TYPO San Francisco Blog
Conference News

18 August 2014

2015 Theme: FOCUS

Focus permeates the designer’s everyday world – from specializing in one specific area or discipline, concentrating on getting that client project done on deadline, or zooming in on the pixels of your typeface. Within the industry, shift in focus are constant. Does a designer choose to learn web, print, mobile or be a jack-of-all-trades? Does a graphic designer take on type design? Should a visual artist delve into UX? Do type foundries dedicate more attention to webfonts? By focusing on “Focus,” TYPO San Francisco will bring together a diverse slate of international and local speakers to explore this theme through a creative’s lens.

Focus your sights on San Francisco on April 30-May 1, 2015. More information on registration coming soon!

12 April 2014

Emory Douglas: Criminals Running the Government

Photo by: Amber Gregory

Arguably the shortest presentation I’ve been to all day, but arguably the one packed with the most passion.

Emory Douglas is a designer for the Black Panther movement, so his illustrations and posters are anything but controversial. As an example, one of his illustrations dealt with the subject of African-Americans fighting the very controversial Vietnam War. In this illustration, a pig — a common representation of the U.S. government, or government owned entities — dressed as Uncle Sam, is seen winding up toy soldiers (the African-American soldiers) and sending them off to Vietnam. The next scene is what happens when the African-American soldiers realize that the war they’re engaged in isn’t their war, the United State’s war. You can tell the African-American soldiers are a bit disgruntled, because the scene below it is of the toy soldiers chasing off the pig version of Uncle Sam.

Emory’s presentation makes it abundantly clear he’s not behind any political party’s agenda. His art’s message is of a progressive thinking, but it transcends both parties, and the government in general. For instance, one of his cover designs, The Black Scholar magazine, was of a donkey and an elephant — symbols of the two major political parties in America — eating from the same trough. The trough, of course, represents a resource, from which both parties are equally interested in, and are equally involved in abusing. Throughout the years, he’s designed magazine covers, flyers, album covers, mailers, etc, that have centered around political satire, calling out left and right-wing leaders when they’ve strayed from their duties of serving the people, and not their personal interests. Most recently, his work has criticized the Obama administration, for their hypocritical views on peace, and the false idolization inflicted on the general public. One of his designs calls Obama a “Nobel Fraud” — for those of you that don’t know, Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize — and justifies that statement by showing an illustration of Obama signing into law a “Kill List” — a list of public enemies the government has set out to eliminate.

While his presentation was passionate, and very controversial — most of the subjects he creates art around deal with topics like the privatization of prisons, “criminals running the government” (a tagline he said several times), inequality of America, etc. — it was also informative in regards to design techniques and tools he has used in the past, present, and, most likely, the future. He talked a bit about the guerrilla-style of design he was engaged in; his presentation started off with slides of rub-on type, which is a decal style type that you can rub onto any medium you’re working in; he went on to talk about the importance of pattern sheets, or sheets solely devoted to transferrable patterns; he mentioned the limitations of color, and how being limited to one-color print meant really designing with that color in mind; he tied it all together by describing his work station, which was flat surface area (not a designer’s table of any sort) and any source of light that was available. As far as technique is concerned, the man wants it to be known that he largely works in an analogue setting, both in the past and in the present.

The presentation was short, sweet, and intensely passionate. Whether you agree with his point of view — the representation of government figures as pigs, the catchy sayings (“Health is Wealth”, “Man Made Money, Money Drove Man Mad”), the blatant opposition of the privatization of our prison system — or not, his confidence and humanity are sure to inspire even the most opposing of us.

— Peter Berki


12 April 2014

Aaron James Draplin – “Tall Tales From A Large Man”

Photo by: Amber Gregory

It is hard to sum up the experience that is Aaron James Draplin. Where to start?

Draplin commands the attention of the audience with bold slides including an official DDC disclaimer and a fair warning to coders that his presentation will not include any sort of code languages. He establishes his presence on stage with seemingly appropriate vulgarity mixed in with motivational statements. Regardless of what the audience thinks, he explains that he probably shouldn’t be up on stage since he lacks credentials or professional accolades.

As he quickly moves on, slides of a hilarious history of his family hair styles and the divide between the cool kids and the not-so-cool kids. He eludes to being part of the latter group and describes his snowboarding passions which led to his first snowboard graphic which was in “5 dpi”.

The outlandish and appreciated humor continues as he continues to take the audience through his accomplishments of purchasing a house, an adorable wiener dog named Gary, and the beginning of DDC. He displayed various works he has done in the past matched with eclectic music which adds to the inspirational atmosphere. The importance of not using money as a motivation to design is apparent as he describes the effect his work had on a logo he created for a friend’s business, “Cobra Dog.” The power that individuals have to influence and help others carries further than any financially fueled identity.

He innovated the design and creation of Field Notes since he couldn’t find something similar to which he liked. He has invented his client and how the brand has evolved over the years. A sentimental touch was added when he described that he was able to take his parents out to buy a car because of this success. He continued to promote the idea that you can “invent this stuff yourself.”

San Francisco is challenged by Draplin to “get out there and get dirty”. Instead of going to wine tasting he recommended junking in little places and basements. He feels that design is so nimble and appreciates the contrast of how design was back in the day before computers where it was a physical and tangible profession. He emphasizes he doesn’t want the idea of design to die and to quit taking pictures of coffee.

What’s next for DDC? Draplin quickly goes through bumper stickers for his dad, a logo for a bike company, a Sasquatch concert poster, hats, and space shuttle graphics. Also, if you didn’t know, some of the things he loves are his family, America, sweatpants. Some of the things he hates: Kid Rock, sandals at a wedding, prime mark abuse and stacked food.

He concludes with encouraging the crowd to work hard and “say yes a little more than you say no” and “do good work for good people.”

-Noelle Germone, @ngermone

12 April 2014

David Jonathan Ross – Backasswards!

Photo by: Amber Gregory

As the attendees entered the screening room, chatter began swirling around about what kind of question they would ask David Jonathan Ross. The prompt was based on his recent move from New Hampshire to Los Angeles. The ice is broken with such questions like “What’s the best tanning salon in New Hampshire?” This sets the tone of the funkiness that is about to unfold.

David eagerly jumps into his talk on reverse contrast fonts which he feels are “woefully underused”. He feels that they are much more significant and has more to offer than so-called gun slingers. To give a brief overview of the terminology that David would continue to use throughout his talk, he introduced “normal contrast” and “stress” which is very beneficial for a person who has an elementary view on the topic of typography.

As the talk continues, he emphasizes the history of various reverse contrast fonts from the 19th century and displays the evolution that these typefaces have taken to the current day. He digs into four groups that make these fonts notable: concept, texture, funkiness, and dynamism. David incorporates the theme of TYPO into his talk by stating that the “sense of rhythm that foreshadows where the typeface is going.”

His enthusiasm for reverse contrast fonts is shown throughout the talk and passionately concluded with what he feels reverse stress offers: a parallel universe.

-Noelle Germone, @ngermone

12 April 2014

Happenings at TYPO – $1/Minute

Photo by: Amber Gregory

I hope you had a chance to visit the $1/MINUTE participatory creative workshop set up by Ana Llorente & Davey Whitcraft of Strangeways Academy. Throughout the past two days, conference attendees had the opportunity to place requests (and name their price) for projects that were fulfilled by the workshop directors and rotating guest creatives – open to anyone who wanted to participate.

Projects ranged from standard business cards to the more creatively challenging crafts, all hand-made in this little pop-up studio. Proceeds from this workshop will be auctioned off at the end of the day to a student. Just another wonderfully unique “Happening” at TYPO.

- By Tara @musingt


12 April 2014

Denise Gonzales Crisp “Splainin’ Craft. Seekin’ Flow”

Photo by: Amber Gregory
What is craft? Denise Gonzales Crisp’s presentation this morning outlined what characteristics should define craft, and how we can be inspired by something seemingly unrelated, like the drums.

Denise defines one characteristic of craft as being enactment. In her presentation, she told a story about her drum instructors resistance to explaining the craft of drumming. However, in his resistance, came a story that, in fact, demonstrated craft. She realized, midway through his conversation, that he was effectively embodying craft. To demonstrate what she meant (and what I mean by stating that), she showed a video about the redesign of the Armani Exchange logo, then compared that video’s instruction to that of the “Party Shuffle”, an instructional video on how to play the drums. The first video, the designers went over the steps of a logo redesign which included such steps as identifying problems with the logo, “drawing” out inter… actually, the video was so boring, and the “designer” felt so cold, most of the audience’s attention (including my own) began to wane. Don’t worry, though, because our attention was regained when she played the video of the drummer. In comparison, the “Party Shuffle” drummer had lots of energy, was fully engaged in what he was doing, and was passionate in his presentation. Additionally, he wasn’t teaching the audience to play anything specific, but rather inspiring them.

Craft is situational. No longer are we required to work alone. Design and craft is collaborative, which requires us to be engaged with others, in different situations. It’s unusual to work solo.

Craft is articulated. Drummers, as an example, collaborate with one another by using “drum speak”, or their own language based on beats.

Craft is based on legacy. We all draw inspiration from someone else. Denise mentioned that complete originality is a myth. We’re inspired by other people to create works of art, or design.

Craft is flow. Using an example of her own original design, she explained that over time, and with the usage of tools, your designs can take on different shapes and form that weren’t originally planned, or intentional. Her example: at one point in time, she designed a hundred yard garland. It was designed in a 2-dimensional environment, but was meant for 3-dimensional viewing. As she worked it out, through use of space and tools, it began to take on a new form. During these times, embrace the change, and embrace the flow. Although it wasn’t planned, the piece came together to be quite an inspiring work of art.

Craft is practice. It’s doing it over and over and over, whatever “it” happens to be. In the case of drumming, it’s practicing on your own, in your own space. This is where one of her more inspirational quotations comes from: Design should be practice more, plan less.

Finally, craft is, above all, personal. Within all of her other lessons, and ideas, craft is only worth doing because it’s personal.

Denise’s inspiration comes from an unlikely place — learning to play drums seems like an unlikely place to base a presentation in design on — but somehow, she has inspired her audience to go with the flow; to look for the beat, and ride their design out.

— Peter


12 April 2014

Elliott Earls: Skillz Pay the Billz + other Graphic Design Musings

Photo by: Amber Gregory


Elliott Earls is the head of the Graduate Graphic Design Department at Cranbrook Academy of Art. He’s a graphic designer who blurs the line between graphic design and art. He’s also a performer and artist whose work has been represented in major art museums. This afternoon, at Typo San Francisco 2014, Earls was all of these things — and a dynamic speaker with some very quotable takeaway points.

Skillz pay billz advice for designers

Photo by: Amber Gregory

Earls’ designs, and the work his students produce at Cranbrook, explore some very experimental terrain. We strive to “unlearn the fundamental values of design so that we can test them,” he said as he showcased the array of media, topics and tones he and his students have explored.

After his primer on Cranbrook, he discussed his various design projects. These project range from posters and performance videos to branding for Cranbrook, but they all showcase Earls’ desire to explore an idea across different contexts and media.

“Powerful work flows from problematic spaces and conditions, not from resolved ones,” he said as he described a project that explored sexuality in a latent way that “echoes of our culture and resonates subconsciously.”

Earls got a lot of positive reaction form his audience, but the line that garnered the most applause was “Never forget. Skills Pay Billz.” His advice on making money as a designer? Keep labor costs low and develop an awesome aesthetic that drives up the value of your work. Oh, and don’t let medium or or social consensus define what roles you take as a designer. There’s a wide skill set involved with design, and it stretches across art to branding to news and beyond, Earls said.

The graphic designer ended his Typo San Francisco 2014 presentation with an appeal for higher-quality creative criticism. He says he instructs his students to think beyond whether they “like” or “don’t like” a graphic design. Instead, we should all discuss a piece’s interpretation, themization and contextualization so that it becomes part of the historical, evolving design dialogue.

- Emily Hubbell, @emwritesbiz

11 April 2014

George Zisiadis – Frustration + Curiosity = Joy

Photo by: Amber Gregory

We began George Zisiadis‘s talk by shouting our favorite font and high-fiving our neighbors. This was a great introduction to Zisiadis and his work, which he summarized in the opening of his talk with the quote:

“I like to have fun. I use my work to have fun.”

Throughout the course of his talk, he continually encouraged us to always remain curious, and to playfully reimagine the world around us. This is how George approaches many of his projects. In college, bored by the monotony of final exams, he created an “Exammer Slammer” in the dining hall where other students were encouraged to “slam dunk” into a chicken wire column whenever they completed an exam. In doing so, he transformed an experience of boredom and dread into one that rewarded people with fun. The joy he saw others experience when interacting with this inspired him to start making work that could do this for everyone. Other projects he discussed were Balloonacy, where he filled his apartment with balloons containing motion-sensitive LEDs and invited thousands of strangers into his apartment to dance and have fun; The Pulse of the City, a heart-shaped installation that creates music from people’s heart beats; the Mistletoe Drone, a flying robot equipped with mistletoe that flew above Rockefeller center in New York; and more.

He talked about discouragement when working on projects whose sole intent is joy. After collecting a series of personal sketches about quirky things to do in a city, he was able to publish a book of them. At the time it was great, but it was disheartening in future projects because it forced him to think about whether what he was creating could be made into a book or into something that would sell. If it didn’t it became hard to justify creating it. The drone, for example, cost $400, which seemed like an excessive amount to spend on something that may not necessarily lead to client work. He beat himself up over this for a little while, but ultimately came to the conclusion that he would go forward with this project and others, because at the end of the day, “sometimes things are beautiful just because they are absurd.”


-Jack Koloskus, @koloskus

11 April 2014

Happenings at TYPO – Feel The Rhythm

Us  is a de-centralized design collective that explores non-traditional methods of process and collaboration. In response to this year’s theme of rhythm, they have set up an interactive workshop where conference attendees generate hand crafted poster art by working within (and against) established parameters, taking inspiration from the elements provided while exercising creative liberty to remix and re-imagine.

The output of the workshop has been quite impressive and is being displayed both here at TYPO and online in a variety of formats. Be sure to check it out.

Thank you Tom Ahn, Nic Sanchez and Ramon Tejada for bringing this creative “Happening” to TYPO.

- By Tara @musingt


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