TypeCon 2004 Report #1

I arrived in San Francisco late yesterday, just in time to register and catch the first presentations.

First off was Linotype’s presentation of the winners of its annual type design competition. Its pace was a bit too leisurely—good for the recipients, giving them plenty of time to talk about their work, but a little hard on the audience. The highlight was Tony and Caio de Marco’s acceptance for the third place award in the display font category, which shook the audience out of its stupor, thanks to Tony’s energetic presence.

Next up, Erik Spiekermann presented “Sex, Type & Rock & Roll,” an overview of the fonts he’s designed over the last 25 years, putting them into historical context, along with lots of witty and insightful observations about type in general. His presentation featured several bits of music, including the title song recorded by his son and a ditty accompanying a visual count-off of the 229 years that will pass before we get another year like 1999 (which has three descenders when set in old style figures).

Last up was the Typophile Film Festival, presented by Joe Pemberton and Jared Benson. By this time, it was nearly midnight, and a lot of people (especially those from the East coast) had faded out of the auditorium to head off to bed. Those who stayed enjoyed a series of short films related in one way or another to type. Some were animated type, others were films about type, and some, like the new Flash film by Cheshire Dave (of Behind the Typeface fame) are a little harder to categorize. My favorite was Helvetica Hurts (not sure about the title), a hypnotic silent symphony of dancing Helvetica characters. Not to diminish the creativity it undoubtedly took to create it, but it would make a great iTunes visualizer module.

Out in the lobby, people were chatting via video link with FontLab’s Adam Twardoch in Berlin, who was unable to attend because the US government would not give him (or Yuri Yarmola, FontLab’s lead developer) a visa. I don’t know what is wrong with people sometimes. I was looking forward to meeting Adam and seeing Yuri again. Turns out this was not the case exactly, but I still would have liked to have seen them.