Amsterdam Part 1

We arrived in Amsterdam Wednesday after a six hour train ride and took the rest of the day to walk around and see the impressive architecture of the Library of Amsterdam. Thursday started another full day of studio tours with some of Amsterdam’s finest. It is impossible to write all the great things we have learned and experienced.

Staring of the  morning was a visit with type designer Bas Jacobs of Underware in his shared studio space across town. He gave us the inside scoop on some of the complicated and technical details of the typefaces he and his two partners, Akiem Helmling and Sami Kortemäki, design together. Each letter they design knows its place, and they have worked in complex ideas like simulating the pen running out of ink in the middle of wordsl Each of their typefaces start with a sketch because “you have a certain kind of freedom with your hand that you do no have with the computer.” However, Jacobs broke his collar bone recently preventing him from using his right and dominant hand. Many would take a break, but he learned to use his left instead.

Mathieu Lommen, the curator of Special Collections department at the University of Amsterdam, was our next appointment. We were in awe of some of the type specimens and books we had a chance to look through including Irma Boom books, original wood type specimens, and sketches of the popular Dutch typeface Lexicon. It was impossible to not leave a room full of some of designs’ greatest artifacts without being inspired.

After leaving the University, we hopped on a train out to The Hague to see Peter Bil’ak. Designer to typefaces Irma and Fedra, Bil’ak also does other editorial and design work, writes, and lectures. One of the questions we asked was where his typeface name Irma came from, and we were informed all his typefaces are named in alphabetical order. He also stated that typefaces are as difficult to name as children are. He is currently working on K. This led us into a conversation on pancakes. Bil’ak said that, “type design is like making pancakes, the first one is always burnt. The second is always much better so don’t stop after the first.” It is a great lesson for all designers to not give up after the first attempt at something new! With our brains full of new type knowledge we headed out and ended the day at a beachfront restaurant on the North Sea before the train back to Amsterdam.

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