Justified West At Langara College

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News | Yves Peters | April 30, 2009

Last weekend on Saturday April 25th, Langara College and the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada presented Justified West, a one-day typographic event in Vancouver, BC. The line-up was:


As I didn’t attend the event I asked the speakers if they could send me their impressions of the event. Below are their reactions, and the ever affable Si Daniels of Microsoft Typography even surprised me with a concise review. But first a few words from organiser Dr. Shelley Gruendler.

Dr. Shelley Gruendler at Justified West © Juan Madrigal
I’ve always felt that collaboration is the cornerstone of learning and conferences are certainly a great opportunity to experience it. I am who I am today because of design and typography conferences and it is truly an honor to be able to pass this along to other people in the field, students in particular.

I had wanted to create an event in Vancouver that felt accessible while remaining informative. It was a chance for me to contact friends and to see if they would be interested in sharing their knowledge of typography to an audience that had not had much exposure to it in the past.

I must say that I feel extremely fortunate to be in a profession with such generous people! The speakers are all busy professionals, yet they took time out of their work schedules to share their knowledge with others, and it is this that makes me so proud to know them as typographers and as as friends.

The goal is not to make everyone typographers, but instead to encourage them to think just that little bit longer about letters and words and how they all work together both visually and verbally. Typography is all around us and the more we acknowledge it and understand it, the better designers and communicators we can be.
Dr. Shelley Gruendler
Si Daniels at Justified West © Juan Madrigal
Having known Shelley Gruendler and Ross Mills for many years I was thrilled to be invited to participate in the Justified West conference held this past weekend in Vancouver, BC. Shelley runs an Advanced Typography Program she set up last year at Vancouver’s Langara College, and exposing the students to the world of professional typography was really the driving force behind the event. The event attracted 200 attendees, many students, but some professionals, and educators too.

The speakers were primarily drawn from the West Coast type scene, myself and Kevin Larson from Microsoft (Redmond, WA); Tom Phinney formerly of Adobe (Seattle, WA) and now Extensis (Portland, OR); Stephen Coles from FontShop and Zara Evens from Punchcut (both located in San Francisco, CA); as well as locals from the BC, Marian Bantjes, Emily Luce and book designer Peter Cocking. Representing the other coast were Rich Kegler and Carima El-Behairy from New York State’s P22 foundry.

So how was the event? To tell the truth I missed the first two talks. I’d travelled up to Vancouver from Seattle with Tom Phinney and my seven year old. Shelley talked me into taking my daughter an early morning trip to Vancouver Aquarium, so instead of seeing Marian and Tom’s talks we spent a couple of hours watching beluga whales, dolphins, jelly fish, frogs and various other aquatic animals splashing about. But by late morning we took our seats for the remaining talks.

The content, quality of presentation and general vibe of the event was very much TypeCon, with speakers perhaps targeting their talks more toward a student audience. Despite this there was no “dumbing down” of the content, I came away learning things from each talk, in particular Zara’s observations on mobile UI resonated with the work we’re doing on mobile devices, and it was great to see more footage from Rich Kegler’s film about Jim Rimmer and the Stern typefaces (hence the West coast connection). Sadly Jim wasn’t able to make it to the event. Unfortunately no Robert Bringhurst or John Hudson either, although in hindsight that might have been a good thing, they may have frightened the students.

There was great participation from the audience, and unlike TypeCon it seemed as if people stayed for the talks rather than camping in the hotel bar or lobby. All of the feedback I heard was positive and the organizers seem keen to do this all again, maybe not next year, but at some point in the future, and under the Type Camp banner.
Si Daniels | Microsoft Typography
Richard Kegler at Justified West © Juan Madrigal
Justified West was a good full day of talks by regional Western Canada and regional speakers/topics. Marian Bantjes – always cussin and showing knock-out gorgeous work. Stewf Coles using the best font definition analogy ever – font:typeface :: mp3:song. Emily Luce & Rod Sayers on working on the Hupacasath language project with the venerable Ross Mills. Si Daniels, Tom Phinney, Kevin Larson, Shelley Grundler, Zara Evens and Peter Cocking – ranging from the technical to the casual seemed to justifiably inspire the engaged audience. Since I was the only non Western speaker, I justified by presence by speaking about the Jim Rimmer project (and having a Yosemite Sam mustache).
Richard Kegler
Marian Bantjes at Justified West  © Juan Madrigal
This was an unusual event for Vancouver, and if the GDC/BC had put even its puny weight behind it (which it did not, despite being a co-sponsor), they could have got a lot more people, and a better venue, etc. It was, essentially, a mini-TypeCon, and Vancouver has only had an event of that kind once, when it hosted ATypI in 2003. Vancouver is, quite honestly, a backwater, despite its size, and the design community would have benefitted from attending this. I’d like to see it happen again, and if so, I’d like to have the level of presentation brought up a couple of notches in terms of technical expertise. Because we had a lot of students there, I think some of the presenters low-balled it a bit.

I did a basic show-and tell, and if I could do it again, I’d prepare a proper topic. My favourite presentations were Thomas Phinney’s Typographic Scene Investigations, which were just the right balance of technical and amusing; and Shelley Gruendler’s Type Camp talk. But incredibly, there wasn’t a single dud in the group. From experience, what people respond to are high levels of knowledge presented in a playful atmosphere. For the future I would suggest possibly a debate, one of those crazy typo-knowledge contests, or perhaps the results of some kind of typographic treasure hunt between the speakers. Designers love type-fanatics, and love seeing the camaraderie and jousting that we do backstage. Which, in the end, is why we all go.
Marian Bantjes
Emily Luce at Justified West © Juan Madrigal
Fueled by irreverence and huge bowls of caramel popcorn, Justified West was a convergence of west coast type minds in the pillared conference room in sunny Vancouver.
The ubiquitous Ross Mills
Left us entirely unjustified.
Emily Luce
Thomas Phinney at Justified West © Juan Madrigal
Two talks from the Justified West conference have left a continued impression in my mind. Richard Kegler from P22 talked about releasing the typeface Stern simultaneously in metal and digital editions, and showed a clip from a documentary being produced about its designer Jim Rimmer. In the clip Rimmer can be seen drawing incredibly elegant curves completely freehand while discussing what he is doing. I’m excited for the documentary. Thomas Phinney gave a memorable talk about forensic typography. It was easily the most entertaining talk I’ve seen Thomas give. It had the entertainment value of hearing a detective story combined with learning about the differences between Times Roman and Times New Roman. I hope Thomas shares more of these stories with us in the future. The conference was very well attended and overall I am astounded by how well it was run in its inaugural year.
Kevin Larson
Peter Cocking, Art director of the Douglas & McIntyre Publishing Group at Justified West
© Juan Madrigal

Header image © Juan Madrigal

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  1. Thanks for posting this Yves, and I’m glad to read the reviews from other speakers. I had a wonderful time and was so happy to have been invited by Shelley. Then of course this was another wonderful opportunity to see my typo-friends who I just adore. I must agree with Shelley when she says “I am who I am today because of design and typog­ra­phy con­fer­ences and it is truly an honor…”

    I thoroughly enjoyed the talks I did see and learned a lot about how I should present the content for next time (this was the first talk I’ve given on the subject). Peter Cocking’s presentation was fantastic, he was my type teacher in college, so I’m biased perhaps, but he is incredibly animated and amusing, never standing still, not to mention a great designer.

    My only disappointment came from the lack of support provided by the GDC/BC, as Marian has already pointed out.

    Shelley, the venerable Wm Ross Mills, Rich’s mustache and everyone at Langara (Marie, Micheal) did a smashing job and I look forward to their future efforts.

    Posted by Zara on Apr. 30, 2009
  2. It was truly a pleasure to spend that Saturday listening to a group of speakers with such personality, expertise and substance. Thanks to Shelley for curating a heavyweight gang of typofists, and to all of the speakers for your generosity and down-to-earth attitudes. These are qualities that exemplify west coast design and typography, and they were underlined at JW.

    P.S. This is odd, folks. This blog’s spell checker doesn’t recognize the word ‘typofist.” I don’t know why.

    Posted by Emily Luce on Apr. 30, 2009
  3. i am totally jealous, wish i could have been there! congrats all!

    Posted by Simon Robertson on May. 1, 2009
  4. typografist.com AND typographist.com
    are taken!

    That border guard must have snatched them up after asking me if that was what i was upon entering Canada

    Posted by Richard Kegler on May. 1, 2009
  5. Zara, I don’t think you’re biased, not at all – you’re just exhibiting one of the attributes that made you such a fine student (back then) and a swell designer (now) – great taste.

    Posted by Peter Cocking on May. 5, 2009

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