Concise reviews of presentations from ATypI. This is about all you get from other sites (Le Typographe, Roger Black).

Ann Bessemans: “Typography for children with low vision” (liveblog)

Yeah, I’m sorry, I gotta be a hater on this one. She has no results. She has conducted no experiments. She has no subjects. She’s got plans and hypotheses, but you don’t fly to a foreign country and pass those off as a viable presentation. Her English is poor, though her vocabulary is solid. She read rigidly from her script. Any of those alone would kill the presentation, yet we had all of them.

And one more: We couldn’t understand exactly what she was going to test and how. Her slide graphics were so small as to be unreadable. We had to ask multiple questions about one slide just to understand it. Kevlar (see below) thinks she’s got an interesting research question at work. Let’s grant her that. But it isn’t sufficient.

Xurxo Insua Pardo: “On the German origin of the sansserif” (liveblog)

He’s Galician and he’s a Ph.D. student. Like Bessemans, he couldn’t be satisfied with one fatal error. He slavishly read from notes in a thick accent. One of those facts he can help, the other he can’t. (Sound quality was also poor.) The presentation seemed to amount to an explanation of his research plans.

The whole point isn’t clear to me, and to the extent that it is clear, it seems self-evident. Yes, of course the sansserif is German. Has he discovered a predecessor to Akzidenz-Grotesk? No, because this Royal Grotesk had been identified by other people already.

Memo to ATypI: There needs to be a question on the speaker application form from now on asking “Is this a student project?” If the answer is yes, then the applicant needs to be interviewed and allowed to present only if there are results, not research intentions.

Tim Ahrens: “Computer-aided design: Taming the curves” (liveblog)

I didn’t take much in the way of notes for this one. Ahrens seems to be a unique personage. Excellent English, with the very high German voice and a still-distinguishable accent. Strong technically and artistically: He knows how to move control points to make a junction less disharmonious, and he can give you theories why we found it disharmonious in the first place. Lilting, delicate pace, like that of a really good teacher. I kept thinking there was a hint of the engagement that German texts have with the reader. (Think of a book that actually includes an interjection like “At this point in our story, dear reader, surely you will object: Whereas in the first instance….”)

Everyone followed along avidly. There was at least reason to do so, unlike in Vancouver with that dude’s atrocious, self-satisfied presentation on Hebrew that a roomful of middle-class intellectuals followed along with on paper like third-grade students. (On command, they picked up their sheets and turned to the assigned page!) Ahrens is billed as a type designer and architect somewhere in England. I hope he’s making a living at it. We should hear more from him. Has he considered a podcast?

Ole Schäfer: “Bringing typefaces to life” (liveblog)

This was quite nakedly a look-at-my-most-recent-project presentation. But that’s all right, because big bald gregarious chain-smoking Ole Schäfer, a name that begs to be pronounced in a Sprockets accent, has actually uncovered something everybody else had forgotten – some wonderfully eccentric types by a wonderfully eccentric East German designer, Karl-Heinz Lange, who looks like hell but is still going strong à la Zapf.

I do think the revivals Schäfer showed us were a tad overregularized. But these things happen. Nature abhors a vacuum; splines abhor disorder.

Schäfer did the standard thing, always unnecessary, and apologized for his English, which he speaks as well as the other Typokrauts (Cf. Webkrauts). But the effort involved in searching for le mot juste makes him even more fidgety. He moves around even more and takes up even more space. Adorable.

Akira Kobayashi: “Sansserif types and their humanistic backgrounds” (liveblog)

I don’t think this lived up to its billing. Humanistic typefaces are those that relate to calligraphy or the formation of letters with a broad-nibbed pen. Helvetica isn’t humanistic (it’s antihuman, in fact); Formata is.

The presentation actually explained how Kobayashi had had the honour of working with Zapf and Frutiger, and how a few mathematical proportions of the resulting typefaces were tweaked. But in a room like that one, nobody realistically expects that an O be a perfect circle, that an X be two 45° lines crossing in the middle, or that an H be some kind of perfectly bisected rectangle.

This was, however, an example of how to deliver a presentation with accented English. His pacing is just right.

Phil Baines: “From the Motor Car Act to motorways: British road signs from 1903–58” (liveblog)

A lot of data here, and it started coming at us right from the first minute. It was like showing up for a university course and expecting the first day to be introductory. I think Baines was right at the very edge of comprehensibility with his many citations of legislation, reports, and reports’ authors.

Now, of course Baines is the undisputed king of the subject. I’ve been reading his work for years, and I was pleased to be able to say hello. Rather oddball light-blue ring in his left ear.

Karen Cheng: “Teaching type in the city” (liveblog)

What a surprise. Cheng’s book Designing Type might be the only handbook on how to design a font that you can just walk into a bookstore and buy. It’s also so dry as to be legalistic. It reads like somebody who’s a new authoress and isn’t totally clear on what she can and can’t get away with. (Like Chris Calori?)

In person, she’s breezy, she’s colloquial, she gives off an air of really having a handle on the practice of teaching graphic design. She can handle anything. She can handle these kids. She can handle them so well she forces “sophomores” – a very American word word – to design typefaces right off the bat in second year.

Quite possibly she delivered a criticism of student fonts along the lines of “Not great, but pretty good for four weeks’ work” a few too many times. You could hand me all the software in the world and I could barely get a Hamburgefonts out of the house in a month. Or just a letter i. Or the dot on an i.

Albert-Jan Pool: “DIN 1451: The unofficial ‘corporate type’ of Germany?” (liveblog)

AJ, as nobody but me calls him, has a bit of a low profile, but he’s been around forever. (Am I the only one who remembers that URW even existed? Not literally. But he worked there.) He sounds fluent and stereotypically German all at once, with the high voice and everything. He’s given this presentation before and it shows.

What also shows is that he didn’t edit down the presentation to fit the allowable time. Nor has he managed to trim the extraneous examples of DIN in usage, which should really be on a Web site. Timeline first, kooky fun examples second, please. But! His narrative of how one’s entire day can be signalled, captioned, signposted, and indicated by DIN was fantastic. (Tomorrow’s hot YouTube video? It should at least be a screencast.)

Keith Tam: “Typographic bilingualism: A framework for the coexistence of Chinese and English texts

I walked in late and it seemed to be nothing more than a narrated slideshow of signage in Hong Kong, half of it from the very same park. Good type vocabulary in evidence. (When I met him, the first thing I said was “I don’t like your signage font.” These things happen.)

Ted Harrison & Юрий Ярмола: “Flash photofonts – the holy grail of Web typography? (liveblog)

I gave them too much of a hard time, but in some respects they deserved it. They’ve got software that lets you import bitmaps (e.g., photographs or illustrations) and turn them into full-fledged fonts with colour and transparency. In many applications, the underlying text will be retained. For the Web, they’re using sIFR for that latter purpose, but they blew several basic issues, like putting <script> after </html>. (Юрий: “It works.” Yeah, of course it does. By accident.) I kissed and made up later by hooking them up with Inman, Davidson, et al, who should have been in on the loop from the word go anyway.

And you just know people are going to use this as yet another way to spell out “Y-M-C-A.”

Simon Daniels: “Web font embedding rides again!” (liveblog)

I don’t want fonts “embedded” in Web pages.

Kevin Larson: “Better than a poke in the eye” (liveblog)

This will now be my third presentation by Kevlar, who has an admirably high tolerance for me and my enthusiasms. In Vancouver in ’03, the ostensibly controversial presentation he gave went over fine, with, if memory serves, not a single question asked. The other presentation, expected to be a bit blah, resulted in 20 solid minutes of interrogation, much of it from me.

This time, his topic was as rumoured even before it was announced – eye fatigue. And guess what, it has nothing to do with the muscles that move the eye left, right, up, down, and rotationally but involves the rather gigantic orbicularis muscle that extends above and below your eye.

There’s not a lot we can do about eye fatigue typographically, he confirmed. (So why was he here?) [Kevlar later wrote in to say that one-third of the problems are typographic in nature. He thinks that fails to constitute “not a lot we can do.] I think people were underwhelmed or disappointed by the brevity of his presentation.

Kevlar is one of two people I’ve witnessed who can actually present graphically appropriate and informative slides using PowerPoint. (Lessig is the other one.) By far the most important feature is reverse type, which I’ve been using ever since I saw him use it in Vancouver.

Matthew Carter: “Bruce Rogers and his Centaur type” (liveblog)

I don’t understand why people weren’t totally apeshit for this one. Everyone I talked to refused to comment on it, as though they didn’t want to cause offence by their iconoclasm.

Oh, just quit it, for God’s sake. Believe the hype. Everything I’ve seen of this man – from interviewing him jointly with Neville Brody in 1993 to sitting in his coach house in Cambridge to watching him onstage – tells me his reputation is deserved. He has firsthand knowledge of every typographic technology from punchcut plates to OpenType. He makes a full head of grey hair work perfectly in a tightly-bound ponytail, a lesson Gandalf could learn. And at Brighton, he made a historical lesson on a dandyish book designer whimsical, smooth-flowing, novel.

Matthew Carter… he really is that good. And to my great delight, he recognized me.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.09.18 17:32. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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