Noticeably Absent from TypeCon

At the risk of starting another...shall we say, emotional exchange, I wanted to pose an observation I had at last weekend's TypeCon. There was a visible lack of representation from certain foundries who are really killing it right now, and whose work I really admire (not to say I don't admire the work of foundries that did represent). Any thoughts on why there was no one from Hoefler OR FJ, Vllg, very few from Font Bureau, just Greg from Commercial, TypeTogether, OkayType, only one guy from House, Pagan & Sharpe ... has that conference become lower priority? Was it always? Is it because people would rather go to some of the new conferences like Robothon and Typographics, or spend their $ in Sao Paulo this year? 

I ask in part because we had this whole diversity committee to tee up better efforts when it comes to SoTA's board and proposal process, but I also wondered if TypeCon is past its heyday?

No offense meant to anyone who's responsible for TypeCon, enjoys TypeCon, was at TypeCon, etc. It was just an observation.


  • As a quick observation, Tobias Frere-Jones, Jackson Cavanaugh, and other Font Bureau folk were at last year's TypeCon. Also, Sam Berlow, Roger Black, and Victoria Rushton (from Font Bureau) were here this year. I know at least some who had other obligations and would have liked to have attended. Even with places like Adobe and Monotype, sometimes folk rotate years for conferences, depending on travel budgets, etc.

    On the personal side, I'm skipping ATypI (though I'd love to attend) to spend time with family. I also had to skip Granshan this year due to a conflict with a long-standing dance workshop. I also thought TypeCon was fairly good this year, even with the lighter attendance (seen at other conferences, also).
  • Personally (thanks for including me on that list of way better foundries), I've been having a terrible time traveling. At last year's Typecon I couldn't sleep for the first four days and had a bit of a meltdown. 

    How was the attendance this year? 
  • From my conversations with the organizers it sounds like attendance was surprisingly high for a smaller market city which isn’t very close to any major type centers. I think the crowd was more varied than usual, which I appreciate. Though I love to see the same friends every year, it’s also good to have some new blood.

    Like Jeff said, small foundries, even the successful ones Elizabeth mentions, don’t have the budget to attend every conference, and Denver isn’t cheap for East Coast travelers.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,402
    Also, the recent New York conference/seminar probably filled the quota for Eastern type people who still have to fit in actual work to their schedules ;-)
  • I just figured there was an extra NYC conference this year, and the southwest is a lot more distant for the northeast folks. Denver is not a huge hub. It's also not as exciting a location to most folks, compared to many TypeCon locations. So it drew a more regional crowd—attendance from Adobe was huge, for instance (although I was bummed Sairus Patel from Adobe didn't make it, I saw his name tag waiting for him!).
  • K. So is the consensus that TypeCon is alive and well? 
  • @Jackson Cavanaugh 
    I couldn't sleep in Denver either. Apparently the altitude really fucks with people. By the end of it I felt manic. Even all the weed didn't help.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,402
    I never sleep well for several days in any new place.  I slept badly in Denver as well.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,380
    I'm still waiting for the conference hotel that provides hammock stands or wall hooks, which is pretty much my only hope of getting a good night's sleep.
  • I was really close to going, and then just found myself too darn busy. Also, I have been going to TypeCon, off and on, since 2003. After awhile, the talks all the sound the same. That is not necessarily a criticism: there are new designers every year who have not heard them yet, who should. I did really enjoy Portland, though, there were quite a few non-Latin talks that I found really fascinating.

    But if I go these days, it's mainly to see friends in the industry I don't otherwise get to see.

    I imagine some foundries focus on sending people to SND or HOW to meet with users rather than peers. 

    FWIW I have been to Denver before, and would have loved to go back. 
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,468
    edited August 2015
    I've been attending every year since 2003 (Minneapolis). One of my post-TypeCon habits is to list all the people I can remember talking to or meeting. (Partly to help remember names.) I haven't noticed any particular pattern of absences or attendance, except that some people attend more often (like me) and some people are more occasional. Some people who used to be "regulars" I haven't seen for years, but every year there are a few who become the new "regulars". 
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,860
    edited August 2015
    I’ve been going most years since 2000, and always run into old friends, and make new ones—in as much as one can be friends with people one sees in person maybe twice a year, if that! 

    I think the present TypeCon machinery is running very smoothly—congrats to the board, and JP, of course.

    I liked that there was so much space in the conference rooms.

    Yeah, the altitude and climate in Denver required adjustment to, but the hotel was OK—in Washington last year it was ridiculously cold.

    But I miss having a closing party with music and dancing.

    I have seen more items in the goodie bag.

    The proliferation of type conferences and events may be an issue—I skipped TypeCon a couple years ago, but went to Typo San Francisco instead.

    I can’t speak for those who are “killing it” right now!

  • But I miss having a closing party with music and dancing.

    There was a closing party with music and dancing, but you had to stay through Sunday night. 
  • Amy PapaeliasAmy Papaelias Posts: 8
    edited August 2015

    Look, I've really enjoyed the TypeCons I've attended in the past (6, in total) and have spoken 3 times. Make no mistake: I LOVE TYPECON. And while the world type conference pool is getting a bit crowded, there's still room for a conference that welcomes more rigorous scholarship, new voices, invited speakers, and yes, even a rockstar or two.

    A proposal for a future type conference: 

    One main stage with a mix of tracks / programming
    – Speakers that come from a blind / peer-reviewed call,
    – Speakers that are invited by a diverse panel of industry leaders / students / educators / newbies,
    – A track of new voices, people that are new to the field / new to speaking with mentors to help them develop their presentations
    - maybe even a "surprise" keynote speaker.

  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,175
    edited August 2015
    I much prefer single stage events too, for the reasons John mentions.
  • John, agreed, wrong choice of words. I meant three streams for soliciting presentations. Totally agree that is one of the highlights of TypeCon. 
  • Simultaneous translation and day care, and I'd have been there.
  • Hm. It seems to me that a type conference that is mostly about makers of type — as opposed to users, even though there is some crossover, and users are a valuable piece of information for those making the tools — should be attracting all streams of makers. Maybe it's time TypeCon served a refreshed, renewed role as the conference that bridges the two. I don't know of web dev or graphic design conferences that are particularly interesting for people like me, who pay a lot of attention to both worlds. If the pendulum swings from Robothon to HOW, (for example) where does TypeCon live, and where should it?
  • Great point, Elizabeth! A lot of folks at the diversity meeting were concerned about this as well. I think if we were to reconsider who the target audience of TypeCon is, and make it a little more broad, a much more diverse group of speakers and topics would follow!
  • What about TypoSF/TypoBerlin, Ampersand, Kerning, and Typographics, which seem to bridge the type and graphic design areas? I personally like that TypeCon is mainly about type. If it became broader, that would probably be okay, too, but it seems like there are already some conferences like that.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,849
    edited September 2015
    I wouldn’t mind more graphic design talks if they have depth and cover new topics. Nick Shinn and Nancy Sharon Collins are both very good at that sort of thing. But not the fluff talks I can already see online by famous designers that are typically used to attract designers to conferences. If the rest of Typecon gets any more like the opening night portfolio talks I’m just going to stop registering and spend the entire conference at the hotel bar.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,265
    edited September 2015
    I'm with Mark: there are conferences that are aimed at graphic designers who are also interested in fonts/typography, and they are nicely spread around the world. There are only two ongoing annual conferences I know of with a narrower focus that is a bit more (though certainly not entirely) on typefaces per se, with more content for people interested in the design and production of type, and those are TypeCon and ATypI.
  • Even if the very advanced type-focused programming continues, I still think it would be great to encourage a broader audience to attend. Education about very specific type-related topics is exactly what the graphic design profession needs access to, otherwise type users might not develop that finesse. As for the type makers - being able to educate and directly connect with users and potential customers seems like a no-brainer!
    But, then again, I think some people relish the fact that TypeCon is like a mini-retreat for the close-knit, very connected type elite! :)
  • Another issue of import is that the time for a general interest Typography conference has passed. From the mid-2000s until recently there was an explosion of interest in typography because designers, fonts, and software had all caught up with each other. Then Gary Hustwit made a movie that blew Helvetica up into an international phenomenon beyond designers of the international style. Lots of intro books were published, night classes and weekend workshops were big.

    But I don’t see that level of interest anymore. Designers working in print have read Thinking With Type and watched Helvetica and attended Ken Barber’s workshop and now they sated. It seems like the interest now is in type for web and app design, but those designers are often completely clueless. Convincing digital designers not to use Helvetica Light at 8 pixels with infinite line lengths is too elementary for Typecon.
Sign In or Register to comment.