TypeCon 2010 was content-bold, contentment-rich & full of eye-condiments


[Alyson Kuhn] To say that The Society of Typographic Aficionados annual conference “took place” last week in Los Angeles is like saying the parting of the Red Sea “took place” in Egypt — not exactly the sort of rhetorical device we are known for. TypeCon 2010 was aptly subtitled Babel, but I will think of it as babbling in the best sense, like a brainy brook that occasionally overflows its banks … or its margins.

The TypeCon blog is full of great reportage, and the Flickr pool really is the next best thing to having been there. So, I am going to show-&-tell you about a handful of my favorite presentations, starting with Sean AdamsThe Typography of Disneyland.

Adams loves Disneyland. To know him is to know this. And to hear him talk about the park’s typographic narrative was a treat and a trip. His visuals demonstrated typography’s power to create a sense of time and place and extraordinary well-being.

Adams has lived (and loved, I’d say) the evolution of the park and its signage. From First Aid to Frontierland, from Telephone to Tomorrowland, Adams gave us a truly joyful ride.

Jill Bell aptly titled her talk Title Man: Harold Adler. (Note that if she had been showcasing her own work, she could have titled her talk Bell Letters.) In a lovely twist of citrus, the speaker directly before Bell was Jean François Porchez of Porchez Typofonderie, who did not choose to title his talk Belles Lettres — but The Management did. Bell showed Adler’s titles for several films, including Chuck Workman’s documentary Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol.

Adler’s titles for The Seven Year Itch are particularly papery. Each of the rectangles you see below is a separate small piece of colored paper. At the beginning of the sequence, the rectangles align themselves into formation. Once they’re all together, certain pieces flip back to reveal Adler’s lettering. Bell revealed that this was all accomplished by hand — filming stopped while someone carefully lifted up the little rectangles.

Bell also showed several exquisite illustrated letters Adler had written to his wife Helen, and I hope to share these on Felt & Wire later this fall. Bell, by the way, has cleverly named her business Brandlettering. Earlier in her career, she worked as a sign painter, and also as a production artist for Saul Bass. You can see some splendid examples of her handiwork here.

Joey Hannaford is another lady of letters: calligrapher, designer, book artist and assistant professor of Graphic Design in the Department of Art at the University of West Georgia. The talk she gave with co-presenter Jeff Pulaski — also an assistant professor, but at Wichita State University — was about incorporating letterpress printing into graphic design education. And their presentation did indeed rock.

Hannaford and Pulaski met at an academic conference last year. They are both using the print shops at their respective schools to bring typography to life, to balance the increasingly digital curricula their students follow.

Hannaford and Pulaski extolled the engagement, enthusiasm and satisfaction that result from old-fashioned typographic experimentation. Pulaski recounted a student’s delight over a particular piece of wood type: Wow! Look at this eight! Look how beautiful this is!

Photographer Adrian Wilson talked about his typographic treasure trove: a huge cache of 19th-century fabric stamps. The story of how he found them is, in a word, fab. Wilson has created a website to share this ephemera extravaganza, and he’s recently written articles about his collection in Selvedge and Uppercase magazines.

How huge is Wilson’s huge cache of these stamps? Oh, he has about 2500 of them.

The stamps were created to “brand” pieces of fabric exported from Manchester, England. A design was formed by bending thin strips of copper and anchoring them in a wood block.

My absolute favorite presentation was that of Doyald Young, the recipient of this year’s SOTA medal. Young’s delivery was as smooth, elegant and understated as the decades’ worth of design solutions he showed. And as soon as I sat down after Young’s standing ovation, I found myself wishing I could hear his whole talk over again!

All images courtesy of TypeCon presenters.

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Comments (3)

  1. Posted by Adrian Wilson on 08.25.10 at 2:28 pm

    It was fantastic to be able to share the story and images of my collection for the first time at TypeCon.
    As some of the stamps were handmade by hammering wire into wood and filling the gaps with felt, this site seems an appropriate one to reference the unique talents of previously forgotten Victorian stampmakers

  2. Posted by Allan Haley on 08.25.10 at 4:05 pm

    A great account of a stellar event. Thank you for sharing some of the highlights. My favorite presentations were Sean’s on the typography of Disneyland – and Doyald Young’s.

  3. Posted by Nancy Kuhn on 08.26.10 at 3:33 pm

    Wish on a star that I could have heard Sean Adams’ on “The Typography of Disneyland”…..definitely a part of the magic and not a small one at all.

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