TypeCon 2010: Babel finally made its way to Los Angeles, and just in time. I’ve been teaching type for over a year now, and was interested to see what was happening currently in the world of typography, and more importantly, how I could use the information in my classes.
Thursday was the most interesting for me, since it was a day of educational track and discussion. Mostly typography instructors presented, but the one that influenced me the most was Barry Rosemen, Assistant Professor at SCAD and his lecture on flight timetables as incorporated into typography classes. He created a series of five projects through a process using typography to develop flight timetable information. Utilizing only letterforms to depict airline transportation schedules, each project progressively became more complex by challenging students to add the nuances of time, distance, dimension and color. The earlier ones were very chart-like and more informational, the later projects used dimensional and textural elements to represent space.
In his lecture, he also showed old examples of flight tickets and sleeves from Eastern Air, TWA, United Airlines and more. It was interesting to see how type was set back then. Since I was an aerospace engineer, it really appealed to my mechanical sensibilities. When you’re typesetting charts, or financials in an annual report, readability leans heavily on alignment, scale, and the organization of information in order to understand it quickly. I found these exercises in type to be very valuable.
Melissa Flicker, an assistant professor at Cal Poly Pomona also had a great idea for a project. She showed examples from her class that involved sketches in creating a modern glyph for a typeface family. The goal of the project was to create a new key that would be used to as a symbol for texting acronyms, such as ‘DIY’, ‘FML’ and ‘OMG’. Students were assigned a three letter combo, but could choose from three different typefaces. Students would have to understand the intricacies of a typeface to create the glyph. All the weights have to be even, negative space has to be balanced. The process gives students the opportunity to sketch, scan, draw in Illustrator and perfect in InDesign. This is an idea I will definitely keep in the back of my mind.
The typography inspiration kept flowing in the following days.
Sean Adams’ lecture on design and typography history of Disneyland was great. He explained how the park was designed based on Walt Disney’s memories of his own childhood in Missouri. Sean also showed details of how each theme land (Frontierland, Tomorrowland, etc.) changed over the history of the park since 1955, and how the typography changed over time with the park itself. He had over 400 slides and had to narrow it down for his 10-minute presentation.
Nadine Chadine from Linotype spoke about Middle Eastern type of ITC. She lectured on how the movements in oriental dance related to the strokes in arabic letterforms. She explained how the hands in dance translated to the meanings of the forms. It was intriguing in the way she went back and forth between the characters and the dance. Most of the work she showed was beautiful calligraphy from Wissam Shawkat.
Kitty Maryatt from Scripps College Press had a great presentation on a semester-long project she had for her class. She ordered the B-42 typeface, all 246 characters of it in metal, which was Gutenberg’s font from the fifteenth-century Bible. Her students were to typeset one page of the manuscript with all the intricacies of every accent and ligature. Amazing.
Overall, TypeCon was enjoyable but mostly very informative. It was a bit smaller than I was used to, compared to other design conferences. The conference made me realize that I’m doing the right things for my class in teaching them about type. I’m looking forward to bringing in this inspiration to my classes.