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Fragmentary report from AtypI 2016 Warsaw

A few weeks ago, the 60th annual ATypI Conference took place in Warsaw. Ilya Ruderman (type designer and founder of the Custom Fonts studio and the magazine) summarizes the event.

First of all I must say that this particular conference was quite special. I’ve been attending AtypI since Prague 2004 and get used to all exciting experience of seeing and listening to so many professionals. But Warsaw prepared for us several unique news. The following was collected from the official YouTube of AtypI and from presentations received from some of the speakers.

Open Type Variables

Video from the official YouTube of AtypI

The most important event happened even before the official program has been started. Industry leaders from Apple, Microsoft, Google and Adobe revealed details of a major technological update to the OpenType standard. An update which was predicted by earliest Multiply Master technologies and all current interpolation improvements finally happened and our world will never be the same.

Just van Rossum

Video from the official YouTube of AtypI

The Sound of Shapes & Shape of Sounds

This was probably the most unexpected lecture for me. It was interesting to see how the sound and it’s waves transforms into the character shape and back. Really impressive.

Here is how Just describes the subject: “There are many parallels between sound and letters, music and typography. While interesting, these are often based on subjective perception and therefore remain rather vague. This talk documents a serious, yet playful exploration of shape analysis and transformation based on signal processing, inspired by trigonometry, analog synthesizers, Lissajous and Fourier (but not Fournier!). Imagine we take the cold hard numbers that define shapes digitally, and pretend they are sound waves. What do letters then sound like? What does an ‘E’ sound like? Can we hear the difference between Gotham and Garamond? What can we learn from looking at the harmonics of letterforms? But things become less abstract once we do the reverse: reconstructing shapes out of sound waves. What happens when we apply audio effects to letterforms? Can we meaningfully modify shapes via that route?”

Petra Černe Oven

Video from the official YouTube of AtypI

Designing young readers through typography

This talk really touched all my childhood memories. We also had such magazines which were illustrated in a similar way. But Ciciban was definitely very special. The level of illustration, the artists who worked for it, the level and the quality — were unique.

Here is how Petra explains magazine’s background: Ciciban is a Slovenian children magazine. It is an example of excellent editorial, typographical and publishing achievement unparalleled by any of the later examples. Through the 70-year long history Ciciban served as a driving force of education and enlightened emancipation of “little people” through rich typography, excellent illustrations and high level of interactivity. Rooted in contemporary society, issues were highly influenced by cultural changes and nuances in political regime. In the aftermath of the WW2 topics predominantly reflected national (Yugoslav) consciousness, bravery of partisans and commitment to Tito’s agenda. This was replaced with topics such as technology and science running in parallel with stories and poetry. Articles highlighted everyday concerns of children, and very early on they started to tackle less common topics of gender equality, nature preservations etc. It was a modern changing world presented to children through fun.

Jean-Baptiste Levee

Video from the official YouTube of AtypI

Shine bright like a letter

Each time I see this project it reminds me of Russian car’s questionable logotypes and typography. This is the quote from official description of Jean-Baptiste talk: Chrome car lettering is quite a fascinating field of type design. Letters that are designed to work in this specific environment need to interact with light, obey to technical parameters, and remain legible when the car is in motion. This case study focuses on the recent design and development of a typeface family for Renault, France’s premier car manufacturer, designed for automotive chrome lettering.

On this conference Jean-Baptiste had two lectures, another one was about setting up a new type foundry and it was also very interesting one.

Video from the official YouTube of AtypI

Alice Savoie & Dorine Sauzet

Video from the official YouTube of AtypI

Rediscovering the work of Ladislas Mandel

I’ve heard of Ladislav Mandel’s telephone typefaces before, but of course didn’t know that much. This was a very fascinating lecture with a lot of specially collected materials.

Shortly, the quote from description: French typeface designer Ladislas Mandel (1921–2006) is a major, yet little known figure of the second half of the twentieth century. Starting his career with Adrian Frutiger at the Deberny & Peignot foundry in 1954, he succeeded him as Head of the design studio, a role he kept until 1977. Mandel subsequently worked as an independent designer, specializing in typefaces for telephone directories. He conceived several families for Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, the UK and USA, and developed a unique approach, both in term of design choices and in the way he adapted his working process to successive technologies. In a context filled with heavy constraints, Mandel believed in the social responsibility of the designer, and created a methodology that deserves to be rediscovered by designers today.

Juan Luis Blanco, Laura Meseguer & Krystian Sarkis

Video from the official YouTube of AtypI

A Typographic Maghribi Trialoge

Earlier this year I’ve met several designers from the Typographic Matchmaking project in Barcelona and I was very excited to see such a great results from such unique and I would say experimental collaboration.

This is what the project was about: In the Maghreb, the confluence of native cultures with different colonial periods have resulted in an extraordinary diverse heritage. The history of this region and the Andalus could be told in more than twenty languages that could be written with any of the three common writing systems: Latin, Arabic and Tifinagh. In this context, the Typographic Matchmaking in the Maghrib project of the Khatt Foundation came into being as a way to facilitate a cultural trialogue as well as shed a typographic spotlight on this largely ignored region in terms of writing and design traditions. The specific goal of the collaboration is the research and development of tri-script font families that can communicate harmoniously. The project creates an excellent opportunity for interaction and conversation, first with the other teams on the project, and second, more specifically with the members of our own team, as we research the environment in which those scripts originated, evolved and are used, through field trips to Marrakech, Córdoba and Granada.

Toshi Omagari. BubbleKern

Video from the official YouTube of AtypI

Kerning with Bézier curve

Knowing from the personal experience how conservative is the kerning production I was always interested in everything about it’s automation. I’ve missed Toshi’s lecture, but he generously sent me his presentation and I’m happy to show several slides from it.

Here is what Toshi says about his talk: In digital type design, the process of kerning has not changed much after the introduction of class kerning, and most designers kern the same way with small variations. Although the idea of the method based on explicitly drawn space has existed since the early days, it has seen limited adoption such as in Microsoft’s Cambria Math. This presentation will demonstrate BubbleKern, a new kerning tool for type design that uses Bézier curve, and propose the future of kerning in a next font format.

Andrej Krátky (Fontstand)

Video from the official YouTube of AtypI

Creating a platform for type foundries

Fontstand is just one year old, but became a super successful among designers. It looks like everyone happy and after Andrej’s talk everyone will be even happier, because from now on Fontstand will support web fonts as well. By the way Custom Fonts joined Fontstand and our fonts already available — feel free to rent.

Here is what Andrej’s talk was about: Last year, we launched Fontstand, a desktop software to try and rent fonts. Learning from the experience from music industry Fontstand represents authors, and creates a platform that is trying to find a sweet spot between users and makers. Fontstand has been warmly received, and this presentation will give us a chance to reflect on the first year of service, seeing it from inside and outside. We’ll be sharing our numbers, and lessons we have learned so far.

Jan Charvat, Akaki Razmadze

Video from the official YouTube of AtypI

Capital additions to Georgian typography

Georgian typography can be awesome, but it’s needed a bit of our help: Georgian isn’t supported by Unicode fully and this needs to be changed asap!

This talk was about the history of Georgian typography, todays condition and problems of users, caused by custom Georgian fonts. Akaki and Jan introduced some workarounds to use Georgian uppercase letters which are still not supported by Unicode. They reviewed new standards for Georgian font-engineering, which contains diacritical marks for random Kartvelian languages.

Bianca Berning

Video from the official YouTube of AtypI

Buddy up! The impact of collaboration on the type industry

This is the perfect explanation from Bianca: In my talk, I will look at how encouraging open dialogue among peers can not only enhance the industry, but also help our community and its individuals grow. Based on three or four recent examples of collaboration, I will outline the benefits and difficulties of (interdisciplinary) collaboration. In particular, I will highlight the impact of teamwork on the professional development of individuals, especially newcomers, trainees and students in the type industry. The questions I aim to answer are: - How can the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and experience promote creativity and innovation in type design and font technology? - How do we engage entry-level professionals? How can passing on knowledge, skills, abilities help reshape our community? How can a collaborative environment be achieved in which peers feel confident to raise questions? - How, what, and why do we learn from each other?

I just want to add that I’ve joined the mentorship program and very excited about this upcoming collaboration.

Eric Kindel, Pierre Pane-Farre

Video from the official YouTube of AtypI

The stencilled poster in Paris in the 19th century

So sad that I can show you just three slides. The lecture was full of super interesting images.

This is the quote from official description: Accounts of early posters, public notices, and announcements describe various methods used in their production: hand lettering, wood block and letterpress printing, or lithographic printing. Hand lettering was often applied directly to walls or other suitable surfaces, while printing was usually done on paper or card, which was then displayed. But among these well known methods of poster making and display is another that is absent from most accounts, and perhaps all. That method is stencilling. Evidence for early stencilled posters (largely composed of words) is presently found in Paris around the beginning of the nineteenth century. The practice appears to have emerged from French stencilled work of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, whose often delicate, demur, and decorative qualities were simplified and scaled up to the pushier and more gregarious context of advertising. Drawing on surviving artefacts, accounts, and regulatory texts, this presentation will define the stencilled poster relative to other poster-making methods, and review its technical, aesthetic, and functional features.

Aleksandra Samulenkova

Video from the official YouTube of AtypI

Diacritics as a Means of Self-Identification. The Case of Latvia.

The story about few tiny but important nuances of Latvian diacritics. The history of 20th century Europe from perspective of the young state’s language and it’s typography.

This is how Alexandra describes this subject: The conventions for formatting written language do not always change in a gradual, evolutionary process. Changes in orthography and typography can occur rapidly, correlating with major socio-cultural or political transformations in society. The implementation of accented letters in the Latvian alphabet serves as a good illustration of this process. At the turn of the twentieth century, Eastern Europe experienced an unparalleled awakening of national consciousness that resulted in the formation of several new young states after World War I. Not only language itself, but also the way it was graphically depicted became a crucial factor in the new national identities.

Jo De Baerdemaeker

Video from the official YouTube of AtypI

Lean Back. The Evolution of Reverse Italics

Another talk with hundreds of interesting images carefully collected by Jo. I wish I could show you at least 40 of them. Reverse Italics became a visual trend of nowdays.

Quote from official description: Seven Lines Pica No 2 is, arguably, the first time a reverse italic style of printing was introduced for typographic use. This printing type differs in style from other conventional italic weights for the reason that its italic angle does not lean towards the right (or forward), as was the normal way of cutting the characters, since the type had to reflect the cursive way of handwriting. On the contrary, in his ‘Specimen of printing types’ (1815), Vincent Figgins (1766–1844) decided to offer an large size italic display type, leaning towards the left. In this talk, De Baerdemaeker investigates the origin and evolution of reverse italic typefaces, and the typographic practice of this specific typestyle in different typesetting systems. In addition to exploring writing practices in a reverse italic hand, which were used in cartographic design and stone carving, he also compares the characteristics of various reverse italic typefaces, and their creators. The presentation concludes with highlighting contemporary practices of digital reverse italic fonts. De Baerdemaeker proposes that typeface designers could include this reverse italic typestyle as an extra weight in their fontfamilies, in order to allow for an ever more expanded typographic freedom in print and on screen.

Jan Bajtlik


Jan Bajtlik had an interesting talk about a series of master-classes for kids of different ages using his own new method of learning letters. Later this method laid as a base of a book — Typogryzmol.


Here are several videos from official AtypI Youtube channel, which you may find interesting as well:

A Panel Discussion on Getting More People to Buy More Type

— Michał Jarociński > Warsaw Type

— Crystian Cruz > Lessons from the first type exercise

— FontLab’s Adam, Thomas and Yuri introduce FontLab VI

— Jesus Barrientos > Four categories in type classification: a strategy to organize type material for graphic designers

— Aoife Mooney > Synoptic Translations. Reflections on the convergence of formal vocabularies in the creation of an integrated visual language or graphic landscape

— Ada Wardi > From forgotten boxes to Three Pioneers of Hebrew Typography

— Tom Mullaney > The Font that Never Was. “Phonetic Chinese Alphabet” of 1921

— Anna Światłowska > Museum typeface. Museum of Warsaw case study.

— CJ Dunn > A proposal for a Common EULA.

— Justyna Czerniakowska, Ola Kot > ARCHETYPE

— Brody Neuenschwander > It is Written. What is happening to writing around the world.

— David Shields > Muster Hundreds! Towards a people’s history of American wood type.

In addition

There was an exhibition of latest Granshan Award winners including two our typeface: Tele2 Typefamily and Kazimir.

granshan Tele2 Typefamily and Kazimir among the winners of Granshan competition

Warsaw Neon Museum is awesome:

That’s all. I hope you like that.

Ilya Ruderman (Custom Fonts)