Everybody gets an acronym

Posted on 11 June 2007 in:

From Thursday to Sunday, I was in Lage-Hörste, Germany? Do you know where Lage-Hörste is? I must admit that even though I had been there before, when I stepped into my train at the Offenbach central train station on Thursady morning, I still had only the vaguest of ideas of where I was going. Lage-Hörste, as I can now definitely state, lies almost directly between Bielefeld and Detmold in the northern part of Germany. This is an area known as the Teutoburg Forest. Here, in 9 AD, the Germanic Arminius annihilated the three legions that Publius Quinctilius Varus had brought to subdue Germania. This must have brought Mr. Augustus much distress. While the Romans never made it further into Northern Europe, their alphabet did. It was because of this delightful alphabet, and how we all use it, that has now brought me twice to this wooden area.

Not quite 2,000 years later, the ninth Tage der Typografie conference was held at the trade union ver.di’s Institut für Bildung, Medien und Kunst. I was invited to give one of the conference’s four workshops, which was entitled “type design made transparent,” and dealt with stencil making.

I billed it as such:

Stencil lettering is functional lettering, and isn’t form supposed to follow function? Does this dictum hold to type? How can forms that bring a specific interpretation of their function to the surface and which are communicative and aesthetic at the same time be created? Participants in this workshop will design a stencil typeface for a specific application. Since the stencils will be used at the end of the conference, it is recommended that participants bring a fresh white t-shirt along with them.

Aside from the practical work, the proportions and stylistic elements of letters and typefaces will be analyzed and discussed, especially how they may help bring meaning to their application or environment. Although this workshop will only deal with stencil types, the experience will be transferable to other areas of lettering as well.

My workshop took place all day on Friday and Saturday. Each of my 15 participants drew a random piece of paper, which had a given acronym listed on it. After a few trades and one substitutions, they created a piece of lettering for their acronym, which would eventually be cut out of board for stenciling.

Here are some of the results from our workshop:

Dirk's RCMP stencil
Dirk Braunheim
RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police)

TdT 2007 - 38.jpg
Renate Dölzer
RWE AG (Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk AG)

TdT 2007 - 19.jpg
Susanne Gäng
EADS (European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company)

Katharina Gattermann, photo by Peter Reichard
SNCF (Société Nationale de Chemin de Fer)

TdT 2007 - 21.jpg
Marie-Luise Mascia
ALDI (Albrecht-Discount Laden)

Sketches and Tests from Maren.jpg
Maren Mithöfer
DKNY Donna Karan New York

A template from Stavros.jpg
Stavros Papandreou
BDIA (Bund Deutscher Innenarchiteckten)

Dinah's template.jpg
Dinah Pätzold
ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club e.V.)

Lydia's sketches 1.jpg
Lydia Prasch
NBA (National Basketball Association)

TdT 2007 - 09.jpg
Petra Rüth
1. FCK (1. Fußball-Club Kaiserslautern)

Kathy's sketches.jpg
Kathy Scheuring
DIN (Deutsches Institüt für Normung)

Florian's T-Shirt.jpg
Florian Schick
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)

Jörg's spraypainted page.JPG
Jörg Schmidt
W3C (World Wide Web Consortium)

Sandra's template.JPG
Sandra Scholten
BMBW (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Wissenschaft)

TdT 2007 - 34.jpg
Nina Schütte
NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

This was the first workshop that I’ve given, and it was delightfully fun, although dreadfully daunting. It was only around the time that I had to first address the audience publicly that I realized how little of substance I had to say, or how inadequately I could stammer that out in German. I tried to make up for this snafu with nervous enthusiasm over the next 67 hours; I hope that no one noticed. If they did, I hope that they were able to look the other way and enjoy the experience anyway! I certainly did.

The three other workshops were held by Underware (see results here, at Typeworkshop.com), spatium-Magazin, and the Typonauten.

Aside from the many posts on the Spatium blog (especially this one), I have already fond one independent blogger covering the matter at Textformer.de (this particular post is excellent).

All photos from the conference may be viewed in a group on flickr. Click here to travel there.