Liveblog of 5th ADCV International Typography Congress, Valencia, 2012: Day 1

These are live blog notes from the first today of ADCV Congresso Tipografia in Valencia, Spain, in July 2012.

Usual disclaimer for live blogging: These are informal notes taken by Dave Crossland at the event, and may or may not be similar to what was said by the people who spoke on these topics. Probably if something here is incorrect it is because Dave mistyped it or misunderstood, and if anyone wants corrections, they should email him immediately ( – or post a comment!

18:00 Hilary Kenna: “Tipografía de pantalla – ¿Soy un tipo?”

Screen types – I drew out all screens on a timeline.

Leb Manovich is a media theorist and i liked his theories on screens. he has a screen geneology – 3 types

classic screens, the picture on the wall, the painting, a rectangular still surface we look at, enjoy on our own, contemplated on our own

then moving images. ‘dynamic screens’ that are demanding of us as an audience, overwhelming, reach out to us and expect our full attention. agrressive screens that block out the rest of the world. a passive viewer, we are immersed. TVs are a smaller version of cinema.

screens really come in with computers. the ‘real time’ screen, a screen with windows, multiple imags that we control. a big change in our undestanding and ‘audience engagement’ – our attention from one to many images. hyperactive. both viewing and interacting. its got bigger and smaller, better and worse and better.

future? screenless screens. Kavay hays at MIT, a new world we dont quite understand. so my work is about dynamic, real time screens.

understanding how we interact with audiences, the type in these screens, is something to consider. the cinema screen, a passive setting. entertainmant, and typography we fill titles, looking at type like looking at a film. 100s of people.

TVs, private in our homes, and some social interaction. typography is moving image, bu there is the teletext and today set top box UIs. less than 10 people.

computers, started off just one person at the computer. productivity and entertainment, consuming and making. We went from desktops to laptops, and then to mobiles – and screens went everywhere, in shops and bars as well as pockets. So many different uses of screens.

I’m not technical, I’m a designer. So my diagram shows some different kinds of displays text rendering. CRTs interlaced lines, LCD type, pixel screens and aliased, then antialised, then subpixel screens, now retina displays.

so we have to pick type that is legible on screens. books have pages, spines, we feel their extent. but screens are manipuable, making fluid compositions are hard for print minded designers where pesky users can change the window size.

on paper, we know the extent of the page, and a screen has a window that is a bigger world. students just think about their screen, but its really a viewfinder, a window on a bigger world. think about type in various screens. we can consider the language of film and animation; focal points, and showing one thing at a time.

Another idea on screens is virtual depth, the Z dimension.

screens formal properties: mutlimedia, connectivity, and interactivity

mutlimeida, we have traditional print media, plus motion, time and 3D. each is their own design craft.

connectivity is still new for designers. how to design books with a social dimension? its opening a whole new aspect of design that we can control and that is new to us as designers.

Interactivity, the engagment, clicking, typing, tapping, speaking even? these are major properties to consider.

Where is typography in all this? lets see examples.

Dynamics screens are narrative based. real time screens are more about experiences. so i have a 3 circle venn diagram, information, interface/experience, and narrative. this uses labels from film.

information, static or dynamic content, that is page or print based paradigm.

interface/experience, interactive content, HCI and game design paradigm – understanding what users do with text and words and designing WITH them.

narrative, motion content, films and animations paradigm – eg ads and shows.

Examples? Peter von Ark (?) has a film course in Basel, exploring type in fiml. Making motion studies using film. Norman McLaren has a billboard in Times Square, moving letterforms, using animatin principles. Filmic qualities, and Saul Bass is a example here, and ??? ???? is an example of drawing lettering on film stock. Type here is interpretive, image based. SAul is more metaphorical, others are more about mood. Movement of type elements, while playing with image based quality of film.

Moores law means moving image type got more complex. the UK Channel 4 exploding letterform is interesting. Icestorm title sequence is beautful, she was at Basel, and its the ephemeral qualities of the film in the type. A music video with rooms made of type. and an ad, with type floating around to create a feeling.

Interestingly in the last 12 years, there has been a swing back to simplier MODERNIST work, both in approach and visual style. This is a reverse of the complexity. UK studio, Spin, who make amazing simple pared back work. This is a MTV thing they did. This uses simple letterforms and just puts them on screen.

Savannah College has a motion graphics course, a student made a Pulp Fiction motion typography, and it got ripped off a lot. Cathc me if you can, say, is uses space and time in a simple way. Stranger Than Fiction goes further, projecting type into the live action scenes, like augmented reality. An interesting set of developments.


Information. Web sites focus on thigns we deal with in print; grid, hierarchy, good typographic presentation of texts. Responsive design and fluid things to one side, the big issue is about information. Navigation and access, usability. We have a big cannon of knowledeg of editorial dsign, that applied directly on screen doesnt work. Users can make decisions about where they go next, they can intervene in the layout.

With Navigation, typgraphy is more than content but also interface. This crosses from information to interaction. a big challenge for information. this isa famous color block shart of BBC news headlines, size based on stickiness of the news.

The Octavo last edition was on a CDROM. A recognition that typography was changing. Can we access that CD any more? maybe not. but its a fascinating thing that asks questions

Ariel Cooper at MIT, responsible for some great example of possible futures for typography. David Smalls, here, his PhD on the future of the book. a 3D exploratin of text. Zooming in and out, 3 dimensions used.

John Maeda’s earrly work looked at real time, reactive type. The idea that type will move if you prod it or push.

Type on the iPad. Touch type with your fingers, I made a poetry book and you can touch any word and see a web of information about that word. the words can speak, there are videos in there too. its an invisible interface under the typography to bring it to life.

And the Microsoft Metro interface. I looked at their design guidelines, and they mention the International Swiss style that was a key influence on their interface. A shock for me 🙂

And the Siri interface. That is mindblowing.

So, these 3 areas overlap. There are parts of screens we watch, parts we read for information, and parts we interact with. It has all merged. Being a print designer you canrefully specify things. A digital designer, its not neat and its not simple.

Differences between print and screen type?

In the narrative area, in print, we culd read the book before designing it, but we didnt have to fully understand the narrative structure. with narrative we have time, brinigng continuty and transition. and sound, whihch is key because its bound to moving images; you must undersatnd the relation of them and how to choreograph images to sound. we know print very well.

how to make non linear structures to navigate information. how to design for content that is dynamic, that we odnt know what it is, is changes every day. we cant make the rag beutiful, we need to make responsive layouts that react to the content that is there.

what if you design for defaults and then the user sets default text size to 16px?

how do you design interactions that are desirable?

I made a literature map 1900-2015, all books on typogrpahic principles. for practice and about practice, and then each of those had many areas. i was trying to find suitable design principles that tackle these issues.

i noticed that 74% of literature was focused on print. only 4% after year 2000. there was a dominance of swiss modernist. Emil Ruder’s book was published on typographic design pricinples, but it dealt with type not in any media specifically (although it is in print) but its more conceptual. I could use that to work from to make screen princpiles. This book deals with contrast, grey shades, proportion. All directly applicable to screens.

So what did i learn? i specified screen typography, and i have this 8 point star diagram, about the properties of screen typogrpahy. it shows how they relate; they are in a circle and not a list because they are sequential. Going around the wheel, each thing is bound to the next and they are interdependent too. Whats comfortable to be read at that screen size? so many aspects effect that, and its hard to get your head around it all. how type moves on your screen is very important; the natural lifelike movement is important, and Apple products have this inertia that is so important to a natural feel.

There is a lot to learn about screen typography and its not an easy one to define. My PhD study is nearly over, I am putting this online. I develoepd a practice methology, looking at the properties, applying Ruders principles with am matrix to make an equation at the end, that can generate screen typography ideas.

There is no easy answer to define screen typography.


Q Catherine Dixon: What changed in your practice over time?

A: You become tired of the infinite choices. So much mannerist work that is all effect. I like simplicity and going to the core of something. For me, the work that stands out has a really good idea and communicates that in a beautiful and clear way. Less is more because less done really well is best. One letterform that is perfectly synced to sounds, I love it!

– – – –

19:00 Conferencia: Gerard Unger: “Un tipo de lectura”

Children learn reading by writing; a reciprocal process.

Many things we dont know. Scientists have mapped the process, but basic questions we need answered as type designers, we dont have asnwers to.

feature analysis, we add features to letters – are they needed?

Here are 9 ‘g’ ears, and how much this matters? large sizes, yes, my take on type for text, we dont know. many of these details almost disappear, they are less visible, less noticible. they function on another level.

this is 2008 kingfisher, by jeremie tankard, and in a booklet about it, you see his sketches. type designers try to homogenize a design, and he did the opposite – it wigggles. its hardly visible, and in reading, we dont know if it helps or not. he hasnt tested it scientifically, he SUPPOSES it helps.

We have no certainty.

Antoerh tankard design, wayfarer, a 2006 design, he has a sketch detail about terminal angles. does it help when driving 60 mph with rain, you try to see the sign, do these details help?

we have no answers.

Here is Times New Roman, my 1995 Gulliver, and my 2006 Capitolium News, each on 3 lines.

Here is a blue ground TNR, and the black line is gulliver. my change to the traditional model is the join is higher, making the interior space much bigger. ive done that a long time, trying to make bigger and bigger counters. gulliver and capitoil take that very far. why did i do that?

‘In the eye of the beholder’ is about the science of face perception. i found much relevant to type design. when you put black and white together, where they touch, the black seems blacker and the white seems whiter. if i increased the white space, the ltterforms get more contrast, so lebigility is improved – perhaps?

this 1891 cellac impressionist painting, you can see it used to enhance the edge of the sailboats. its a well known phenmonenon.

I thought it might work – but I never tested it. If i tested it, the type might never have been designed. researching legibility takes a lot of time to do well, and needs a lot of funding. i had no time or money and i wanted to design a typeface! so i took a guess, a gamble, and i think it worked.

as a type designer you sometimes get responses. sometimes i feel i get a weak signal that confirms my ideas.

this is gulliver in blue ground and capitolium news in outline. this retreates a little. in the 1990s, you can call it the ’emigre period’ – full of the weirdest stuff, you would have to work hard to read that stuff. i didnt agree with everything but it was very interesting. in 2000 it evaporated, all the wild ideas, going with ambiguity etc.

type design went conservative. newspapers are fast to pick up readers signals, they want to meet readers wishes, have satisfied readers. they all turned quickly to modest hardworking, conservative, unexperimental text typefaces. “””i thought, i dont want to go conservative, but i will take something classical and hold it against present day practice and build on that.””””

conservatism is about standing still,i dont want to do that, i took a type i made for the city of rome’s signage, and i took that as a basis and adjusted it for reading. here it is in a dutch newspaper.


type designers are on one side, readers on the other, and between the people who choose type for readers: grpahic designers, tpograhperys, editors, publishers, and with screens, now readers too.

legibility reasearchers are also inbetween the two. they dont always understand the interests of type designers. the questions we have that we want answers to are not what legibility reearchers have. so type designers go into research themsevles, or cooperation with researchers.

there is now a discussion about creating a network of type designers and legibilty researchers with common interests. we divide the tasks so we dont overlap, and it will benefit readers.

a young woman from belgium, an bessemans, will get a PhD at leiden in november. she has lookd at legiblity for young children with imparied reading, almost blind, tunnel vision – some children have struggles to learn things many can learn easily.

This is her Matilda, named after the childrens book character, and its legible for normal readers too of course.

another researching designers, another young woman, nadine chahine, researching legibilty for arabic. most research has all been done on latin script. any research on latin that exists, is way ahead of research that doesnt exist.

This is mostly eye movement experiments, on 3 of the arabic script styles. you can see, any resaerch in this is fully justified, as a type designer you need to know what matters, which parts of letters are important.

Here is a book page. seems familiar. its from this year. this is from 850 AD, a medieval manuscript, a carolinian miniscule, a letter form one bishop to another. little has changed. we think type on screen may undergo many changes, but hte basic remain: left to right, top to bottom, lines not too long, lines well spaced… constants that will stick.

This has to do with the idea of what the brain likes. There is something to endanger reading lengthy texts you must sit down for and read with these eyes.

Nicholas Carr, came with a disturbing book. Being on the web a lot will make you nervy, jumpy, impatient – it will mean you cant bring togeter the concentration needed to read lengthy texts. I recommend the book! We can hope he is wrong.

But newspapers report this, all the distractions young people swim around in, it may indeed create problems for continous text. so my professional, text type designers.

So i said type went conservative brings in the early 21st centiry model.


These letters have similar width; the narrow ones like aes are wider and the wide ones are narrower. Eg, Erik Speikerman’s Meta Serif (DC: or Droid Serif)

The advantage of this model is that it scales up and down without a problem; you can use it very small and very big and it remains intact. You can use it on screens, low res screens, high res screens, inkjet printing, stencil it even! If anyone still knows how 😉

A hugelu useful model – but makes the type design world monotonous.

Culture and emotion. Type already has to do with emotion. Readers want a typographic experiment, they want to be soothed. They don’t want too much exciting type in bedtime reading.

This is Corpus. The designers took their form language from modern insdustrial packaing, like medicine bottles. they cast them in plaster, stood them int eh studio, and used them as inspiration. So not only using emotional interest of the readers, but bringing in something from their world. This process is common.

On the other hand, in the netherlands, you will see motorway signage that i designed the type for in 1996. I was told what we had before, the USA roadsign design with an ugly interpretaion. Client said that hte new design should look exactly like the old one. Car drivers shouldnt notice any difference, in case it aroused their curiousity and diverted attention – so causing accidents and maybe killing someone. A rare occaisoin where type design can be lethal!

So I tried to make sublte changes. It is much different of course. Scientific testing; they wanted 10% more text in the same space than beore, and 10% more legible. In both cases I only manged 8% more text, and 8% more legibility. Otherwise it is an unemotional design. Does this reflect modern society, a technocratic approach to type?

This is Paul Renners Future (1927) that paralleled fine art’s development. This is the russian primitivism in 1910. My swift in 1985, i did the same as renner. I like elseworth kelly, and his bluebird from 1982, I like his simple work of art. Deceptively simple! the angle at the bottom disrupts the curve at the top. A moving image! 🙂

Jere os a 1913 painting by italisn futurist, of swifts! many flying here in this city until end of july. you see the swifts he saw from his balcony in rome, adns ome architecutre. when you go to the exhibition about my work, you will see that one designer put this in his poster.

In design, nearly everything is tried out. emigre around 2000, where rudy van der laans asked what will be the Next Big Thing. There is none, unless you agree that it is:

Everyone on their own path

Find out what the right kind of typeforms are. No prescriptions. here are some chair designs from a product design studio; a chair, you want to sit for a few hours comfortably. The Chair has been designed, like The A and The B. But we continually reinvent and redesign them. They experiment just like type designers.

Finally, there is the combination of differnt scripts. We have a problem now; when we talk of other scripts, mongolian, chinese, devanagri, and on, we talk of ‘non latins’ – which is paternalistic.

I decided to one day call type devangari and all others, non-devangri. next day, all are non-bengali 🙂 you can repeat this with me. i invite you to join me in this.

This is Ben Jones 2011 ‘Emrys’ – not a true sans serif but a sort of sans, that is an excellent starting point for armenian, greek, cyrilic, arabic, and others.

another example, we get sudents from indai at Reading, and for them, latin is a non-gujarati for sure. they start with their script and for them latin is a secondary script. they appraoch latin from that viewpoint. i think that is very interesting and i want to see that happen a lot more.

i want to end with a lovely painting, a famous german artist, ???? ????, who had a big exhibition in berlin: the title from 1994, “woman reading”

Q: ?????

A: I should have mentioned ergonomics. A viewpoint in legibilty research, and that sits within ergonomics, for sure.

Q: ?????

A: When you look at Adobe Garamond Premiere Pro, you see it is a delicate type compared to meta serif. slimbach decided to make GPP have 3 masters, one for small, one for text and one for display. This is a phenonemon you see in OpenType fonts. You can have text fonts along with display fonts. Erik Speikermann, is a practical designer, and he wanted a no-nonsense type that functions well. it wont win 1st prize in a beauty contest, but it functions anywhere. the equal width has less to do with it. as far as i know, its happened in the past, around 800 in caroligian manuscripts, you seem captials with equal width. also in second half of 19th C with didot/bodoni. reasons are unclear. may be to do with the brain, and the eyes, and one of the big questions we have no answer to. it might be an area for research 🙂

Q: ?????????

A: This devangari, if you print it on paper and chop it up with sissors, you wil find modules of type i have shown before. but it is all in the details. indic scripts use a broadnib pen at a totally different angle. neel wrote latin with the pen at the devanagri angle. it made very interesting letterfors. i encouraged him to make it into a type, but he didnt and worked on a more normal latin type. the original latin design, with the pen at the ‘wrong’ angle, i thought worked very well with the indic script. but for western eyes, they looked unusual. but very interesting.

Q: ?????

A: I avoided greek and cyrilic design myself; for latin, i know exactly what i can read, what risks i can take, when i go too far, when i should hodl back a little, when to emphasise a detail. that kind of trust and confidence i have NOT got with other scripts. so as a designer of latin, you work WITH a designer of another script. In Germany, the seimans company, ordered a corporate type, and the Arabs HATE it. A type for publicity for a large firm becomes embarassing. Dalton Maag recently did Nokia’s multiscript project. they had many designers around the world – very wise. the right thing to do. find people who are as confident handling their own script as you are. then things will be right. when i did a greek, i did the whole thing, handed it to a young greek designer, she changed details, sent it back, i went over it to restore some curves – i am particular about my curves – and it was done. an excellent collaboration and you must trust your collaborators.

Q: What about users who modify fonts?

A: USA Today was the first client for Gulliver, and they ‘imrpoved’ it beyond recognition. They said they improved it; they took space away, squeezed letterforms, so it was very light in color. The tested results iwth readers of all demographics, and in all cases they said it came out well. They never released the research to me to keep their competitive edge! I know designers who specify with EULAs that the user are NOT to change the design in any way. Not to touch it! use it as it is. I’ve never done that. I think it wont work. How can i ever find out what someone does. Font police is an old idea, we spoke about it in the font community a long time, and it never happened. forget about it! hand over your font, hope the user handles it well. that is the best you can do.

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