Robothon 2009

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News | Yves Peters | January 21, 2009

In one and a half months The Hague in the Netherlands will be the epicentre of the type design world. The RoboFab developers are organising a new Robothon conference on Thursday March 5 and Friday March 6, 2009. The cream of the crop in type design will convene at The Royal Academy of Arts (KABK) for a conference programme focusing on type design and production workflow.

Erik Spiekermann, recipient of the 2003 Gerrit Noordzij Award, and Tobias Frere-Jones, recipient of the 2006 Gerrit Noordzij Award, at the Spiekermann exhibition at Robothon 06.

Sessions will address drawing, managing sources, class kerning, interpolation, and generating and testing OTF. Scripting will of course have a prominent place too, as it glues all these together. Furthermore the organisers are looking forward to have some tool demos. It goes without saying that the conference will include a couple of parties, people to meet and letters to look at. An exhibition of the work of Tobias Frere-Jones will open Friday afternoon, and the Gerrit Noordzij Award 2009 will be presented to Dutch graphic design legend Wim Crouwel on Friday late afternoon.

Wim Crouwel photographed by Xavier Encinas at the Wim Crouwel Conference for the 30th anniversary of Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, France.


RoboFab was started sometime during the TypoTechnica in Heidelberg, 2003. Tal Leming, Erik van Blokland and Just van Rossum – arguably three of the brightest minds in type design – combined their FontLab code into a new library. At first it was an odd collection of fixes and workarounds. In April 2003 Tal, Erik and Just created new objects to live on top of the FontLab objects, and further development during spring and summer produced the new GLIF and UFO file formats. The original release of RoboFab 1.0b1 fell through as the first RoboThon conference – scheduled in September 2003 – was cancelled at the last minute because hurricane Isabel. After this false start RoboFab saw its first public release in January 2004. It has since then proved a tremendous help in the type design process, considerably expanded the possibilities, and made type designers’ lives much easier.

The result of over 6 man-years of concentrated coding, RoboFab is a Python library with over 40 standardized classes of objects that deal with data usually associated with fonts and type design. RoboFab reads and writes UFO font files and works in any Python 2.3 (and 2.2.1), 2.4. 2.5. The RoboFab code for FontLab works in FontLab 4.6, FontLab Studio 5 and up. With RoboFab installed, the scripter will find it easier to produce scripts. API standardization means fewer things to remember or look up – even though RoboFab comes with extensive documentation and example code.

Robothon 06 conference

Type designers planning to attend Robothon 2009 have until January 31, 2009, to register at a reduced rate. Robothon is graciously sponsored by The Royal Academy of Arts, House Industries. LettError, Type Invaders, TypeSupply, and Commercial Type.

Scribbling on a paper table cloth is slightly more sophisticated at a Robothon dinner. ;)

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  1. The sketches are by Tal Leming.

    Posted by Erik van Blokland on Jan. 22, 2009
  2. Well, I didn’t credit the sketches to Tal Leming because – when I photographed this impressive display of versatility and spontaneous draughtsmanship – he actually seemed a little embarrassed. Tal clearly considered them as mere doodles, and possibly even not very good. Not only is he terrifyingly intelligent, but that man sure can draw type. Wow indeed…

    Posted by Yves Peters on Jan. 22, 2009

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