Fontstand 2022 – A Brief Recap

Last weekend I was lucky to get to finally attend my first Fontstand conference. This was the first IRL conference I’ve participated in for over three years and it was amazing to finally see old friends again. Simply revisiting The Hague and catching up with so many people I’ve missed were the primary highlights of the weekend.

As for the presentations, there were many wonderful people and topics, but for sure my favorite was the very first one: Irma Boom. I’m a big fan of hers, I also love miniature books, and I’ve been kicking myself for years for not buying her last mini Boom anthology. Seeing her speak and tell stories behind some of her favorite projects was enlightening and inspiring. She spoke for a bit over 1.5 hours, but I would have happily listened for several more. Unfortunately, we had to vacate the building immediately following the presentation and I didn’t get a chance to say hi :( I did however manage to score a brand new copy of the 3rd edition of her mini ‘manifesto’ book! The TPTQ book shop had some copies of this brand new version, and I was able to snatch one! It is a beautiful piece of work <3

Another personal highlight of mine was getting to know Álvaro Franca. I was a bit embarrassed to learn that we we met some years ago, but I didn’t remember. He is a fellow typeface designer from Brazil who is now living in Barcelona. If type doesn’t work out for him (it will, he’s very good) he could become a motivational speaker. We had unexpectedly intense and stimulating conversations about business and life and he gave me a lot to think about! If you aren’t familiar with Álvaro’s designs yet, I’d highly recommend checking out his work at his Naipe Foundry or Future Fonts.

Time to rapid fire a few of my favorite presentations from the main conference day (the Boom and Franca experiences were on Friday night; Saturday was the main event).

Ek Type’s Sarang Kulkarni & Noopur Datye came all the way from India to show off their latest typefaces and letterings. We used to practically be neighbors with them in Mumbai, so it was lovely to see them again and to hear them share their massive and complex projects with everyone. It’s not an understatement to say they doing the best pan-Indian type families ever made.

Ulrike Rausch is practically a current neighbor in Berlin, and all I can say is it’s always nice to see her. She has become THE handwriting font lady, so she had lots to say about faking handwriting digitally.

Not a neighbor (but I wish she was), Indra Kupferschmid is always a sight to behold. Whether she’s schooling you on design history, giving blunt opinions about the world, or just quatsching over a beer, she’s amazing.

Master Type Designer and Master Chef Yanek Iontef was one of the people I was most looking forward to seeing there. He is such a kind and thoughtful person, it’s a shame we are also not neighbors. He and his Fontef partner Daniel Grumer showed off some Hebrew & Arabic multiscript projects from Israel.

Finally closing out the day was Elias Hanzer from Dinamo. As you are likely aware, Dinamo is one of the hippest and most popular foundries… Having Elias there was a strong ending to the conference program. I didn’t get a chance to speak with Elias, but I did finally meet Dinamo’s Fabian Harb, no surprise but he is mega geil!

One last notable post-event highlight I’d share was getting to hang out with Pascal Zoghbi the morning after. Kimya had worked with him on a project last year (Zarid Sans Devanagari – a really really exceptional design, you should check it out!), but I didn’t have much chance to ever really speak with Pascal till now. He is one of my new favorite type people… again, just such a nice guy! ★★★★★

Last but least, my complaints about the conference. It was too short. One full day (and one extra late-night talk) is not sufficient time to catch up with everyone we’ve not seen since Covid. Or maybe there should have been coffee breaks between every talk. Better yet, why not make a conference sans presentations – the whole day would just be socializing with coffee, food, beer. (Someone please take that idea and make a new type conference!)

There was time enough to have decent chats with a handful of old friends. Another subset of friends I at least got to briefly say: “Hi, hope you’ve been well, let’s talk more soon…”. But there were so many other people I said barely anything to or even nothing. For example, Erik van Blokland & Paul van der Laan are a couple that spring to mind that I didn’t even say hi to. Laura Meseguer & Irene Vlachou I greeted once but that was about it… There were so many more I had hoped to chat with. Maybe I should email them now… but that’s not the same.

PS— if I didn’t specifically mention you here, I’m sorry. Ben, Linda, Frank, Dan, Boom (Thai not Irma), Tim, Shoko, all the normal Berlin people, etc., I really like you all too and hope to see you more soon!

Aside from the conference, I had two other discoveries that I can recommend in The Hague. 1) Het Rariteiten Kabinet is amazing (if you are into natural history sorta stuff)! I spent most of the lunch break there and was a bit late to Indra’s talk because it was so great. 2) Poké! I’ve only had this a few in my life (vegetarian ones at that), and the two I had in The Hague were quite nice (at least based on my expectations). Poké is something between a burrito bowl and sushi, it is a delicious pile of food.

PSS— Congrats to Peter & Andrej on organizing a great event!

PSSS— Dan Reynolds just made a great review of the conference over at the Fonststand blog. It’s an actual essay about the event, not just a rando blabbing about the nice people he hung out with.