ICTVC 2010: Lending Grace to Language

Every few years there is a special conference down in the Mediterranean: the “International Conference on Typography and Visual Communication”. The fourth installment of the ICTVC was moved from its previous home in Thessaloniki, Greece to Nicosia, Cyprus. Just like the previous events, this was a memorable and jam-packed three days, full of stimulating typographic talk with old friends.

Size-wise it felt like an intimate event. There were some 300 attendees, but if I had to guess I would have thought more like 200 were actually ever around. Most were either from Cyprus or Greece, with only a handful of ‘others.’ Practically all of these non-Cypriots or Greeks were presenters.

As far as the presentations went, there was a wide variety of topics and quality. A few of my personal highlights were by Wolfgang Homola (showed his custom typeface for a signage system), Bas Jacobs (on Underware’s process, a few typefaces, and their new book printed in blood), Santosh Kshirsagar (on Devanagari letterforms), Girish Dalvi (issues in contemporary Devanagari), Myra Thiessen (discussed her research methods of teaching dyslexic children to read), and Titus Nemeth (on his Arabic typeface Aisha). This is already more than a few talks, but I haven’t even gotten yet to Jasso Lamberg, Dan Reynolds, or David Březina who were all also excellent. Rich Kegler wrapped up the event with a new, extended cut of his “Making Faces” documentary about Jim Rimmer’s design process.

The conference was held in the Hilton Park hotel down the road from the University of Nicosia. Everyone was thankful to be indoors in a decently air-conditioned building since it was stupidly hot outside. Unfortunately though, the hotel and university are not exactly central, so it was difficult to find food and entertainment nearby. Fortunately the “Hypermarket” provided an ideal lunch spot, and in the evenings we migrated to some more lively parts of town for socializing.

These conferences are always perfect to meet up with old friends, but this time was particularly great to meet so many new people. I was lucky to get to meet and hang out with Walter Bohatsch – an incredible designer from Vienna, super nice guy, and smooth conversationalist. There were also several designers from India present to spread their research, teachings, and interest in Indian scripts. Due to an unannounced schedule change I missed Udaya D. Kumar’s talk on palm leaves and the Tamil script (they moved his presentation up 30 minutes, so he was finishing when many of us arrived). (His wasn’t the only talk that this happened to, several talks were moved earlier due to other presenters not showing up… A note to conference organizers: Please don’t reschedule talks earlier than listed in the programs. Just leave a break if someone is missing and proceed on as planned later.)

Being my blog I should probably mention that I was also one of the speakers. Rather than repeat my TYPO Berlin talk on Devanagari type I chose a completely new topic. This time I discussed type technology history and how it affected type design. This topic proved to be a challenge as I tried to pack in 34,000 years of history into a 30 minute show. It began with cave paintings, moved on to cuneiform, to inscriptions, then to manuscripts, then to the printed era (where the most attention was given). Here I showed examples and talked about the design process for cold metal type, then hot metal (mostly on Linotype and Monotype machines), then into the photo-type era, then finally to digital fonts. It was a rather brief overview of some of type design history’s highlights, mostly as an introduction to many of the young students.

I’ll wrap this up by saying thank you again to Dr. Klimis Mastoridis, Gerry Leonidas, and all the organizers and helpers for inviting me and extending your hospitality. Thank you also to the lovely Ioanna Stavridi and Matthew Norton for graciously hosting me in their sweet apartment in Nicosia. I hope to see you all again in a couple years at the next ICTVC!


If you’d like to read more about the conference, Dan has made a great recap at TypeOff. (It’s more in depth and interesting that this one.)