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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

20 October 2012

Tony Chambers: Getting a Stiffy

Tony Chambers, photo @ Gerhard Kassner


The title of Tony Chambers’ talk calls for explanation. Stringing along with Eike König, the previous speaker on stage, Chambers also announced that he would not be showing his own work, but work by others instead. As Creative Director and Editor-In-Chief at Wallpaper* Tony Chambers has received numerous invitation cards to all kinds of shows of the fashion industry. Accompanied by his assistants Sarah, Lee and Rose he presented his extensive collection of the last ten years, commenting on their typographic quality, production and overall looks. In this context, Chambers explains, a »stiffy« is an old-fashioned colloquial term for a »thick, elegant invitation to something rather grand«.

Early on in the talk Tony Chambers explains the thought process behind most cards that are being designed: »The shinier, the heavier, the thicker, the bigger, the better – perhaps a bit bling.« Chambers and his assistants began piling up the invitation cards one by one on a table on stage. Several major fashion labels were included in this extensive review. After showing the first few »stiffy« examples, the speaker suggested that sometimes it is »cooler« to go with a thinner invitation instead. Even for those at Logan Hall who did not immediately recognize the wordplay in the talk’s title, it became quite obvious through Erik Spiekermann’s interjection from the audience, suggesting one would be »getting a floppy« when receiving a very thin letter.

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20 October 2012

Tim Beard: Design is a Social Journey

photo @ Gerhard Kassner


Tim Beard quickly weighs in on the conferences theme of ‘Social’ stating that “Design is a social process with social outcomes”. Over the next 45 minutes Tim (one of three directors of East London’s design studio Bibliothèque) gives insights into an array of projects via the studio culture that drives and defines Bibliothèque’s output of work.

Bibliothèque’s holistic approach to design is driven by the passion of it’s counterparts and collaborators. For Bibliothèque ‘Social’ stems from the dialogues that inform the studio’s practise. Beard tells of how “everybody in the studio has an equal voice” where dialogues across project teams are common practise and communal lunches are a daily occurrence; conversations will often passionately carry on after hours in the local pub, or as Beard hints more often with the depth of conversation; several pubs.

Bibliothèque early on in it’s incarnation often divided parts of the design community; it’s modernist approach bordering on too militant for some, but the work Beard shows today hints that all of these studio conversations are slowly shaping a more progressive and wider perspective for the studio, Beard likens good design to a pair of new shoes, uncomfortable at first but ultimately great after bedding in.

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19 October 2012

Simon Manchipp (Someone): Branding, not Blanding

Simon Manchipp, photo @ Gerhard Kassner

Simon runs a company called ‘someone’ in london which is specialised in launches and relaunches. Within the last couple of years he has observed that the traditional understanding of branding does not work nowadays. Branding does not only need to be liked and stand out, today it also needs to be useful.

Successful design is connected to society. People don’t just buy, they own a brand. On social networks a conversation starts and suddenly a brand is public. If you don’t work with the community, it can happen that people start hating it, and in the worst case even kill it.

In order not to get slapped from the Internet, Simon recommends to stand for something and have principles. Don’t ‘DO’ social, ‘BE’ social! Create tools to get people involved. In branding you need to give more than you take. Invite people to participate. Most brand values are anti social, this doesn’t work any more. It’s not about being consistent, but coherent. Create coherent conversation. According to Simon, contemporary logo branding is dying.

Showing some of his projects (such as the Maritime Museum or the Olympic character system), he proved, that you don’t need a logo as such, but a good coherent idea, that also involves society to develop it even further. 

We need more magic not logic. 
What else can be added to that.

By Julia and Sandra / Graphic Birdwatching

19 October 2012

Eike König: From HORT to HEART

Eike König, photo © Gerhard Kassner


Eike König preferred to introduce himself with a colourful media-music show rather than with words. After being run over by an avalanche of his work (all within one minute), he started talking about the actual subject, without showing any more of his projects.
He defined himself as a mix of his empathic mum and his focused, structured dad. They encouraged him to feel responsible to what he does. As a child he was fascinated by political info graphics in magazines. Finding out that graphic designers are creating such powerfully imagery, he decided to become one himself. Another influential part of his work is music.

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19 October 2012

Peter Gregson: The Listening Machine

Photo © Jason Wen


Offbeat(*) speaker Peter Gregson came to talk about his project ‘The Listening Machine‘, a sonification of the continuous stream of tweets by 500 selected UK twitter users. Composer Gregson created the piece together with collaborator Daniel Jones and Britten Sinfonia. It’s an unexpected talk at a design conference, but it did tie in nicely to the social theme of the conference.

And in a way it is similar to a data visualization. Only where a data visualization creates a direct overview of all the data, this piece is more fluid and linear. It evolves over time as the data changes.

The idea came about after the realization that real-time data evolves in a similar way to music. It has crescendo’s and diminuendo’s. It seemed like an easy thing to turn into music. Which of course it wasn’t.

Gregson wanted to make sure the to be created music would reflect the humanity and phrasing of the tweets. Not for instance just a system where each letter in a tweet would be different note. For that they created a system that analyzed the language of the tweets. After that they would know about the sentiment of the tweet: positive, negative or neutral. Which would make the key of the music major, minor, or a-tonal. They’d look for the subject of the tweet and put it in one of their eight categories. And finally they’d look for the rhythm in the speech of the tweet. Which would be translated the music. All these variables would change the to be composed music.

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