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20 October 2012

Rick Banks: My Social Network


© Jason Wen

Rick Banks
a freelance designer typographer, aged 26.  The question he raised was pretty straightforward: how did I build my social network?

Rick started his presentation with an anecdote, which already takes us toward a creative journey. When he was eight years old, his mother gave him the football shirt of legendary goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel as a present. Alas, the typography was not to Rick’s taste. This event set up his future career.

He graduated in 2006 and started networking through friends and designers that he interviewed. Living in an expensive flat he couldn’t really afford, he initiated a typographic car cards project, called Type Trump, met with Marc Vialli from Magma Books and got published. Rick is all about being creative and pro-active to build a flourishing network, and he seems to do it very well.

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20 October 2012

Rian Hughes: Device Fonts

Rian Hughes, photo © Jason Wen

Rian Hughes is a man of many sides. Comic book artist of 2000AD fame, accomplished illustrator, graphic designer, type designer, “prolific rummager” and most recently author of a book entitled “Cult-ure: Ideas Can Be Dangerous”. Hughes’ talk today at TYPO focused on the later, offering a thought-provoking 45 minutes on the concept of culture, and how (for better or worse) it shapes our perception of the world.

Interestingly, the motivation to produce of the book was born out of a close brush with fate aboard a flight on route from Moscow. After the hydraulics on the plane failed, Hughes, contemplating his own mortality, thought “… what was that project I never got around to?”. An hour and a half later when safely on the ground, the seed for ‘Cult-ure’ was born. Drawing from a vast collection of scribbles and notes in his box of Moleskines, Hughes started work on the book.

Visually, Hughes described the book’s design as a reference to a manifesto, bible or other “source of authority”; using gilded edges and an authoritative typographic style. Beginning with the quote, “culture is roughly anything we do and monkeys don’t”, Hughes took the audience through a selection of topics from the book. Ranging from the simplification of symbols, to the theme of resonant objects (the idea of an object having it’s own meaning, plus it’s cultural baggage), to the human skill / need for pattern recognition (Hughes provided the example of the famous ‘face on Mars’), the talk was fantastically thought-provoking. Perhaps the best snippet from the talk, was Hughes concluding response to the question “How do you kill an idea?”. The answer? “Have a better one”.

By Paul Woods

20 October 2012

Matthew Butterick: Rebuilding the Typographic Society

Photo © Gerhard Kassner

Matthew Butterick’s
philosophy is about taking risks and making things happen.

Graduated from Harvard, being a typographer, a writer (‘Typography for Lawyers’) and a lawyer, he clearly and accurately raised the importance of the written word, within the graphic design industry. He asks us two main questions: what makes typography valuable and how can we rebuild the typographic society?

Written ideas have made communication far easier, it has also had a huge emphasis on our storage cultural system; we teach children to read and write. Typography is not only about ‘making things pretty’ but it is also about social interaction, where the best writing embeds the best human values. Matthew Butterick is not talking about social media such as Twitter and Facebook, which are only here to reinforce our ego and for marketing reasons, but it is about a face to face interaction.

The writer William Zinsser perfectly expresses this thought about typography in his book ‘’On Writing Well’: ‘Writing is visual, it catches the eye before it has the chance to catch the brain’.

Nevertheless, nowadays technology is taking over, we’re not in the 1920’s anymore, where fonts were only about crafts and inspiration. Almost as a challenge for the public, Matthew Butterick compares technology to Godzilla, who would burn the creative industry, but would also give the opportunity to rebuild.

So how can we give back social values to typography?

He offers us four principles he stands for: ‘sell possibilities’, ‘recruit typographers’, ‘practice what you preach’ and finally, ‘create difficult projects, but do it well’.

Don’t be afraid, believe and experience, and things will come to you.

By Héloise Jutteau 

20 October 2012

Vaughan Oliver: Visceral Pleasures

photo © Gerhard Kassner

Vaughan Oliver, designer and art director spoke yesterday at TYPO London of a career spanning 30 years in 30 minutes. Oliver is perhaps best known for (but certainly not limited to) his record cover work with various photographers under the names 23 Envelope and v23, producing iconic artwork for artists such as Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, Lush, UVS, Pixies, The Breeders, Bush, TV on the Radio, Bon Iver, Zomby and more recently David Lynch.

Oliver’s speech was filled with hilarious (and highly-Tweetable) quotes, including my favourites: “I was never caught with Michael Jackson under my arm”, “it ain’t art, don’t marginalise it” and the much re-tweeted “You know that feeling when you love a girl so much the only thing you want to do is to shave her hair off”.

Perhaps the quote that resonated most with me was this one: “(my work) isn’t art. It’s graphic design. Words and pictures. Visual communication”. This was a sentiment echoed through many of the speakers talks over the course of the day – the conversational and social power of design, as opposed to the one way broadcast of art or ‘traditional’ branding. And given the ‘Social’ theme of this year’s TYPO London, this statement feels very appropriate.

By Paul Woods

20 October 2012

Kate Moross: Business Grrrl

Kate Moross isn’t ashamed to be a child of the MySpace generation. After all, the 26-year-old designer owes much of her success and many of her clients to aptly using the early social networking site. As a “post post punk punk,” the internet helped define Moross’ business focus of “Art + Music + Grrrl.”

© Jason Wen

Equally influenced by the Riot Grrrl movement, despite not living it, (“I wasn’t in America at this time, not I was listening to progress music, because I was…10″) and the pre-packaged British Pop capitalist “Girl Power”, Moross describes herself as hybrid, “Kathleen Hanna and Geri Haliwell squished together.”

“I’m not about being underground,” Moross told TYPO attendees in her Friday evening presentation. “I’m about making money.”

How she goes about making money lends itself heavily to the DIY aesthetic. Since her late-teens, Moross pounded both the actual pavement (creating concert posters/fanzines and selling them at shows or warehouse parties) and the virtual pavement (messaging clients on MySpace and offering to code their pages). Soon she found herself landing projects that were huge opportunities, despite not necessarily having the skills or knowledge. Rather than turn them down, she took them full on.

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20 October 2012

Paula Scher: Breakthroughs, Successes and Failures

Paula Scher © Gerhard Kassner

‘We don’t want to save the world. We want to raise the expectations of what design can be.’

Paula Scher is a an artist pretending to be a designer. With an upbringing that incorporated a rejection of modernist uniformity and embracing a revolutionist counter-culture of peace, she began her career working at CBS as an art director. Her work now covers all facets of design, yet is always anchored in a strong & consistent visual language.

Her typographic identity for The Public Theatre in New York City was based on American wood-type. This is a radical early example of a developed visual language as opposed to a logo, which enabled the theatre to stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately it worked so well, it was quickly imitated, repeated and usurped by the surrounding environs.

She states the success you get from doing something you are good at, is actually detrimental and stresses that design in a different field enables growth as a designer. Her desire is not merely to craft identities, but to make them carry on afterwards and be consistent, regardless of how many marketing directors handle them. This, she claims is not design in the traditional sense, but another social skill of people organisation.

Her identity for Type Directors Club was based on concentric patterns. Her desire to push the envelope resulted in another aspect of social design in which 12 designers developed their own ideas over 3 months, resulting in variations of the same core principal. Her new logo for Windows 8, designed around a concept of perspective, was leaked onto the blogosphere to much furore from the design industry. This was terrifying yet consecutively by her own definition: social.

From projects encompassing urban planning to environmental graphics to map painting, Paula Scher’s work contains one overarching theme — ALL design is social.

By: Graphic Birdwatching

20 October 2012

Sean McBride: A Renaissance in Web Typography

Sean McBride – Photo © Jason Wen

Typekit’s Sean McBride had come over from San Francisco to give us an introduction to web typography. The jam-packed Drama Studio room made clear that there is still a demand for talks on the possibilities of typography on the web.

Webfonts ‘exploded on the scene’ three to four years ago. Web-designers realized they could do web-typography as all modern browsers, by then, had support for webfonts in some way or another..

Designers, all of a sudden, could use other fonts than the default Georgia, Arial, Verdana. Default because these are the fonts installed on most computers. Before webfonts you could only use fonts installed locally on the computer of your visitor. With webfonts, you send the font along with the website.

After this short introduction to webfonts McBride went into the differences between typography on the web and in print.

First there is the issue of licensing. Since you are actually sending the font-file to your visitors, and the old licensing models did not allow that, (re)sellers had to come up with different licensing models.

Then there are different formats than the rtf & otf files we were used to. There’s woff, eot & svg. Formats that are more efficient for the web.

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20 October 2012

Social Story Telling with The Guardian

Mariana Santos and Mark McCormick, photo © Jason Wen

Mariana Santos and Mark McCormick shared the stage to talk about how the Guardian is using the readers to enforce their publication. Mariana is doing interactive design and Mark is specialised in infographics. They toss subjects beween their disciplines to make the most of it.

The first example they presented was the Guardian’s take on government spending. The Initially this information is ‘hidden’ in several pdf’s with long columns of digits. The Guardian dug into that and made a interactive graph showing intuitively where the money goes. Readers were then invited to propose the budget cuts they thought the government should make. This was inmediately turned into a graph they could share, attracting more interest and discussion.

Mariana lives in Hackney, where the London riots took place, and in those days was relieved to get home safely. She barred her door, but took photos through her window and sent them on, like many other people did. Back at the Guardian office the tweets were collected and curated, and mapped what was happening where, real time. After three days this map was translated into print. And a book was made in cooperation with the London School of Economics and the Open Society Foundations. They had interviews with 600 people, among which 270 rioters and 130 police officers. An enormous heap of 2.6 million tweets was analyzed. Online, along a timeline the amount of tweets and retweets and their character was shown in families of circles in red yellow and green, growing and moving like a natural organism.

The Guardian uses local blogs for travel information of a foreign city, but also asks around in tweets. In print this turns out in a map with some highlights where to go, where to eat, where to stay, etc. Online the map shows the spots and by mouseover you get more info with photos or even movies, making it a lively city guide.

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20 October 2012

James Jarvis: An A-Z of James Jarvis

James Jarvis, photo @ Jason Wen


James Jarvis is one of a kind.

Trained as an illustrator he designs toys but also coca cola cans for its 150th anniversary. His heart belongs to drawing – so it happens that he draws a comic strip every day. He decide not to present a conventional talk but surprised us with a live hand drawn A to Z of his own life. To draw an idea on a piece of paper is his purest form communication. 

The live illustration performance today started with A for ANGST and finished with ZZZ… (a cartoon sphere that falls asleep). In the meantime we learn about his life and his thoughts that also influence his drawings. For example, he likes the idea of the cartoon characters having real feelings. Drawing is the fundamental thing he does, he thinks about and questions it.

R for reality was an interesting one: It reflects how he creates reality by starting to draw. He summarises his drawing session with the statement that for him cartoon is the highest form of art.

Not much can be added to that. To understand the artist, you need to have a look at his work.

By: Sandra and Julia / Graphic Birdwatching

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