A Ton of Pun

Well the MFA Germany trip is officially over, and we are all separating in different ways. That means I am waking up at three in the morning to catch a bus to the airport. The good news is the sun will be almost up — which is very unusually when you are used to the sun rising around 7:30 am, this time of year. Since today marks the end of the trip, I want to leave you with a short synopsis of our time in Germany.

Part of the fun of traveling with me are the puns. Also, part of the torture of traveling with me are the puns. Half the time I just chuckle to myself and move on, but sometimes they have to be said. Here is a collection of the puns I’ve created along our trip.

Remember, these were DEFINITELY hilarious in the situation.

  • We pass by a beautiful glass curtain building, which used to be a print school. Claudia explains how students used to go for apprenticeships, in which I quickly respond “you mean aPRINTiceships.”
  • Yamna works at a Taxidermist office, but doesn’t think it is a job in which she will stay to retire. You wouldn’t call it her “FURever job”
  • Yocelyn doesn’t have her raincoat, but I had an extra poncho. I had her “covered.”
  • On the importance of Kelsey using the heel stick to protect from blisters. “As long as you STICK to using it, you will for SHOEre not have any problems.
  • Claudia carries around a sock full of coins, I asked if it’s so she can FOOT the bill
  • Claudia asks how we enjoyed day two of the conference. You mean day Typo, I asked? (Later turned into a headline of a blog post)
  • Yocelyn carries around a tiny doll hand which she uses to take interesting photos. You have to hand it to her on how committed she is.

These puns just kind of come out of no where, and unfortunately that means that I usually don’t write them down. So, a lot of other really great pins where lost to the time and no reflected back into this blog — so you have to just trust that they were really good. I believe I haven’t driven my fellow travelers that crazy — and they are safe now that the trip is over. After all, they’ve gone through enough punishment. 

I’ll be posting one more post in a few weeks that will be a curated look at the photography taken while on the trip, so be on the lookout for that link. 

Day Typo Berlin

In order to fully appreciate the title, understand that in Germany, the conference is pronounced as “Two-Poe Berlin.”

Nothing beats a workshop for breakfast, except maybe real breakfast. After all, I do get hangry. Luckily, today, I got both. After a brisk walk to the conference, we arrived to a full room for Eva-Lotta Lamm’s sketching workshop, so we squeezed in where we could, grabbed some paper and pens and got to work.

Eva-Lotta ran us through a few exercise to learn the importance of reducing shapes to the most minimum detail so they could be created easily and, most importantly, efficiently. She described utilizing sketch notes when capturing what speakers were presenting at a conference, which meant not having a lot of time to jot down the main points. After all, this is a speaker presenting their ideas, not someone sitting for a still-life. We practiced drawing simple shapes by focusing on the drawing for 5 minutes, 1 minute, 30 seconds, 10 seconds and 5 seconds. Pens scratched the paper in a mad fury as the room full of 40 people scrambled to pack as much detail in the drawings, with a 5 second time limit.

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We then covered drawing people utilizing simple shapes to express the gestures, without drawing detailed figures. People comprised of squares, circles, and lines managed to emote just as well as fully realized characters. Eve-Lotta encouraged only drawing enough to allow your imagination to take over and fill in the rest — something that was reflected in a lot of the talks yesterday.


After this was lunch, and watching people act crazy with virtual reality headsets. Wearing and experiencing a virtual reality world, utilizing a simple headset and smartphone, is an amazing experience. Looking around as you are fully immersed in a “digital world” is indescribable. And for those without motion sickness, it is a must — and it doesn’t have to cost either. On the other hand, watching someone wear and experience a virtual reality world is enjoyment on a completely different level. Watching an individual strap a white box, somewhat smaller than a Kleenex box, with a phone inside, is magical. Once they plunge into their virtual landscape, people stretch out their arms, checking to make sure they haven’t somehow left this plane of existence, as if using a digital portkey. A smile emerges on their face and they begin spinning in circles, exploring the 360 view, while simultaneously looking like someone who has vertigo, or is losing their mind. VR is fun for everyone.


All that excitement and the day wasn’t even halfway over!

The second part, our group focused less on the workshops and more on the speakers. Andrea, Yamna and Yocelyn had done an additional workshop after the morning’s, called From Gothic to Graphic, in which Drury Brennan took them through drawing with a nib pen and ink.

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Once the conference was over for the evening, we headed to our appointment to walk of the dome of the Reichstagsgebäude building. The facade was reflective of the building that had been there prior to the war, but inside and sitting atop the building was a beautiful modern structure. The glass dome invites visitors to take a view from the very top with a ramp that wraps continuously around the done. The sun set across the horizon, lighting the sky with deep oranges and purples, the color were visible in every angle of the large clear cupola.


With only one day left of the conference, which concludes our trip, we discussed our projects over dinner. Going around the table, each of us carefully pitched our idea, received feedback and semi-settled on a direction. As this trip wraps up, it was great to reflect on all the good experiences our group has had together, as we promote the MFA program. And only a few blog posts left too.

Workshops in Wanderlust

What better way to start out Typo Berlin 2017 then by a stroll though a little market area surrounded by magnificent buildings. Even though check-in started at noon, we were out of the hotel, strolling around the city, long before then. On our way over to the Pregnant Oyster, the location of the conference, in the market area, we ran into an Austinite Tom Puwa. Puwa, now a Berliner, creates art out of coins.


“I’ve been doing it since I was young,” Puwa said as he held up the coin he had been working on. Puwa meticulously carves out the center portion of a coin to leave the outer rim and a design on the inside. Hanging from a black leather necklace, the coins depicted boats, horses, plants and other varieties of icons. “It takes me about 45 minutes, what used to take me a whole day,” Puwa said about the process. With jeweler’s magnifying glass pulled back down over his eyes, he quickly went back to work utilizing the millimeter thin jigsaw to create his next masterpiece.

Watching him work was like watching a musician strum the chords of his instrument, and we hadn’t even made it to check-in.

Finally inside the conference, we grabbed our goodie bags, schedules, and name badges and set off for the different presenters. Claudia went to the opening speaker, while the rest of the group went to the first workshop of the day. These workshops can be very competitive to reserve a seat, it’s like camping outside for the new iPhone. You grab a spot, connect to the wifi and don’t leave until the doors open to shuffle to your seat. This workshop was utilizing the brush tip pen and had positive reviews from the group.

I personally had a very pessimistic expectation for what my performance would be in the workshop, but afterwards, I enjoyed it immensely. Although, I still need a little practice, which presenter Chris Campe encourages daily, I could see thoroughly enjoying brush lettering.

The next part of the day, our group divided a little more. Yamna, Yocelyn, Andrea, and I attended the rope letters workshop while Kelsey and Claudia continued with the speakers. The rope lettering workshop was exactly what you would expect, the goal was to make letters out of rope that represented the theme of the conference: Wanderlust. The catch, these would be printed like stamps – meaning everything had to be backwards. The two hours flew by as we weaved our words to create the stamp.


The last speaker of the day was Oliver Jeffers. He describes himself as an artist and storyteller, and is known for his work on picture books for children. Jeffers recounted his journey to become an author and artist of these books – sharing the stories that affected his life. He intertwined humor into the presentation, something he thought was extremely vital in the world. After his talk, I quickly ran down to the bookstore to pick up a few copies of his book – that he can sign tomorrow, as I fanboy out.

Last, but not least, was a performance by Aoi Yamaguchi with live calligraphy. Yamaguchi’s art performance showed her mastery of brush strokes as she danced across the stage writing characters on large paper that spanned the length on the stage. She quickly planned each character before she dipped the broom sized brush into the ink bucket, waiving her hands in the air tracing the letter as if she was anointing or enchanting the paper. The end result was a reflection on how words and wisdom tie together to create a beautiful poem.


That was in for the first day of Typo Berlin, tomorrow is just as jam packed!

Missed Quoted

While writing the blogs, it’s not always easy to weave in the wonderful advice that the people we are visiting with offer. So I wanted to dedicate an entire post to those quotes that might have missed the opportunity to have been used.

“Typography can factor in the aspects of knowledge,” said Henning Krause, from Monotype, as he described how the information that typography captures becomes the knowledge that we consume.

“Art and craftsmen were the same. Art = Craft,” said Kenning in regards to the fact that typographers were both creating the art and physically making the elements to make the printing possible.

When asked about design philosophy Andreas Uebele explained that is was “to create beauty…that’s all. If it isn’t beautiful I feel bad”

“Salty is left, sweet is right,” Uebele jokingly said when asked about utilizing the senses in his signage. “It’s more about how you interpret or experience something. Not so much touch and feel.”

Students will rejoice as Uebele warned, “Don’t do too much research, you need to stay out of the mind of the client.” This would allow you to come up with a completely innovative idea.

“If you aren’t obsessive, at least 80%….I just don’t understand,” Uebele says on his thoughts about being obsessive listing off the simple things that inspired him, “it’s all an art form, it’s an inner belief”

Strichpunkt studio has a simple belief: “We are breaking the rules.”

Martina Flor says that clients have learned to trust her “when they hire me to do a job, they trust me.”

“Creative briefs have thousands of solutions, but you need to pick one you think is successful and just make it work,” says Martina.

“You never know the uncontrolled conditions that can push you forward,” Martina said while reflecting on all the obstacles that led to this point.

“When you do a piece of lettering there is a concept, there is something you want to do. Type design is concept free, you are creating something for everyone to use,” said Martina.


Tomorrow is the start of Typo Berlin where I will cover some of the awesome key speakers, workshops and discussions we will attend.

A Day That Florished

It is hard to believe that this wonderful trip is on the latter half of its time, but that doesn’t mean we have taken it easy. Today, I’ve clocked over 18,000 steps and 9 miles. But, when you are in a beautiful city meeting spectacular people, this is what is to be expected.

We stumbled into Martina Flor’s building after searching around for a moment. The entrance was inside of a Hof – which is like a center courtyard with buildings surrounding it found through a side street. We made our way up the stairs to press the illuminated doorbell. A large industrial door stood between us and this letter artist, it slid open slowly revealing a collection of hand drawn lettering products and the kitchen area in her creative space.

Martina greeted us with a smile from ear to ear, welcoming Claudia and the group like we had known each other for a lifetime. A small black brooch with silver metallic type, the word “shine” illustrated in her writing, acted as an element of contrast upon her cloudy gray blouse. This brooch was a reflection of Martina’s attitude towards design and just life in general – she had taken all of the people and situations she has encountered and turned them into something positive. “Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you are, but it’s the community that can help you a lot,” Martina said about headquartering in Berlin.


A big open area with large windows allowed the light to shine on the work she had laid upon the table for us to review. It seemed as if the sun was shining, just as Martina was, on the tracing paper and finished products that begged to be touched. She discussed her work with such humility and lightness, laughing as she told anecdotes about her work and process. It was obvious that she enjoyed the work she accomplished and sharing it with eager minds. As we left, not without purchasing some hand-lettered merch, she left us with a bit of advice.

“Not staying still is the best you can do. Move! If there is something not good here, you have to go change it.”

With inspiration filling our shoes, we made our way to We Make It, a Risograph studio. A risograph is like a scanner, printer, printing press, and screen print machine put together – now there are a little more nuances to how it works than that, but this is the simplest explanation. Andrea, who works in the Communication Design Fab Lab, picked our host’s brain about how the machine works and all the technical details that is really cool for designers.

Nowadays, the Riso is used typically for artist’s books and exclusive prints, since there are limited colors which have to be printed one at a time, but seem to be becoming more popular, especially within schools. Andrea even got to take a spin on the machine, showing us Riso Newbs how everything worked.


Afterwards, we headed toward the Buchstaben Museum, which focuses on the preservation and documentation of letters. They are the first museum in the world to collect letters from public places. It was located underneath the train tracks in a large warehouse looking space. Although the museum was in a quasi-state at the moment, it was still as fascinating as we had hoped.

Everywhere you turned letters sprawled the space, the glyphs were from old signage which had been used in public places. It was fascinating to browse this alphabet graveyard, especially as the signs became recognizable from the different logos and letterforms. The group quickly dispersed, with cameras in hand, twisting and turning in all angles just to create the perfect composition of the signs displayed before us. With memory cards full, it was time to say goodbye to the museum and head back to the hotel for the evening.


Wednesday has in store a lot of walking, touring the city, visiting important landmarks and, most excitingly, getting ready for Typo Berlin 2017.

Bauhaus Doesn’t Stop with Dessau

On the fifth day, there was the Bauhaus. Well, there was also the Bauhaus on day number four, but this was a different one. The Bauhaus in Dessau was where we were headed. If yesterday’s trip laid the foundation for this pivotal school, the Dessau “campus” brought us the iconic look and feel that is associated with Modernism and the namesake school. 

We started the day very similar to all the others, slowly dragging out of bed and down to breakfast. I’m not even sure that eye contact is completely made until every person has a cup of coffee in their hand, but that could just be this sleepy-head’s impression. Once we filled our stomachs, we booked it to the train station. I am being quite literal here, we had about two minutes to spare by the time we reached the station which, in comparison to the average 15 minutes ahead we usually arrived, meant we had left the hotel a little later than expected. 

The relationship between Weimar and the Bauhaus and Dessau and the Bauhaus, in the current time period, was on completely opposite spectrums – which could even be a reflection on its past history. Not only were there signage systems which clearly directed us to the Bauhaus, the swarms of people being led by a guide was a clear sign that we were headed in the correct direction. We were like drones,  ourselves, finding our way to the center hive of what some would consider the birthplace of the best design period in history.

Our pilgramige became a reality as we walked up to the glass-curtained building. As we walked up to the building, a faint reflection in the surrounding windows could be seen. The letters that adorn the front of the building in stark white type appeared captured in the reflection, as if being framed and shown as a teaser the closer we walked. The moment came when the corner was turned and the building revealed its complete splendor. 

 

Even if you have never heard of the Bauhaus, you hopefully have seen a photo of this revolutionary building. I’m also going to stop and postface the statement above. What seems like expected or well known in today’s standards was not the case in the early 20th century when the Bauhaus was functioning. We see buildings with floating bridges, walls of glass and unique functions and don’t look past the splendor of the construction. This was not the case when Gropius constructed the three buildings located in this city. The ideas were all new, and sometimes not met with acceptance but, instead resistance. 

We met Frank, an architect himself and our tour guide, in a large open area that used to be the studio for furniture fabrication. The expansive area was framed by implied arches of concrete and natural light that melded nature and industry. Frank started the tour swiftly as we headed downstairs for a quick recap of what led to this point. As he walked us though the ideologies of the school’s three different directors, he clutched a spiral bound book of old photography that was effortlessly used to provide reference to the material he was covering. 

Frank’s admiration for the Bauhaus didn’t start while he was in architecture school but only once he visited the location on his own. However, Frank was enthusiastic and exuberant with his knowledge, both architecturally and historically, about both the people and places of this iconic institution. Frank used his whole body as he talked, pointing fingers, gesturing with his hands and even leaning towards the different elements he focused on the tour. It was invigorating putting all that we learned into a physical context, and taking the extra elements our tour guide added made it that much better.

After touring the Bauhaus proper and the Master’s house, it was time to head back to the little shop. Everyone loves a little shop. On the way, Claudia, Kelsey and I had a very in-depth conversation on the current perception of the Bauhaus movement and ideals in the city – involving the fine line between restoration of historical aspects and preservation of ideas using current sustainability standards. We would be more than happy to talk with you more about that healthy debate, make sure to reach out to ask for more.

Back in Berlin, with the few hours we had off, we headed out to the Jewish History Museum. Words cannot fully describe the impact of both the architecture and exhibits. If you ever have the opportunity, the museum is a must see. With that, we turned in with a nice stroll back to the hotel ready for tomorrow’s day in Berlin.

Why Not Weimar

We arrived in Berlin on Saturday afternoon and exited the train as the sun bounced off the walls and ceilings. As we left the small cabin and entered the expansive glass covered train station, the cooler air grabbed and surrounded the group. 

The group shuffled through the station towards the exit, passing clusters of people surrounding the storefronts. A woman dressed in purple holding a concession tray handed Milka chocolate samples to the group — with that we knew Berlin was going to be a great city.

We threw the bags into the hotel room and ventured back outside to explore the SoHo-esque city. People roamed the streets, laughing and enjoying the cool weather. Berlin managed to have a symbiotic relationship between the urban jungle, which contained storefronts and restaurants, and natural areas — each showcasing the culture and electricity of the Capital of Germany. 


Sunday was going to be a big day, so after an Aperol Sprizz,  we turned in for the evening. Now, before I tell you about Sunday, I need to breakdown the drink – because it was fantastic.

Aperol Liqueur, Prosecco, a fresh orange slice and topped off with club soda. The bright orange drink fizzles as it is poured into the wine glass sitting on the counter. This refreshing glass is the quintessential drink for calm evenings outside where the sun is shining, but it isn’t too hot. Our group talked for what seemed like two hours as we enjoyed both each other’s company and this digestif.


Sunday morning came to the sound of alarm clocks, coffee machines and courtyard water features. I shared my unusual sleeping habits which consist of a preference for it being pitch black and completely silent – which led to my discontentment for, what most people would consider white noise, the water fountain heard from my room.

Breakfast more than made up for that fiasco, and anyways, we were headed to Weimar to see where the Bauhaus started – so nothing can really bring us down from that. So, to be prepared for the trip, we brushed up on our design history while trying not to be distracted by the group of soccer fans on the train that seemed to be having a lot of fun. 

This romantic little town was everything you would expect from a small, quiet village in Germany. Flower beds flanked the cobblestone walkways that seemed to invite us into the city. Only a few people were trickling down the pathways in which we were headed — it seemed as if the whole town was still asleep at our arrival time. 

The further into the heart of Weimar we journeyed, the more crowds began to congregate, painting a picture of a bustling town. There was a flower market expanded on the central square, where street vendors and spectators seemed to intertwine between the quick moments they shared with one another. Laughter and the patter of feet on the pathways created symphonic sounds filling our heads with the melody of tranquility. The air was clear and sweet from the flowers blooming as they lured our attention with their vibrant display of colors. 

We waited for Aaron in the foyer of the main Bauhaus building, which is currently used as the Architecture portion of the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. As an architectural masters student, Aaron took us on a tour of the Bauhaus with a different perspective than the one that we are so used to hearing in the design history book.

Aaron spoke with conviction and knowledge on the history and political significance leading up to and during the Bauhaus time period. He wove a story that intertwined with the information we reviewed on the train, giving more insight into the reasons certain decisions were made.

I obviously can’t continue without talking a little about the Bauhaus, which “officially” started in 1919. There was a lot of historical and political decisions that led up the perfect situation of Walter Gropius opening this new academy with a revolutionary pedagogy. Gropius decided to combine fine arts and craftsman into one school and since this was something that was very radical for the time period, not everyone thought it should succeed. He established the school to allow for experimentation and development of new art theories. Everything was going great, until the town people wanted to see what their taxes were paying.

Fighting against pushback that was already in place, Gropius pushed forward with the masters (teachers who were most knowledgeable in the subjects) and students within the school, having them work on material for the 1923 fair. Some iconic design pieces resulted in this rush to create showpieces for the fair – and although they may have looked aesthetically pleasing, they were not always functional.

The Bauhaus, additionally, built a model home they hoped to be the precident for single-family living for the growing middle class. However, once again, this was somewhat of a letdown in terms of functionality. Eventually, in 1925, funding had been cut so much that the school in Weimar had to be closed.


Aaron wrapped up the tour by sharing his thoughts on the Bauhaus in Weimar, which captured the same sentiment that we had all felt. The Bauhaus in Weimar made mistakes and it isn’t the iconic look that we know today. The most important thing is they took these mistakes and moved forward, past them, to create design which follows their well known mantra: form follows function. Additionally, if they hadn’t have failed in Weimar, the Bauhaus potentially wouldn’t have grown to the movement it had become.

As the tour concluded, it felt as if we were stepping into of the pages of the design history books and seeing the story as a whole. We will continue with the Bauhaus tomorrow when we visit the Dessau location, where the school moved after it’s days in Weimar were over.

I’m Mary Poppins, Y’all

Mary Poppins has her magic Carpet Bag, Felix the Cat has his magic yellow bag, and apparently I have a bigger-on-the-inside Jansport Backpack. Since the majority of today consists of travel — this post is about what to bring when you need to be prepared for the most obtuse situations. Now this is not a manual on over packing, but what the other travelers have used from my pack — earning me the nickname Mary D. Poppins.

It starts with a sling backpack. There is a lot of walking, so whatever you are schlepping across the journey needs to be comfortable. For me that means across the shoulder, but a normal backpack would also work. p.s. This is not a plug for Jansport nor any other pack.


Now comes the stuff that should fill your backpack, a.k.a a list of crap I put in mine.

A Deck of Cards. This may sound silly, but sometimes you have a 4 hour train ride and need something to help kill the time. It is also a way to show your nerdyness when the said deck of cards are Helveticards. Helvetica….cards…. Get it? It’s a pun. An ace of one, if you ask me.

A Poncho. In Germany it can rain out of nowhere, so you need to bring a raincoat. However, sometimes it is also 26º Celsius and you don’t have the raincoat on hand. Or Yocelyn forgot hers in the hotel, so simply bring a small poncho you can whip out — and you are covered.

Wet Wipes. After walking for close to 5 miles each day, there may be some times that you need to freshen up. One of the quickest way is pulling a wipe out and then you are ready to move onto the next thing.

Advil. No explanation needed.

Notebooks. With all the interesting people you meet, you will want to capture all that they are saying. I used the MFA 10th anniversary notepads, but any moleskin would work.

Pens. For notepads listed above. Multiple, for when one dies.

Sunglasses. Have to protect those eyes, and it can be bright outside. I brought two pairs with varying shade levels. One for full sun, one for cloudy skies.

Snack Bars. If you only have time for a quick breakfast, or you are rushing to an appointment, sometimes you may not have the opportunity to grab food. Add to this, if someone on the trip gets Hangry often (that’s me btw) having food to throw at them is a necessity. I packed KIND bars, as they are small and packed with healthy goodness. Also, being gluten free, Kelsey appreciated the snack when she needed one.

Camera and Memory Card. You will be taking a lot of photos. A lot.

A Jacket. When traveling from city to city, the temperature can vary greatly. The best way to make sure you keep in homeostasis is to always bring along a coat.

An iPad and Bluetooth keyboard. Nothing beats writing the blog on-the-go during your downtime. Be it train, subway or taxi — being able to write immediately after you visit a studio is a sure way to capture all the details while the memory is still vivid in your mind.

T-Mobile Phone. Please mention my name when buying your new plan. But seriously, with unlimited data and text, being able to pull out the phone to look something up or text the family without hunting for wifi was a true commodity.

Things for which I was not prepared:

The magic stick. After searching through 5 different stores for a Chapstick like medicine that can be placed on your feet to act as a barrier against blisters, Kelsey finally found one and rejoiced as now she could walk with no issues.

Traveling with ladies, enough said.

Allergy medicine. There may be some trees or allergies that are new to the immune system and for this reason you need to pack something a little stronger than just your Flonase.

Laundry Detergent Mini-Sheets. There is a limit to your luggage weight. 20kg. This can be a struggle when you are gone for 13 days. Bringing dissolvable detergent sheets the size of a listerine packet helps save money, so you don’t have to wait 3 days for your laundry to return – like Yamna unfortunately had to do.

Extra space in my luggage for books. The previous Germany trip students warned about how many books you will buy, and I had a hard time actually believing that – until I started finding the books. When luggage weight is something you have to be mindful of, you may want to think of bringing a carry on that is large enough to hold the extra weight.

That’s all you will need for the trip. So get packing and have fun.

“He traveled all around the world, and everywhere he went, he’d use his word, and all would say, ‘There goes a clever gent!’ Indubitably!”

An Uebelevable Day in Stuttgart

The alarm starts it’s beautiful melody, eyes slowly open welcoming the morning light and although it is hard to push yourself out of bed, there is so much to look forward to in the day ahead. Looking out the open hotel window, you can see rain collecting on the rooftops, the spitter spatter of droplets hitting the ceramic rooftops. A cool breeze hits your face and there is a crisp lightness in the air. A perfect morning for our trip to Stuttgart.


Once in Stuttgart, I was given the task of directing us to Büro Uebele. With a few missteps, which I completely blame on the phone not understanding the direction in which I am standing, we were on our 20 minute walk. We arrived at what appeared to be a gated driveway. Claudia buzzed the office and Carolin Himmel, a partner of the studio, met the group outside. She directed us to a small office building with colorful patio furniture sitting outside. The building looked like an enlarged green house with large glass doors, a glass rooftop and growing ideas inside. 

Carolin brought us inside the creative workspace. This studio is a firm believer in printing and testing every element of the work, so what seemed like every project was on display. There were hand cut letters hanging from the ceiling, each one a different typeface, showing potential sign options for the client. Posters were magneted to every surface of the wall behind the workspace — each one showcasing the beauty and understanding of typography that this agency held.

andreas uebele walked in after we had been shown a few of the projects currently being worked upon. He wore a black shirt, a pair of blue jeans and black rimmed glasses. In his arms he carried samples of signage for his team. Much like our day so far, there was a lightness within his movements. Although each one was exactly as planned, he brightened the conversations with his honesty and lightheartedness. 


 uebele scrunched his brow or contorted his mouth, traits that always displayed what he was thinking. He would explain the detail that went into every system that they developed — especially with a focus on scalability. Sitting on the workstation, fresh pretzel in hand, uebele would laugh about timelines, results, or the interesting things that happened during the work. 

“We design with conversation,” uebele casually says as the designers sitting around the ten workstations raise their heads as if non-verbally agreeing with these words of wisdom, from first hand experience. We were invited to each work station to talk with uebele and the designer who then ran us through the projects they were / had been working on. It was the perfect way to showcase the respect that this renowned designer has for his staff.

Finally, we had the opportunity to sit with andreas to ask questions and get to know more about his philosophies. 

“Be honest. Be honest to yourself and be honest to your talents”

With that, our time was up. We said our goodbye, but not before buying a new book, which was 6 years in the making, featuring the studio’s amazing work.

It was time to move to our next stop. Claudia pulled the the papers which marked our itinerary for the rest of the day. Each piece of paper was carefully protected from the elements in a clear acrylic sleeve. Strichpunkt studio was where we were headed.

The front lobby was a large open area which welcomed visitors with words and fantastical photos sprawling the walls. Large illuminated letters spawned the length of the front desk, creating an atmosphere, as Yocelyn phrased it, that was very buzzfeed.


An employee zoomed into the creative office on a scooter while we waited for Eve Thiessies and Thomas Michelbach to come greet us. As we journeyed to a conference room we passed stations with computers and employees hard at work. The studio’s current project bookended the workstations. Type and icons followed us along the walls as we walked past. No information was given as to what we were passing — that was to be saved for later during our tour.

Eve and Thomas sat us down at a large table, Thomas wheeling the chair backwards before he took his seat with us. “Hi Texas” displayed on the TV in stark black against a yellow background. We were given a brief overview of the company founded in 1996 and their focus on three main components: Design, Tech and Research.


This studio focuses mostly on Brand Development and the Brand Experience, which is somewhat of a shift from the books and annual reports that they are known for. But don’t worry, they still create those beautiful printed items for clients. Thomas and Eve walked us through the projects they were working on and how the process works within the office. Strichpunkt helped Audi with a digital brand development which included a plethora of elements, like buttons and links, and the most amazing element is the code is all open source. 

Utilizing the idea of Atomic Design, a process in which you build the smaller components then create larger components utilizing the smaller ones and you just keep building upon this principle, Strichpunkt displayed consistency, clarity and ease of use to the client. And although the work shown was a mix of both digital and traditional, a statement was clearly expressed that “Brand experience is media independent.”

Before we went on a tour of the studio space which included a ping-pong table, kitchen area and tons of creative workspaces, we were able to ask a few questions to our presenters. Simply put, the questions were in regards to what Strichpunkt looks for when hiring. After some careful thought they responded, “it’s not just the tools, it’s what you bring and your mindset. You may not have everything, but as long as you have the correct mindset.”


That was all the time we had left in Stuttgart. Tomorrow we are headed to Berlin, which includes a 6 hour train ride to the city.

MFA in Germany, or how I learned to love type and master the cat nap

Today’s lesson, brought to you from the MFA program at Texas State, is the power nap. When your days are filled with over 20,000 steps, it can be very tiring. Add to this waking up to meet for breakfast at 7:00, and going to bed close to midnight, it makes the days very long. Not to mention being in another country pushes you to visit as much as possible, making sure you are maximizing the day. So when you catch a high speed train to Bad Homburg, you take advantage of the downtime by writing the blog post, or napping. With the majority doing the latter.

Our first stop of the day is Monotype.

Who exactly is Monotype? Monotype created a namesake machine that became the first fully mechanical typesetter (Gutenberg would be so proud). And it goes beyond that; they have created handfuls of typefaces like Times New Roman and Arial two colloquial fonts with whom even non-designers are familiar.

Henning Krause, Manager and Font Engineer met us in the lobby of the 4 story building. We shuffled into a conference room, with glossy red tables displaying the history of typography. There were punch letters, aluminum castings of Helvetica, and computer ribbons of Adobe tools. Henning pointed out each item as he spun the history of Monotype and ultimately how typography has changed throughout it’s course. We sat around listening to story after story, nodding with excitement and occasionally scribbling down into our little notepads.

 

“The typography industry mirrors the development of history,”  Henning shared as he pointed out the patterns that have shaped the current typography industry.

There used to be a difference between artist and craftsman, as each was seen as completely separate but now they are one in the same. This is an unbelievable fact as Monotype released over 100,000 glyphs (think individual characters) for one project alone. They average 2,000 to 3,000 products a year and they only have a staff of 500.

The time had come where we said our goodbyes, but not before having the opportunity to ask questions. Henning lit up with enthusiasm with every word he carefully crafted which contained his answer. He gave us insight into the big things Monotype is working on with Variable typography and even his favorite glyph (an asterisk *) because there is always something more and the world has a few assholes.


Our second stop was the Klingspor Museum where we saw some Type Art consisting of lithography posters and books. Lithography plates were created on limestone and could allow the lithographer to use handwriting or painting to create an impression instead of a traditional method like chiseling on a woodblock.

We saw works ranging from 1910 to current including artist like Matisse, Picasso and a German artist, Hölderlin. It was a fun and vibrant exhibit. But all the good stuff was kept upstairs in The ArchiveHelga Horschig — who had a wealth of knowledge and was kind and accommodating to our group of six — escorted us to a table surrounded by history. Books rested in small piles, the titles on the spines calling out to us — as if they were begging to be picked up and admired. Poster and flyers plastered any open counter top that the room may have contained. Helga shuffled over to our table holding an unwavering amount of boxes, the contents unknown to us at the time. With a pair of gloves, she gingerly opened each of the boxes that were delivered so carefully. Much like uncovering buried  treasure, box after box the contents were more valuable.

As each piece was placed on the table surrounded by eager learners, a silence fell over the group. Electricity in the air as every detail came into focus, and then the moment happens. An almost palpable gasp, for each and every item our wonderful librarian placed in front of our eyes.


There were original type drawings and specimen books, calligraphy books in which handwriting was indistinguishable from printed material. It was a showcase of the passion, love and art of typography. Helga could tell she was surrounded by those with an nerdy interest in the subject and we were quickly taken to another portion of this historical depository. Here flat files were brimming with hand stitched type tapestries.

Take a sheet of copy paper and write a sentence and try your best to keep a straight line, and don’t forget to keep all the letters consistent. Now take a 152 cm x 91 cm rug and stitch a sentence. These were immaculate.

After being inspired by an artist Paul Stein who kept art journals for over 30 years, Helga took us back to the table for a few more awe inspired gasps before we had to say Auf Wiedersehen.


At some point, Kelsey even einen kloß im hals haben (started to tear up), so obviously at this point Germany has truly been an inspiring and life changing experience.

We are headed back to home base for the day. Tomorrow we are off to Stuttgart.