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It was kind of surreal, considering the last conference I went to was as a Boeing engineer meeting with the Air Force, discussing flight software for the Inertial Upper Stage space booster vehicle sometime in late 1998, or early 1999 (before I retired). I have to say the atmosphere at TypeCon was completely different. For one thing, there were almost no suits or ties. There were no stacks of documents, or copies of presentation charts (although I would have loved some of the latter for a few of the talks), and more importantly I wasn’t on the Agenda this time.
The atmosphere of congeniality was pervasive, and I was sure I ’knew’ so many of the people there, but I had almost no way to recognize them! It was like driving through the neighborhood of the ’Homes of the Stars’ without the guide map. Most of us Typophilers use Icon/Avatar thingies, so I had no idea what most people would look like. The name badges they gave us (set tastefully in FF Sanuk) had the first names large and last names small, and if you didn’t get almost inside someone’s personal space, you didn’t get to learn which Grant (Hutchinson), Chris (Lozos), Mark (Simonson), William (Berkson), Dan (Gayle), Stuart (Sandler, to whom I owed and paid $10 for postage on some type books he generously sent me), James (’jpad’ Puckett), or Tiffany (Wardle) they were, for example (roughly in the order that I met them). I also met ’Stewf’ Coles and Cheshire Dave, thanks to introductions by Chris. I also found and introduced myself to Eben (Sorkin), Carl (Crossgrove), Nick Shinn (somehow he got all his name in large letters), Richard (Kegler), Rodrigo (Cavazos), Simon (’Sii’ Daniels), and Veronika (Burian, the Czech type designer — of FF Maiola — because my ancestry (Janiga) was from her region). I even (almost) had lunch with Mark Simonson, but his screwed up plane reservation cancelled that — maybe next time, Mark.
The talks were usually interesting, informative, or funny (usually a combination), and I didn’t miss a single one of them over the three days. I started having fantasies about giving a talk on Font Identification — a topic that was never mentioned during the conference (a gross oversight, in my opinion) — discussing Automatic Tools (Identifont, WhatTheFont, and others?); Vendor sites with keywords and test samples; Font ID Guides (passive and interactive); and of course Expert forums, like the Type ID Board and WTF Forum, to mention two of them. I know Font Identification is sort of a quiet cousin to the high profile type designers, type distributors, and advertising empire stars, who were the mainstays of the presentations (with a few type educators added in). However, I see font identifiers as important links that connect many font users with distributors, keeping the Font ’Ecosystem’ vital.
And then there was Robert Bringhurst (“The Elements of Typographic Style”), who packed the house (literally) for his erudite talk about Quantum Physics and Typography (it has to do with ’packets’ of information, and particles and waves that makes up everything, including type), and non-Latin fonts, and who was autographing copies of his book for admiring fans.
I wandered around in the type displays and wrote down the names, designers and foundries of new fonts I saw. The examples from Mexico were intriguing, and were touched on in the great talk by Gabriel Martínez Meave and Leonardo Vázquez Conde about the history and current state of Mexican Type. I found an energetic vitality that I think can add to the classicism of the dead European designers we see being revived over and over.
My first TypeCon was an Experience (capital E), and I hope to do it again some time. If you were there and I missed you, I’m sorry. It’s strange to be so much a part of a community that you can’t recognize on sight, but without something to help ID each other, or a Typophile rallying point, some of us will be like ships passing in the night, to use a well-worn cliché.
- Mike Yanega