Letter.2 type design competition

I would like to inform you that the Rules of the Letter.2 type design competition are now available on the website www.letter2.org

Regards,

José Scaglione

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More information about Letter.2:

Letter.2 is the second international competition of type design organized by the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI). The first event of this kind since the founding of ATypI took place in 2001, and it was a contribution to the United Nations Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations. The winning entries were exhibited at the United Nations Headquarters in New York (USA) and they were featured in the book Language Culture Type.

Letter.2 aims to provide a wide-angled snapshot of the state of typeface design around the globe ten years after the 2001 competition, and to promote typographic excellence and best professional practices. It also intends to raise awareness about the role of typography at encouraging and maintaining cultural diversity.

The jury will meet in Buenos Aires in October 2011 and will make a selection of winning entries based on their design excellence. The winning designs will be exhibited at the 2012 ATypI conference. Letter.2 is made possible thanks to our platinum sponsors Fontlab, Typekit and Veer, and our gold sponsors Ascender Fonts, FontDeck, FontShop, Monotype Imaging, P22, TypeTogether and Webink. Find out more about becoming a sponsor or a media partner for this event please visit http://letter2.org/sponsors/

Mark your calendar! Submissions open on April 4, 2011.

Nick Shinn's picture

…aims to provide a wide-angled snapshot of the state of typeface design…

Limited first to considering only those types that have been entered in the competition, and secondly by the taste of the judges (and the committee that selects the judges). Thirdly, the vested interests of the sponsors may play a role.

What steps is ATypI taking to deal with these issues?

Thomas Phinney's picture

What “steps” would you suggest? The first two “issues” are equally true of most juried competitions. I think that seeing who the jury members are, and later the variety in the winning entries, should address those issues. Feel free to critique who is on the jury if you like: http://letter2.org/jury/

As for the third, perhaps you can explain what you are implying and how exactly you see an issue emerging?

From the sponsors’ POV, of course for those who are foundries or distributors, they will be happy if more of “their” fonts win. But I'm not clear on what influence mechanism you think they have. They are contributing money up front to the competition. The last similar one was a decade ago. So, what, the jurors are going to worry about whether the sponsors will sponsor again in ten years? Or jurors will worry about whether not voting for enough sponsor-connected fonts will cause the sponsor(s) to get upset and not sponsor the next ATypI conference or something?

As ATypI treasurer, I suppose you could think I have a vested interest in keeping the sponsors happy. But I have nothing to do with the judging of the contest.

As a sponsor, even if I was sufficiently lacking in ethics to *want* to swing the competition, I don’t think the benefits of “victory” would be worth the risk of getting caught trying to manipulate the outcome. I suppose for somebody unknown, that equation might be different, but I think all the major sponsors have reputations to protect.

Cheers,

T

Nick Shinn's picture

As ATypI treasurer, I suppose you could think I have a vested interest in keeping the sponsors happy.

Yes, that's a pretty good description of vested interest.
Whether a vested interest causes bias is another matter, and hence the issues.

I'm not clear on what influence mechanism you think they have.

As I said, vested interest. Not the same thing as payoff.

The first two “issues” are equally true of most juried competitions.

Right. But most Best of the Year juried competitions aren't quite so ambitious: "a wide-angled snapshot of the state of typeface design around the globe … to promote typographic excellence and best professional practices … to raise awareness about the role of typography at encouraging and maintaining cultural diversity." There are a lot of contradictions in using a competition format to advance that agenda.

The rules are somewhat disingenuous with regards to the role of different scripts (writing systems). Explicitly this is a global competition, yet the rules, which are in English, do not break down language categories: surely the judges have a vested interest in selecting non-Latin types to fulfill the competition's agenda? Why not have specific categories for different writing systems?

What “steps” would you suggest?

Enough already with the quote mocks.

Té Rowan's picture

My time-to-smack-heads-together sense is tingling...

Nick Shinn's picture

Hey, I don't have any problem with the competition, and might even enter, or end up sponsoring if I make enough of a fool of myself in this thread.

What I am critiquing is the far-reaching claim that a competition can produce a "wide-ranging snapshot of the state of typeface design around the globe".

A 10-year snapshot is oxymoronic, to say the least.

Will the call for entries also be published in other languages and writing systems? It's a bit Anglo/Latin centric at the moment.

hrant's picture

I applaud the very modest entry fee* and the sophistication and intelligence of the rules. I do have some "technical" questions - is this the best place to pose them?

* And thank you for not punishing the winners by charging them extra!

hhp

Andreas Stötzner's picture

Letter.2 aims to provide a wide-angled snapshot of the state of typeface design around the globe […]

Go to one of the major font vendor’s sites and you have that very snapshop right away at hand. Using “competition” in junction with the aim given, this is nonsense.

It would perhaps be more honest to just label it an “award”. If it would be a competition in the true sense of the word, there might be something measurable and comparable to judge upon.

It’ll end up as a promotion gig performed by the pushing parties, not more. It won’t tell us much, left aside personal preferences. However, everyone willing to enjoy it may do so. In the past, I found this kind of “competition” being not worth the trouble.

josescaglione's picture

Hello,

I just made a second post about the early bird discount for type submission ending soon and I saw that I neglected to keep an eye on this thread. My apologies.

I understand the different concerns raised here and wanted to to clarify a couple of issues. Specially those that relate to the organization itself.

I agree that the snapshot we obtain from this event is limited to the types that were submitted, to the criteria set for the judging procedure and, ultimately, to the opinion of the judges. This is something inherent to all competitions and all we could do is to select the jurors and work on the judging criteria as carefully as possible.

Regarding the amount of submissions, what we tried to do is to bring down the cost of the entries as much as possible, so we make it easier for those designers living or working in lower income places of the world. The goal is to get an overview of how type design is evolving around the globe. The problem is that this kind of competitions require quite a bit of investment, so in order to have these very low entry fees, we need the support of sponsors.

We kept the same criteria with the sponsorships as we did with the entries. Set up the sponsoring opportunities at lower end costs and accepting sponsorships in kind and media partnerships with as many organizations or small companies as possible. The idea is to have the support of as many people as possible instead of relying on a single big contributor. Making this plural and transparent is in the very same spirit of the event.

Finally, we stablished a system of digital submissions that guaranties that fonts will remain anonymous throughout judging. Non-latin fonts will not be received as a separate category, that's why there's no mention in the rules, but in the submission process there's a box to indicate the scripts supported by each entry.

I hope this clarifies at least some of the ideas behind the way this is organized.

Kind regards to all of you,

José Scaglione
Chairman, Letter.2

dezcom's picture

There is no way to make certain that any design competition will be completely unbiased, anonymous, fair, or even representative. We all know this and have been entering our work regardless for years in assorted competitions. The only truly anonymous entries are from unknown designers and foundries. Everyone knows who did the work on all the more popular foundries is no secret. Does this weigh on the judges who might want to place an unknown designer higher than say a Zapf or a Frutiger? Perhaps, but people are human and have failings.

The point is, Does this really matter at all? I don't think so (unless you are a winning-is-all- that-matters person). Judges may differ and some face that is found less objectionable to the lot may do better than one with great discrepancy in opinion. We just have to trust all those involved have done their best to arrive at a fair choice and move on. ATypI is a reputable organization made up of most of us and they don't seem to have any malice in mind. It is a completely voluntary competition with a reasonable entry fee that will surly be judged by competent people. There is no punishment for not winning. Those who care to enter may and those who don't care to can opt out. While our individual egos may be bruised if not chosen, such is life and not a thing to worry about. The show will go on with or without us.

Nick Shinn's picture

Chris, that doesn't address my criticism of the hype.

"…aims to provide a wide-angled snapshot of the state of typeface design…"

Does this mean people should enter their crap fonts too, and that the judges will be instructed to select a cross-section of both good and bad?

OK, so it's understood that the competition will NOT be wide-angled, because only entries will be considered, that it will NOT be a snapshot, because it covers a 10-year period, and that it will NOT represent the state of typeface design, because competitions only seek the best.

A reputable organization should tell it like it is, not bullshit.

What would be wrong with, "…aims to showcase the best from around the world in the past 10 years"?

dezcom's picture

Nick, I admit that the copywriting of the announcement was not the best, a bit too full of buzz words and on the grandiose side. Again, these are voluntary efforts of members who have other things on their plates and probably are not copywriters after all. I also admit that your quick edit to "…aims to showcase the best from around the world in the past 10 years" would work quite well and be better than the original. I also never had the strong feelings about the text that you apparently do. I guess I kind of read between the lines enough and just ignored the more verbose parts to get the gist of their intent. The wordy text they used puts me in scan mode so I just cut to the chase and looked for who, what, where, and when. To me it was no harm no foul. I guess if we were a copywriters guild, I would have expected more ;-)

Chris

Nick Shinn's picture

Hey, it's the Typophile forum.
There was something about José's original post that didn't strike me as quite right.
At first I thought it was the competition, but as you say Chris, it's just a competition, so that leaves the writing.
ATypI is perhaps trying to position itself apart from other, for profit/promotional competitions, by means of suggesting a broader mandate, but that stretching is in itself somewhat commercial, so plain speaking would be more befitting an industry body.

Props to ATypI for trying to increase its outreach by lowering the entry fee.

hrant's picture

And the results are out!
http://letter2.org/

Congrats to the winners, and I hope other competitions learn from this success.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

Wonderful!

A great step towards world peace, harmony between cultures and respect for minorities, through the power of type design, most significant of the commercial arts!

Perhaps the next Very Important Type Design Competition could be Readability themed, with judges drawn from the ranks of those most altruistic of type designers who have sought to ameliorate the plight of the reading-challenged.

hrant's picture

Just because you lost a competition in your early
years doesn't mean you should remain so bitter.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

The fact that I neither enter nor judge competitions is irrelevant.

My advocacy of accurate, responsible copywriting is not limited to type design competitions.
For instance, earlier today I queried Ralf Herrmann's implication that the chrome script style of lettering was primarily an automobile thing:
http://typophile.com/node/86505
(Although I didn't point out a couple of "bad English" mistakes.)

And I'm forever going on about "its/it's" and "complimentary/complementary".

Here, I'm calling bullshit on ATypI's grandiose PR.
Logic didn't seem to work, so now satire.

Don't you think that promotional copywriting in our industry should be reasonable, and without exaggerated claims?

tourdeforce's picture

I just don't understand a point of making an competition where I'll be the judge and my foundry would submit entries and win an prize as an strawberry on the top of everything?!? Where is in that a meaning of the word - competition?

BTW, I didn't submit my entry and I'm also bitter cause this seems very pointless.

Nick Shinn's picture

Note that there are no H&FJ types amongst the winners.
Did they not enter, or were their fonts deemed not good enough?
Either way, for the competition to tout its "wide-angled snapshot" as representing "the state typeface design around the globe" with no Archer or Gotham is absurd.

dezcom's picture

While I think all of the chosen typefaces were very well done and worthy of selection, I do find it odd that there were several Helvetica-like grotesk examples included when perhaps one would have been more representative of the decade. I also think Gotham would certainly be a solid representative of the time.
All of my after-the-fact judgements are not meant to reflect on the judging. I am sure it was fair and as impartial as is possible given the situation. I have no idea what criteria were given to the judges to begin with. It could have been "choose the best quality 10% of the material submitted or or choose the most representative quality types of the decade from the submissions, or whatever. These competitions are always scrutinized after-the-fact and everyone cannot agree on how better to do it next time. All-in-all, I think the jury did a creditable job even though I probably would have made some different choices. My different choices would certainly have met with just as much scrutiny and disapproval as anyone else's so I just don't know what we can ever do to satisfy everyones opinions.

[edit]
I have just revisited the winners list. I don't know what made me think there were more than the one (New Haas) helvetican in the list. Somewhere, my brain departed and made me think there were more. Sorry!!!

riccard0's picture

Chris, maybe you had in mind New Rail Alphabet as “helvetican”.

dezcom's picture

Riccardo,
YES!!! That was it!
The name "New Rail" did not signal anything to me so I just didn't look at it the second time through.

hrant's picture

> I'm calling bullshit on ATypI's grandiose PR.

It's a shame you don't have the guts to do the same to your chums in NYC.

hhp

PabloImpallari's picture

Overall I like the results pretty much, in the sense that there are a little bit of everything: Classics from the established foundries, new fonts by young students, fonts for different languages, etc.

.00's picture

It's a shame you don't have the guts to do the same to your chums in NYC.

Nick has chums in NYC? News to me.

Nick Shinn's picture

Hrant, one doesn't throw one's peers under the bus.
However, there is an obligation to hold the large corporations and institutions in our industry to account.

hrant's picture

At best, your perceptions of ATypI, the TDC et alia are highly confounded.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

I have no idea what you're talking about, although you seem intent on riling me.

I'll ask you again: Don't you think that promotional copywriting in our industry should be reasonable, and without exaggerated claims?

(Excusing Madame Wahler's Lucky Serif Dream Book, of course!)

hrant's picture

You go back and answer any one of the tricky questions I've asked
you over the years (with candor, not facetious diversions) then I'll
answer this one. I won't be your tool, sorry.

hhp

russellm's picture

Winning entries were published over a rather broad range of time, which to me, rather dilutes the possibility of them being representative of anything in particular.

Nick Shinn's picture

Which particular question would you like me to answer, Hrant?
I'd be happy to give you a candid yes or no.

dezcom's picture

The difficulty to me was that there were so many winning entries that were revivals or at least resemblances to type of eras gone by. I was hoping to see what is going on today that is new and untethered to prior centuries.

Bendy's picture

That's an interesting observation. I wonder which 50-odd typefaces would have been chosen if they'd all been 'of their time' rather than interpretations of older stuff (though I do of course love seeing fresh takes on established models).

hrant's picture

Nick, I don't believe you.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

Hrant, this appears to be turning into one of our old threads where what starts out as a discussion of an issue becomes me defending myself against your attempts to besmirch my character.

I'm not going to defend myself further, or retaliate in kind.

Té Rowan's picture

Phew. I was beginning to think it was LARTing time...

dezcom's picture

" I wonder which 50-odd typefaces would have been chosen if they'd all been 'of their time'"

@Bendy:

I have no problem with anyone running a competition in any way they see fit. I am not proposing that Letter.2 be redone. I just wish there would be somewhere a competition that really focuses on our current time and avoids the previous several hundred years. I guess the way of the world is that no one ever talks about "what is happening now" until that now is at least 50 or even 100 years old. With time, we get to only look at the chosen remaining remnants that historians or the like have labeled and written about. I guess it is easier to be a Monday Morning Quarterback 50 years after the fact than it is to face the live pass-rush of our time while you are making your call ;-)

I propose a new Type exhibition, or book or, competition called "Now or Never" where the criteria for entry would be that no design would be accepted that was a redo, reference, revival, recapture, reverent look back at, recapitulation of, or reconstruction of historic or very oft used forms. That is not to say that we would get all absolutely squeaky clean "Original" entries because that might be impossible but we would be making an effort to go at least in that direction. This would certainly not exclude renowned and immensely talented type designers like Slimbach from entering their finest work. I am sure our senior living members of the type design community are quite capable of stepping away from the historic realm and creating brilliant types that are more descriptive of the contemporary.

hrant's picture

This morning on the ATypI discussion list Viktor Kharyk suggested
there should be a competition* for "speculative" (my term) type design.
I think that's an awesome idea, and I'd love to see ATypI or SoTA put
something like that together, because more "formal" competitions put
too much emphasis on polish, and this naturally leads to a promotion
of mainstream precedents.

* Or a curated "show" (but with a broad spectrum of curators).

Of course things like Letter.2 would still have an important place.
Like the Olympics "versus" the X Games, both of which I watch!

hhp

dezcom's picture

I don't know that "polish" is the problem. I don't think that there is much of a disparity of polish among the material chosen over not chosen. It seems more that we only feel safe saying something is good if it has had at least 50 years of proven success in the market.

I would hope to see a genuine attempt at showing what is clearly "Not Old" rather than what we choose to define as "New".

.00's picture

This morning on the ATypI discussion list Viktor Kharyk suggested
there should be a competition* for "speculative" (my term) type design.
I think that's an awesome idea, and I'd love to see ATypI or SoTA put
something like that together,

Then I suggest you get to work with the ATypI and or SotA and make it happen.

When I saw how typeface design was being mis-judged in the TDC Annual Competition, I petitioned the TDC Board and was allowed to create, with Paul Shaw, what has become TDC2, the annual Type DIrectors Club Type Design Competition. I think it has been successful in providing a yearly glimpse into what was going on in type design.

So if you think you have a better model, stop talking and get moving.

Nick Shinn's picture

Way to go, James.

hrant's picture

> I don't think that there is much of a disparity of
> polish among the material chosen over not chosen.

But anything "speculative" is likely to be lacking
in polish, which means it either won't be submitted
or it won't be awarded/exposed. We need a channel
that's receptive to "rough & tumble" progress.

> I suggest you get to work with the ATypI and or SotA and make it happen.

You're reading my mind - in fact I sent an email about
an hour and a half ago. On the other hand I don't want
to impose, so I plan to let more qualified people lead
the way, and I could volunteer some logistical help.

One group I will not approach however is the TDC.
It doesn't strike me as a progressive institution,
plus I don't have the requisite cronyism set up.

Sorry for the candor - I know it's scarce in some quarters.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

But anything "speculative" is likely to be lacking in polish…

I always polish my experiments before I publish them.
The latest:
http://marketplace.veer.com/fonts/sht0000280#

hrant's picture

> http://marketplace.veer.com/fonts/sht0000280#

Uh, that's not exactly what I meant by "speculative"...

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

Well, IMHO it fits the dictionary definition, and in the context of Chris' comments on original vs derivative, it's no clone.
(Although perhaps there have been some grotesque backslants I'm unaware of.)
It's primarily a conjecture on the use of contextual alternates—there are no other faces that flip-flop between character alternates.
And it's certainly a financial speculation—defining its own niche, compared to your typical sans or script.
What did you mean?

hrant's picture

I meant something like Legato, Ambicase or hey, Panoptica!
Just early on in the development, so not necessarily polished enough to sell.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

That may be difficult to assess.
For many years, when I was working as an art director, I would sent typeface proposals to Letraset, and was always turned down.
In retrospect, I suspect the roughness of my comps (following the roughness of the advertisement comps in my day job) mitigated against my designs. And now in digital culture everything is so slick. And final finish is so important to fonts, especially something as subtle as Legato.

So perhaps the format for conjectural would be just "Hamburgefons" — fully finished/polished, but only a few characters.

But do people still use that word alone to assess a typeface proposal, in this day and age?

dezcom's picture

"Speculative" seems to be a term that I can't find useful in this context. We may be just thinking along completely different lines. Speculative implies that the originator is either unsure about it or just not ready to call it a finished product. To me, it implies rough sketches of a "possible concept" rather than a ready to use completed item.

The typefaces that I would like to see given more media play are designed in the current decade but working, ready-for-prime-time use today. The ones I am talking about are at least attempts to be reasonably original and not holding the coattails of well established historic models. I am after types which answer the question "What is the best design for real use that focusses on the here and now and may at some point be looked back upon by competent historians archeologists as being representative of early 21st Century work. When you look at Helvetica, it portrays the zeitgeist of mid to late 20th Century reasonably well but is really not what says anything about today (other than today, people are too locked in to the past). There are tons of well documented scholarly works out there written about incunabula, arts and crafts, "modern", transitional, oldstyle, classical, what have you.., that you can quite readily pinpoint types of their time and show examples of work to prove your case. No body speaks about the real "today" though, without a quick segway to historic forms. Are we all so frightened that we cannot possibly measure up to the long-dead masters that we deny even the attempt of doing our own stuff? Is it it true that "only dead guys" had anything to say? Can't we just face our own days problems square on and think we must solve them with our own day's thinking and tools? We are no more or no less able, talented or intelligent than any other peoples of previous time and society. Why must we so tight-fistedly grip the loin clothes of our ancestors? Our ancestors did not do this but we do. Are we really totally gutless and in awe of the past that we will be known as the Copy Cat era who did nothing but borrow from the anointed deity of history?

We should be able to say, "This is us, this is what we do now. This is neither an experiment or a speculation of what ought to be done now or in the future. This is our stuff as it is and it is just as polished as the Trajan inscription, Renaissance calligraphy, Garamond, Caslon, Didone, Bauhaus, Tschicholdian, Push Pin, Swiss modern, or PoMo, and we are not ashamed of it."

hrant's picture

That doesn't make sense because old stuff is still useful
here and now, partly because "users" don't know it's old.

What's really missing is a formal appreciation of the
avant garde of type design. We had that in the 90s,
but back then it was mostly naive hooliganism.

hhp

dezcom's picture

Users don't know it is old because it is most often still used and talked about today. Users only get a chance to know it if we dare do it, show it, and talk about it.

I did not say "old stuff" is not useful now or should not be used, I said we already know plenty about old stuff because it is never ignored and always praised. We know next to nothing about "our era's original stuff" because we don't have the guts to talk about it. The 90s are over, too, whatever it was, hooligan or not, is not now. Looking back even only 20 years is far easier and safer than looking only at the moment of now.
I don't care to be so closed minded as to limit the work to what some may call avant garde or to exclude what some may call hooligan work, or naive work. I would just like to see Now Work that is not just reflections of previous Not Now work. It just needs to be a finished usable typeface of respectable enough quality to do its job. Work that would be a kin to 2010-2020 but not pretending to be either "the Future" or "the Past". Content with itself in the present and unashamed.

.00's picture

One group I will not approach however is the TDC.
It doesn't strike me as a progressive institution,
plus I don't have the requisite cronyism set up.

cronyism |ˈkrōnēˌizəm|
noun derogatory
the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications.

Are you calling the TDC and its board and members unqualified?

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