Don Synstelien and Chris MacGregor gave an informative presentation
that could have been called, "How to allow potential customers to see
your font online without letting them rip you off in the process."
Although I have various quibbles with the details, the presentation
provided a great overview of various web font technologies. At the
end, each demonstrated a Flash font viewer he had written.
I had actually run into Don's viewer a week before and was impressed;
the font viewers were very slick, very useful, and, Don claimed,
reasonably secure. Don said that he had done some research and had
not found someone claiming to be able to extract font outlines from
SWF files. (Personally, I suspect that's only because no one has
bothered to try.)
Chris and Don then offered to sell the source to these programs at
TypeCon for the low, low, price of $100 (post-TypeCon, it'll cost you
more). To me, this made the presentation come off a bit like an
informercial, but I distinctly heard the sound of wallets opening, so
maybe that was just me.
I got back from dinner in time to see the Chank Army awards. Chank
Diesel (http://www.chank.com) has learned that people want free fonts.
Some people won't ever buy anything, but even the rest want to get
something for free. So he's always offered free fonts on his site to
attract visitors, some of whom will also buy fonts. Chank has also
learned that running a business takes a long time, and that other free
font designers are willing to distribute under the Chank banner in
exchange for fame and Chank booty. Note: not Chank's boo-tay. That's
already claimed (c.f., the Partners in Crime panel).
Chank introduced the members of the new Chank Army. I don't remember
most of the names, except PizzaDude (http://www.pizzadude.dk), and of
course David "Sparky" Buck (http://www.sparkytype.com). Notes to
potential future applicants: you need to be able to make a font and a
website from which you can download it. It also helps if the font has
style and your site has humor.
After this was the TypeCon auction; there were something like 50
items. Tony Di Pietro's father's (father in law?) was the auctioneer;
he claimed to know nothing about either auctions or type, obviously
lying on both counts. The auction raised $2300 for SoTA. Yay! I
came away with a stuffed type lion and a set of font identification
books; the item I donated sold at thrice its starting price.
At the party after the auction, I talked with Brian Crick, a student
who came from out-of-state for the conference. One of the great
things about TypeCon: it's affordable and intimate, and you get to
meet the entire range of type folks, from type dilettante to type
legend. Brian admitted to shyness, but Don Synstelien tried to
convince him that everyone there was extremely approachable.
As if to demonstrate, I soon found myself talking with Ralph Smith
(http://www.philsfonts.com), John Downer, and Nick Shinn. John and
Nick compared notes on foundries, and John told a horror story about a
broken agreement, ending by saying he liked working with Emigre
because they're like pit bulls when it comes to piracy. When I
mentioned that I used to work at Bitstream (not in the font division),
John said that he had released Iowan Old Style through Bitstream. I
had always thought its name was Ionian Old Style, but figured that
perhaps that wasn't the best time to mention it.
I told Nick how much I enjoyed his presentation. Someone had said to
me afterwards, "Does he not like serif faces for some reason?" When I
related this to Nick, he look disturbed, until I said that what I
thought he meant was that there's this notion of the 20th century as
being the century of the sans serif face, yet it's not as if serif
faces stagnated. Nick agreed, and started to tell me about history
being always being open to reinterpretation, but Joe Kral
(http://www.testpilotcollective.com) showed up just then, and the
conversation shifted focus.
Joe showed us something really cool. Apparently he found these
flashcards that US Air Force personel use to learn to identify
different aircraft. I'm a sucker for that kind of marketing.
After the pool deck party shut down, TypeCon took over the hotel bar.
I found myself seated between Brian Bonislawsky and Delve Withrington
(http://www.delvemediarts.com). Delve and I met at TypeCon 98, and
despite our good intentions haven't kept in touch. At TypeCon2K, Gary
Munch mistook me for Delve, which I can somewhat understand (we're
both tall white men with long hair and pompous English names), but
Delve is an outstandingly nice person (and it shows), whereas I can't
even remember the names of the other two people we were talking with.
Joshua Darden (http://www.scanjam.com) passed out magazines
(presumably they were samples that used his type), and someone (Tim
Starback?) passed out beer. Speaking of Tim (http://www.emigre.com),
he sat across from me for a while, so I got a chance to burble out
thanks to Emigre for publishing their magazine. Tim pointed out
Sibylle Hagmann, the designer of Cholla. What I should have asked Tim
about was knitting patterns. (Yes, I'm serious; knitting pattern
piracy is a hot topic these days.)
The first session the next morning was John Downer's slide show
presentation, titled "Scaling the Wall between Lettering and
Typography." John took us through examples of sign-painting,
typefaces, and Iowan gravestones.
In addition to the type, some particularly memorable shots were: John
standing above the sign he painted for his father's country store; a
decades-old window sign with the red shadowing sun-bleached to yellow;
signpainter's shadows being down & to the left because that takes
fewer strokes than down & to the right; a breathtakingly beautiful
sign in the window of the Paris casino; a weather-worn marble
gravestone with a hole clearly cut out for a "0" patch to be placed.
My only complaint--if it counts as one--is that some slides went by
without comment. John clearly loves type passionately, and one
wonders if he simply couldn't bear to remove some of his examples. (I
can understand this; I also have a collection of photos of painted
signs and gravestones.)
A perennial TypeCon favorite of mine is the young designer panel.
David Buck, Joshua Darden, James Grieshaber, and Cyrus Highsmith
talked about what they did and showed off various designs. I always
enjoy this session, partially because I'm still a plausibly young guy
myself, partially because it's just so great to see young designers
learning the craft, and partially because one wonders what they'll be
capable of in years ahead.
The last session I attended was "Typographic Trends in the 21st
Century". The first web design trend of the century appears to be
bitmap fonts (much to Chank's chagrin). "Full character set" support
is increasingly popular (although I'm never figured out if this means
Adobe, MacRoman, or Latin1).
Adam Twardoch has his own view of what internationalization should
entail (I noticed him sketching an ogonek earlier in the conference,
and was sorely tempted to congratulate him on his nice cedilla); he
pointed out that so few typefaces have Central European characters
that type designers can use CE support as a way to differentiate
themselves. (To get started, read
I wish that I could have stayed to see the rest of the sessions, but I
had to get back to Boston in the early evening. But--boy--was I
paying attention to the type I saw the whole way back. I can hardly
wait for the next TypeCon.
I also suggest reading Stephen Coles "15 Things I Learned from
Typecon", which can be found at e.g.,
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