Places of type

The inaugural Typo London conference took place from 20 to 22 October 2011. The theme was "Places" with a remit way beyond the confines of type.

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There is no one like Chip Kidd. The New York book designer reigns supreme on the conference circuit as an engaging entertainer doing great work.

His performance at the inaugural Typo London conference from 20 to 22 October was no exception. Interspersing witty book jackets for publisher Alfred A Knopf with camp quips, he ended with his latest venture – a 100-page graphic novel, with his beloved Batman drawn by Liverpool artist Dave Taylor. They are only up to page 20, but keep an eye out for it.

Gotham City was an apt choice for Typo London, whose theme was “Places” with a remit way beyond the confines of type weights and kerning. Morag Myerscough and Spin’s Tony Brook both spoke of “belonging” and the influence of places on creatives. Myerscough’s work draws on the gutsiness of her native London and local colour. Brooks, a Yorkshireman, meanwhile cited designers from the North of England whose work reflects its blunt sparseness – Peter Saville, Malcolm Garrett and architect John Pawson. But you don’t have to be a designer to be inventive, as Gary Hustwit’s latest movie Urbanized showed.

Typography though, is a way of defining places, as Pentagram’s Michael Bierut’s wayfinding projects for communities and corporations show. Tim Fendley of Applied demonstrated the Legible London system his team devised to make the city more accessible, and Marina Willer of Wolff Olins took us via her native Brazil to badging projects for Britain’s Tate galleries and London’s cultural South Bank Centre.

Sometimes words aren’t necessary to define place, as Art + Com founder Joachim Sauter showed in stunning kinetic sculptures for BMW and the 2010 Shanghai Expo where 3D imagery tells the story.

But place is also space and nowhere is that more challenging than in the world beyond the screen. Dale Herigstad of Possible Worldwide is shaping New Television by opening up media spaces to create 3D experiences for viewers. Tom Uglow of Google Creative Lab explored the power of digital and ordinary people in Life in a Day – the crowdsourced movie from Kevin McDonald and Ridley Scott.

There was pure typography – fonts created by BBC World Service to translate the broadcaster’s Global Experience Language across 27 countries devised by Neville Brody’s Research Studios; and Karin von Ompteda’s work, bridging design and science to give a different view of type. But the conference overall showed how creativity is converging to make the world more connected, while preserving individual style.

Nowhere was that more evident than in a show-stopping presentation by King Bansah, a Ghanaian king working as a car mechanic in Germany. His identity, by Julian Zimmermann of Deutsche & Japaner, combines the glitz of royalty with contemporary elegance to help raise cash for his people. Such is the power of design.

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