A (Bald) Condensed View on Day One of TYPO London “Places”

My first day at TYPO London was quite an experience. Entering the lobby at Logan Hall felt like stepping back in time a few months. The professional and efficient welcome and wonderful organisation amounted to the great atmosphere the sister conference TYPO Berlin is so famous for. Seeing all the familiar faces made it feel as a deja vu, but a fresh and exciting one. Nonetheless it immediately struck me that this London edition has its own distinct identity, its own quirky personality.

Photo: Gerhard Kassner


This first day kicked off with Erik Spiekermann introducing the facilitators in his characteristic irreverent style. Lynda Relph-Knight and Adrian Shaugnessy did a brilliant job. They were easily as interesting as the presenters, asking pertinent questions and offering short additional insights.

Starting 15 minutes late (to no fault of his own) Dale Herigstad opened with Media Space: Where is what? What is where?, exploring what happens when digital media leaves the screen. After briefly walking us through the evolution from the static flat rectangle via moving images to virtual space, he showcased a series of impressive solutions using innovative spatial concepts. His presentation ended in retro-futuristic mode with all attendees wearing cardboard three-dee glasses – the ones with red and blue mica lenses – to see media interfaces using the three dimensional plane.

With Telling the right story, Nat Hunter, Creative Director at Airspace, talked about the importance of storytelling, showing the audience that information plus narrative equals powerful communication. Nat’s fascination with this subject had been sparked by studying the psychology of human-computer interface at college. She went through a series of varying projects, ranging from an educational short for the Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art using an irreverent take on information design, to an educational movie for DFID and the BBC World Service on the concept of “Communication is aid.” Social consciousness and sustainability shone through her work, making it meaningful, relevant, and ethically sound.

The most informative presentation for me personally was BBC’s Global Experience Language in 27 languages and 9 scripts, by Kutlu Çanlıoğlu, Senior Creative Director for BBC World Service, and Titus Nemeth, type designer, typographer, student and teacher. Kutlu started by explaining the subtle cultural differences between the diverse nationalities that are served by BBC World Service, and how these are translated to the different regional websites. On a typographic level the different scripts used for those 27 languages posed complex problems in achieving a coherent and unified visual identity that remained locally relevant. In the second part of the presentation Titus Nemeth focused on the typographic side of things. After giving a brief but fascinating insight in the Arabic script he showed how his typeface Nassim was thoughtfully customised to cater to the cultural affinities of the different nationalities that use the script.

After the coffee/tea break Jonathan Ellery, conceptual artist and founder of London based design studio Browns, mainly talked about his work in The here and the now, where it comes from and what it’s about. He did so by going through the artist’s books he published through Browns Editions. In a subdued and personable, quite intimate style that left some in the audience slightly uncomfortable, he discussed the underlying narratives and meanings behind his books and art installations

Equally honest was Tony Brook, creative director/co-founder of Spin and co-founder of Unit Editions, with Bred in the bone. In the first part of his lecture he showed some of his highly reductive yet very interesting design work, doing more with less. He shared his almost obsessive love for Wim Crouwel, both the designer and his work, and talked about curating the major retrospective of the Dutch master’s work at the Design Museum in London. The second part had him examine in a humorous, tongue-in-cheek way if a shared (Northern) culture could create a distinct creative approach. Especially his self-deprecating analysis of the Northern identity elicited quite a few laughs.

The first (half) day of lectures ended on a high note with The only important decision by Michael Bierut, partner at Pentagram, New York. After explaining where he came from and how he became a (graphic) designer, Michael went through ten projects where the selection of the typeface was the most important aspect. The selection process in each of these projects was informed by places, by their geographic and historic location. These examples showed that a clear rationale is beneficial to this process. Michael is a very skilled presenter, possessing the comedic timing of an experienced stand-up comedian. His presentation was spruced up with offbeat remarks and hilarious one-liners which had the audience in stitches.

And thus ended the first day. Everybody went off to have free drinks at the Cicada bar, except me, because it’s a dirty job and somebody’s gotta do it. More tomorrow.

Text: Yves Peters a.k.a. Bald Condensed, courtesy of The FontFeed

Erik Spiekermann © Dennis Letbetter

Erik Spiekermann

Art Historian, Information Architect, Type Designer, Author (Berlin, San Francisco, London)

Erik Spiekermann is information architect, type designer and author. Two of his typefaces, FF Meta and ITC Officina, are considered to be modern classics. He founded MetaDesign (1979) and FontShop (1988). He is behind the design of well-know brands such as Audi, Bosch, VW, German Railways and Heidelberg Printing, among…
Lynda Relph-Knight

Lynda Relph-Knight

Lynda Relph-Knight is a design writer and independent consultant. She was editor of the weekly magazine Design Week for most of its 25-year life, before it went solely online in June, covering all aspects of commercial design including typography and communication design. She is a fellow of both the Royal…
Dale Herigstad

Dale Herigstad

Dale is a thought leader on the future of media consumption in an interactive and “many-screen” world of increasingly rich media interfaces. With an extensive background in Broadcast Design and branding, he was creative director of on-air design and branding for the three CBS Sports Winter Olympics broadcasts in the…

Nat Hunter

Nat is a Design Director at the RSA in London, using design to close the gap between our every day behaviour and the future to which we aspire. She is also working on various other digital and art projects. She was one of the founders of Airside and of Three…
Kutlu Çanlıoğlu

Kutlu Çanlıoğlu

Kutlu Çanlıoğlu is Senior Creative Director for BBC World Service, a role where he is responsible for the user experience and design of 27 different language services, including those in Arabic, Russian, Mandarin, Hindi, Urdu, and Spanish. He studied architecture and sociology at Istanbul's Mimar Sinan University before working as…
Jonathan Ellery

Jonathan Ellery

Jonathan Ellery is the founder of London based design studio Browns. Since it opened for business in 1998, Browns has built a reputation for its progressive and conceptual approach to design. It brings artistry, wit, rigour and skilful management to projects large and small, ambitious and unassuming. Its definition of…
Tony Brook

Tony Brook

Born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, Tony studied at Percival Whitley College of Further Education and then at Somerset College of Arts and Technology in Taunton. Tony lectures nationally and internationally and is currently an external examiner for the MA Brand Identity course at the London College of Communications. Tony is…
Michael Bierut

Michael Bierut

Michael Bierut studied graphic design at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. Prior to joining Pentagram’s New York office as a partner in 1990, he was Vice President of Graphic Design at Vignelli Associates. His clients at Pentagram have included The Council of Fashion Designers…
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Yves Peters

Graphic Designer, Rock Drummer (Ghent, Belgium)

Yves Peters is a graphic designer / rock drummer / father of three who tries to be critical about typography without coming across as a snob. Former editor-in-chief of The FontFeed, he has found a new home on FontShop News. Yves writes about type and talks at conferences. His ability…