. Realising that it was not about just designing the individual letters, but designing the entire page, Reichenstein continued to work and develop the typeface. He compared the process as rhythmic, similar to playing music.
In the final sections of his talk, Reichenstein turned to the the broader subject of font grading, and spoke about the merits of system fonts for older devices. On conclusion, he treated us to a sneak preview of the new IA website, deliciously minimal and almost entirely typographic. It is due for launch in the coming days, so be sure to watch the space www.informationarchitects.jp.
Text by Paul Woods