Typo Berlin 2014

Thursday: Kicking it off

Frank Grießhammer opened it up with a talk celebrating 25 years of Adobe Type. He showed his favorite obscure Adobe Originals typefaces, and released his latest design Source Serif (open source).

The talk by the Neon Museum Warsaw was supposed to have been great, but I was happy to finally see Vitaly Friedman from Smashing Magazine speak during the same time slot. That’s something tough about TYPO… there are at least two talks at once, and many times there are 3-5 simultaneous events (yes five things happening at the same time), so sometimes it’s difficult to see everything you may be interested in.

SNASK managed to win the title of worst talk of the conference. They didn’t live up to their silly motto of ‘make enemies and gain fans’. For me (and everyone else I spoke to) they only managed to lose any respect from us by wasting our time with their giant egos, terrible music, and lack of any content. I survived 32 minutes into the talk before leaving – which was about 20 minutes longer than I needed to make come to the stated opinions.

The day ended with another tough scheduling conflict: Yanone’s talk & Antithesis movie premier vs. 1000 free beers given away by FontShop. I took the opportunity to see Yanone’s film, but missed out on the beer. Even more unfortunate, the room was nearly empty as all but maybe 50 people chose the free beer.

Friday: The day of the Dutchmen

A video interview with Gerrit Noordzij started the morning. That was followed by one of the consistantly best parts of TYPO in the recent years: the Type Cooker workshop. Erik van Blokland and Paul van der Laan host a workshop for attendees to draw some type. I didn’t get a chance to participate this year due to the overwhelming popularity and limited seating. It’s ok tho, it’s nice when more new people get to try it out (side quip: there is no reason current t]m students should be filling the seats there). Later in the day Petr van Blokland spoke about Xierpa 3 (now open sourced) and explained a bit why designers should learn to code.

The day was wrapped up by the polarizing face-off between the irrelevant David Carson and the amazing John Hudson. This combination of a dusty famous guy and a scholarly, mostly behind-the-scenes guy clearly illuminates the divide in the conference attendees. I made a harsh tweet during the talk, and was acknowledged by the TYPO twitter account :) It took much effort to not reply that I can be much meaner and easily offended many more people. Having said that, most of the people who liked Carson would not have enjoyed Hudson (and vice versa)… So in all fairness, this pairing was the best of the entire conference.

Saturday: It’s all about the small room

My day began with the Type Cooker review – my favorite annual event of the last several years. Paul and Erik give hilariously educational critiques of the workshop results. Every year there are more and more people here to watch and learn, but unfortunately the “stage” area doesn’t get any larger.

All my favorite remaining talks were in the small “Show” room. (I saw 16 talks: 4 were in large hall, 9 were in the small room, 2 were on the free stage, and 1 was in the foyer.)(The small room consistently has the best presentations.) Adi Stern showed some wonderful projects and dealt with the difficult topic of the holocaust very sensitively. Alessio Leonardi donned his space-aged shiny silver suit, hat, and gloves to talk about the roots of Sci-fi type. Fritz Grögel presented some of his research on German lettering. And finally, Hakobo made a wonderful show of Polish vernacular typography.

Wrapping it up

I don’t know if it’s a compliment or critique, but TYPO is almost exactly the same every year. The venue, atmosphere, look, feel, quality, variety… it’s always the same. I think the organizers generally do a good job with the mix of presenters (even though much of it isn’t to my personal interest or taste – certain content is evidently more attractive to other demographics of the audience).

The one aspect that was radically different than the last years was the closing party. It is usually at a terrible club that no one turns up to until after midnight. This year’s Cafe Moskow venue was considerably better than in recent times, and the event was designed to get you there earlier. Starting at 10PM they had a food sponsor giving out tasty snacks. Shortly after there were a few special events held – a speed poster design contest, and a ridiculous performance by Jim Avignon. I would have been terribly belligerent towards these events, except there was plenty of extra space to completely avoid them and talk with friends. By time the DJs started it was late and most of my group of people were too tired to actually party… so most of us left.

The thing I appreciate most about TYPO is its convenience – it’s a 15 minute bike ride from where I live, and it’s nice that all my friends come here to visit for it. But, if I were to move away, I’m not sure if I’d come back for it. (Although maybe the thing to appreciate most about TYPO if you don’t live here, is that it’s a good excuse to come visit Berlin.) Still, every year (except the first) I walk away from the conference and then say to myself that it was fun but I’ve had enough and that I won’t go next time. In that regard it’s not so different from the morning after a night of drinking when you wake up and swear off all alcohol… well at least until next weekend.

One last comment: The goodie bag was filled with quite wonderful things this year. (Only the best things were photo’d above, but the reject pile was much smaller.) Typotheque, Bold Monday, and the Type Jockeys had great specimens – congrats guys, all awesome work! And while, on the topic of the goodie bag (and related to doing things the same as every year), again the actual goodie bag was ridiculous and will never be used by me. I wish they’d save some money and make a simple tote (as they did in 2012 for the theme “Sustain”), or maybe a shirt or something actually useful.