TypeCon2011: Surge Recap

TypeCon2011: Surge, the annual type conference hosted by The Society of Typographic Aficionados (SOTA), took place last weekend from July 5-10 in New Orleans.  Typographers and designers from all over the United States and a few from abroad were in attendance.  The conference included a program for all type enthusiasts full of presentations on the inspiration, science, and technology behind type, an exhibition of intriguing design and striking type, and of course some New Orleans excitement!

Highlights from the conference:

  • “Screw readable! Type should be beautiful!” Typographer Ed Benguiat emphatically noted during his Thursday night speech. This statement created a buzz among attendees for the duration of the conference.
  • Joseph Erb and Roy Boney discussed the adoption of Cherokee language in technology by the Cherokee community. They have limited typefaces and are looking for typographers to develop more.
  • Erin McLaughlin won the 2011 SOTA Catalyst Award for the design of Katari, a multi-script typeface. Designed while at the University of Reading, Katari reflects her in-depth research on the Indian writing system.
  • Making Faces: Metal Type in the 21st Century was screened. An inspiring documentary by Richard Kegler following Jim Rimmer (1931-2010) as he walks us through process of creating the hand-set metal typeface Stern after he was commissioned by P22 type foundry. Stern was released as both a digital font and hand-set metal font.
  • Akira Kobayashi talked about his inspiration for his new typeface Akko. He has a “weakness” for rounded sans and loves Cooper Black, looking to it for several of his typefaces. He also spoke about his work with Adrian Frutiger and Hermann Zapf, saying that Frutiger was able to identify a 1 unit difference in the spacing on one side of an ‘o’ at the age of 80 with a glance.  Amazing!
  • “Web typography is still typography.”  Nick Sherman from Font Bureau discussed his passion for wood type and web type.  He is often asked how to improve on web typography. His answer: Read books on typography in general. “Fonts are designed with intention and should be presented accordingly.”
  • John Berry, typographer and editor, presented New Problems of Book Design. He believes we need to design intelligent and interactive pages and complex thinking needs to be applied to the whole page.  “The essential piece is the type” so we need control over all the typographic elements.
  • “Web designers simply want the same control print designers have had for decades.” Scott Boms, Brian Warren and Luke Dorny talked web fonts. The three conducted a survey and in the outcome 94% of web designers are using web fonts, and 91% want better web fonts not more.
  • Ricardo Martins presented his research on improving the way we measure type. Regarding digital type the ways of measuring with body size need to be updated.  He is proposing a new measurement that takes in to account how the eye sees the strokes of letters.
  • A short documentary was screened on the workers from the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum: woodtype.org
  • The Panel Discussion: “Critics Critique Critics” was an entertaining critique between Matthew Carter, John Downer, Akira Kobayashi.  Each typographer spent a few minutes talking about the design of a typeface from the other two.  During the critique John Downer stated: “I work with younger women well. Akira (Kobayashi) works with older men well, and Matthew (Carter) works well with dead guys.”

1 Comment for “TypeCon2011: Surge Recap”

Sarah Fox


Great post! I’m very jealous and loved seeing the pictures and some of the highlights.

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