ATypI write-up on ILT

Posted on 25 September 2011 in:

I was very lucky at this year’s ATypI conference. All of the awesome A-list type bloggers were not in attendance. This means, unfortunately, that the typo-blogosphere is bereft of helpful insight from Stephen Coles, Florian Hardwig, Jan Middendorp, or Jürgen Siebert. Yves Peters did write an article for the FontFeed. Although he was not there himself, his writing is convincing enough that I thought he must have been in Reykjavík for at least part of the conference. The absence of the A-squad did lead to quite a silver lining for me, however. I could totally make my own write-up about the conference, with much less competition for readers.

Anyway, my article is up over at I Love Typography. I was super stoked that John Boardley asked me to write it. All of the photos are from Frank Grießhammer; thank you again, Frank, for letting me use them!

On the second-to-last-day of the conference, I mentioned on Twitter that I was already working on my write-up. Jean François Porchez responded:

Short Twitter discussion with JFP

This is actually a good point; one that I did not address in my article at all. I did not address it, honestly, because it is just too difficult. In the hours and days after a conference, it can be hard to view events with the necessary degree of objectivity. I had a really great time at this year’s ATypI conference, and every conference seems to have its up’s and down’s. This was the seventh time I’ve attended an ATypI conference, so there are certain rhythms that I have come to expect. As far as type conferences go – especially the ATypI conferences – I’m a pretty happy customer. An excellent, Paul Shaw-style review of the event is just going to have to be something I grow into, I guess.

It is often the nature of blogs to over-praise things, or to turn the level of criticism up to 11. This year’s ATypI conference lasted for five days, and I did not even arrive until more than halfway through the second day. The brief for my write-up was to deliver 1,000 words; in the end, I sent in over 2,000. Yet there were still quite a few lectures and activities that I did not mention at all. In general, I wrote about the things that I found most interesting on a personal level. There are other talks I would have liked to mention, but the text would have gotten far too long.

In the spirit of JFP’s request, there are things I saw in Reykjavík that could have gone down better. For instance, several friends mentioned there should have been some greater method of quality control for the presentations. Most of the presentations were good, and were presented well. Some others were too long for the allotted timeframe, or were just read off of printed sheets of paper. It is sort of painful for me to write this, though, because I present at quite a few design events, and there have been times were I have totally bombed. Still, I am very thankful for every opportunity I get to speak. I’m sure that every other speaker must feel this, too. It is quite awesome to be able to speak before an organization like the ATypI.

Icelandic food is pretty tasty, but I am sure that there must be some vegetarians on the island. Whatever the case, there were several vegetarians at the conference, and the food options that they were offered at the conference itself was often of a lesser variety than what my fellow carnivores and I enjoyed. I am a pretty proud meat-eater, but the joy I take in my dead-animal-eating is diminished somewhat by the sad faces of hungry vegetarians.

ATypI is a relatively small conference, as far as design conferences can go. It is challenging to try and compare conference with each other; I won’t even try to compare the ATypI conference with Typecon, for instance. The only other conference that I attend almost every year is Typo Berlin. Comparing Typo Berlin and the ATypI conference is a fool’s errand, as Europe’s largest graphic design conference is a totally different animal than the annual meetings of a worldwide organization that used to be devoted to the interest of typesetting-equipment manufacturers. All conferences have their own feeling, both during and afterwards. If I had to describe my experience at eight Typo Berlin conferences in one word, it would be “life-changing.” The ATypI conference, on the other hand, can really be “life-affirming.” Typo Berlin makes me question the choices that I have made as a designer, and makes me wonder what I should do differently over the next year, both personally and professionally. Every year after the ATypI conference, I am reminded that I’ve made the right career decisions. I’m reminded that type design and typography are pretty awesome, and that my colleagues and peers are all up on their game. I am really grateful for both the “life-changing” and the “life-affirming.”

Finally (I’m gonna stop here, JFP! I hope that is OK), this year’s conference should have had more attendees. I don’t know why so few people came this year. At the Annual General Meeting, it was mentioned that about 250 people were in attendance this year, instead of a more average 320. Times are tough, and Iceland was an expensive flight from some European cities. But I sort of assumed that more people would attend anyway. This year’s ATypI conference kind of felt too small. In retrospect, I think that it was a good decision to have a single track program for most of the conference. If there had been multiple tracks, the halls might have felt a bit empty some of the time.

During the Annual General Meeting, a discussion item was put forth that a proposal for an ATypI conference in Reading in 2017 would eventually be made. The reason mentioned for having an ATypI conference in Reading in 2017 was that it would be the 20th anniversary of the 1997 ATypI conference in Reading. This, of course, is a totally rubbish reason; there should absolutely be an ATypI conference again in Reading, but not for the sake of a round number. An ATypI conference at Reading would be a success because so many people who come to the ATypI conferences, or sit on the ATypI Board, have a connection with the University of Reading. I count 15 speakers on the program alone who studied on the MATD course – just one of the University’s typography degrees. However, if anniversaries are going to become a thing, then I propose that ATypI 2031 be held in Reykjavík. With my best regards to JFP, this year’s ATypI conference was pretty awesome. Anything that did not go perfectly smooth could certainly be fixed the next time around. And Iceland is definitely worth a second visit.