Photo: Gerhard Kassner

My first day at TYPO London was quite an experience. Entering the lobby at Logan Hall felt like stepping back in time a few months. The professional and efficient welcome and wonderful organisation amounted to the great atmosphere the sister conference TYPO Berlin is so famous for. Seeing all the familiar faces made it feel as a deja vu, but a fresh and exciting one. Nonetheless it immediately struck me that this London edition has its own distinct identity, its own quirky personality.

This first day kicked off with Erik Spiekermann introducing the facilitators in his characteristic irreverent style. Lynda Relph-Knight and Adrian Shaugnessy did a brilliant job. They were easily as interesting as the presenters, asking pertinent questions and offering short additional insights.

Starting 15 minutes late (to no fault of his own) Dale Herigstad opened with Media Space: Where is what? What is where?, exploring what happens when digital media leaves the screen. After briefly walking us through the evolution from the static flat rectangle via moving images to virtual space, he showcased a series of impressive solutions using innovative spatial concepts. His presentation ended in retro-futuristic mode with all attendees wearing cardboard three-dee glasses – the ones with red and blue mica lenses – to see media interfaces using the three dimensional plane.

With Telling the right story, Nat Hunter, Creative Director at Airspace, talked about the importance of storytelling, showing the audience that information plus narrative equals powerful communication. Nat’s fascination with this subject had been sparked by studying the psychology of human-computer interface at college. She went through a series of varying projects, ranging from an educational short for the Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art using an irreverent take on information design, to an educational movie for DFID and the BBC World Service on the concept of “Communication is aid.” Social consciousness and sustainability shone through her work, making it meaningful, relevant, and ethically sound.

The most informative presentation for me personally was BBC’s Global Experience Language in 27 languages and 9 scripts, by Kutlu Çanlıoğlu, Senior Creative Director for BBC World Service, and Titus Nemeth, type designer, typographer, student and teacher. Kutlu started by explaining the subtle cultural differences between the diverse nationalities that are served by BBC World Service, and how these are translated to the different regional websites. On a typographic level the different scripts used for those 27 languages posed complex problems in achieving a coherent and unified visual identity that remained locally relevant. In the second part of the presentation Titus Nemeth focused on the typographic side of things. After giving a brief but fascinating insight in the Arabic script he showed how his typeface Nassim was thoughtfully customised to cater to the cultural affinities of the different nationalities that use the script.

After the coffee/tea break Jonathan Ellery, conceptual artist and founder of London based design studio Browns, mainly talked about his work in The here and the now, where it comes from and what it’s about. He did so by going through the artist’s books he published through Browns Editions. In a subdued and personable, quite intimate style that left some in the audience slightly uncomfortable, he discussed the underlying narratives and meanings behind his books and art installations

Equally honest was Tony Brook, creative director/co-founder of Spin and co-founder of Unit Editions, with Bred in the bone. In the first part of his lecture he showed some of his highly reductive yet very interesting design work, doing more with less. He shared his almost obsessive love for Wim Crouwel, both the designer and his work, and talked about curating the major retrospective of the Dutch master’s work at the Design Museum in London. The second part had him examine in a humorous, tongue-in-cheek way if a shared (Northern) culture could create a distinct creative approach. Especially his self-deprecating analysis of the Northern identity elicited quite a few laughs.

The first (half) day of lectures ended on a high note with The only important decision by Michael Bierut, partner at Pentagram, New York. After explaining where he came from and how he became a (graphic) designer, Michael went through ten projects where the selection of the typeface was the most important aspect. The selection process in each of these projects was informed by places, by their geographic and historic location. These examples showed that a clear rationale is beneficial to this process. Michael is a very skilled presenter, possessing the comedic timing of an experienced stand-up comedian. His presentation was spruced up with offbeat remarks and hilarious one-liners which had the audience in stitches.

And thus ended the first day. Everybody went off to have free drinks at the Cicada bar, except me, because it’s a dirty job and somebody’s gotta do it. More tomorrow.

Text: Yves Peters a.k.a. Bald Condensed, courtesy of The FontFeed