TYPO Conference Comes To London In 2011

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News | Yves Peters | April 7, 2011

The TYPO conference organisation is pleased to announce that TYPO London is opening in London in October 2011. TYPO conferences are international design events hosted by FontShop in Germany. TYPO Berlin has been one of Europe’s most successful design conferences since 1995, featuring a who’s who of the biggest names in design with appearances from an amazing array of creative talent from Adrian Frutiger to Günter Gerhard Lange and Gerard Unger talking type; to Wim Crouwel, Tibor Kalman and Javier Mariscal speaking on design; to Ian Anderson, Neville Brody and David Carson exploring new visual langauges. So strictly speaking TYPO London is not really a new conference, especially when considering that the TYPO conferences originated from FontShop’s FUSE conferences that ran in London in 1994 and Berlin in 1995.

Each conference is dedicated to a different theme. Previous years’ presentations can be viewed on the TYPO Videoblog. The theme for this year’s TYPO London 2011 is “Places”, and the TYPO London team is inviting a broad selection of speakers and presentations from architects, urban planners, information designers, graphic designers, and brand agencies, to digital designers, UX professionals, and interaction designers. There will also be speakers from the film industry, and keynotes will vary from the physical to the metaphorical understanding of “Places”.


Robin Richmond

Organising TYPO London is Robin Richmond, a brand and UX designer based in the city of Bath, who has a long-lasting connection to Erik Spiekermann and FontShop. Robin was trained as an information designer at the London College of Printing (now London College of Communication). One of his tutors was Brian Grimbly – a friend of Anthony Froshaug – who had led a course at the College with Erik Spiekermann in the late ’70s. Robin met Erik Spiekermann when the latter came to London to judge the TIA Typographers International Association event Union Design (the studio Robin founded with Tim Fendley) were organising in the early 1990s. Somehow the three of them got into one some kind of argument about Anglo-German stereotypes – it was always all about the language. This segued into a “degrees of separation” conversation which had them discover they had a lot on common. Erik kept in touch, and in 1995 Union Design joined MetaDesign – for five years it functioned as the London office.

At that time Erik was heavily involved with MetaDesign, and FontShop was either downstairs, upstairs or next door at Bergmanstrasse. This meant Union Design always had a window on what was going on. The Union designers used a lot of Erik’s fonts; for example Erik redrew a thin cut of ITC Officina to use for headlines in the redesign of The Economist, and FF Govan is a response to a MetaDesign London project, so there was a regular contact. Robin regularly bumped into Erik over the next few years and even when living in San Francisco he used to have the odd cup of tea with Joan, so FontShop was never that far away. Then last summer, coming to Berlin to review TYPO for Eye magazine, the seed of an idea began to take shape.


“How about a conference over there… in London.”
Jürgen Siebert and Robin Richmond at TYPO Berlin 2010 “Passion”. © 2010 Nikolaus Netzer

TYPO Berlin grew out of the second edition of the FUSE conference which was held in Berlin in 1995. Now that TYPO returns to London where the original FUSE conference was held seventeen years ago, this must feel like coming home?

R O B I N  R I C H M O N D | “I went to FUSE in London and then connected again at TYPO Berlin 96, which was the first conference at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Neville Brody had just done the identity for the place. Combined with the boom of post unified Berlin, it felt like design was taking over at the time. In parallel, the London design scene was florishing. The studios had always been here, but the opportunity to have a design career went into overdrive with thousands of UK graduates pouring into the city every year as the education system started to focus on the value of design.”

“After FUSE the whole redevelopment of Shoreditch started happening, which coincided with the design explosion in web technologies. Much in the same way that Berlin’s Mitte had become the central focus, there was a parallel shift eastwards in London. FUSE itself shifted and opened up in San Francisco and some of the momentum for the London venue was lost.”

“There’s always been such a great studio design scene in London. It has survived the late ’80s slump, the dotcom downturn, and it is as energetic as ever. The biggest surprise is that it has taken so long for TYPO to return to the UK. London is still recognized as a global creative hub, be it for advertising, branding or ideas. I wouldn’t necessarily say TYPO was coming home, but it certainly has very strong links with London and there’s every reason for it to succeed here.”


TYPO Hall at TYPO Berlin 2010 “Passion”. Photo by Frank Grießhammer

What can we expect from TYPO London?

R O B I N  R I C H M O N D | “I’ve learned a great deal from the FontShop team. Stepping over the fence from reviewer to organizer is an interesting journey. There is a shift from being critical and trying to find an edge to a place where you are trying to accommodate ideas. Some may work and some not, but it doesn’t really matter. What you are aiming to achieve is a collective upside so that when people leave the event they have talking points, controversies, favourites, and most importantly new perspectives and knowledge.”

“In that sense this year’s events in London and Berlin will be the same. What is clear is that TYPO Berlin is a special event. The organisation behind the conference is great and it gets better every year. New ideas become iPhone apps, real time data changes, SMS messages for speaker slots and so on.”

“London will have as many of these ideas as possible but it’s a start-up year, and we are we are on an accelerated time plan to reach the opening day of 20th October. The format of the conferences is the same. We have 3 days in London and we begin at 2.00pm on Thursday. We finish on Saturday evening and there’s a TYPO party for delegate and friends to celebrate being part of something special.”

“The ‘Pregnant Oyster’ (I’m old enough to know it as ‘Kennedy’s Smile’) provides four speakers’ stages. The Logan Hall is comparable to the main Hall there with 900 seats. As I write I’m trying to confirm a second stage in the Jeffrey Hall on Friday and Saturday for break out sessions and more intimate workshops and presentations. So we’ll only have a maximum of 2 stages not four, and while the Logan Hall is an exemplary example of post war slab concrete Brutalist architecture it’s not in the middle of the Tiergarten.”

Erik Spiekermann is lead moderator and I’m very pleased to also have Adrian Shaughnessy working with the speakers. We set up a Facebook page last month, and the website went live in the first week of April, and we are expecting speakers of the caliber of Michael Bierut, Nat Hunter, Gary Hustwit, Micheal B Johnson, and Spiekermann and Shaughnessy. We also have some big names considering whether they can make a commitment, so this inaugural year will have a lot of impact.”

“The biggest contrast is that TYPO London is beginning the journey of building equity and community. TYPO Berlin is part of the design calendar in many mainland European countries and this is our start-up year. There is huge goodwill towards the event in Berlin, and groups come and meet up almost on a yearly basis. Where TYPO Berlin is positively isolated in the Kongresshalle, the Logan Hall is a short walk from some of London’s great social spaces, so we have to keep a strong focus on the quality of the event to keep everyone engaged and not off in the local shops, bars and attractions of London’s West End.”


Logan Hall, Institute of Education, University of London. Photo by Miki Yamanouchi

What is the concept behind this year’s theme: “Places”?

R O B I N  R I C H M O N D | “Places have always been important. Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do? The sense of place is an early factor in how we get to understand each other. Most of the projects I’ve worked on in recent times are concerned with some kind of definition of place.”

“Places are important destinations. Many are physical. For example, there is a new Olympic Park in London built to provide a sense of place and community for the city and the wider world. It is defined by its architecture, the information available to visitors and users to the site and the overall infrastructure. It is a place within a place and very topical for visitors to London over the coming months. Our understanding of our city and sense of place is dependent on the experience of such places.”

“Places are virtual and online. They are trusted sources. One such place, Wikipedia, tells me that another trusted ‘place’, Facebook has 600 million users. In the digital age we keep more and more information in new and emerging formats. People have gone from visiting the bank to logging on through their computers, from buying CDs to put on shelves to buying songs to keep on hard drives. The transition from physical to virtual places plays a major role in our lives today. Conference delegates have gone from asking questions to blogging and tweeting about their experiences and opinions – from one mind space, to another virtual space.”

“Services are now designed to create a sense of belonging. User experiences are designed to create membership, context and meaning – a sense of place. Understand people, their places and the motivations behind the things they own and use, and you will get to the key drivers behind many of today’s brands.”

“TYPO London 2011 “Places” is inviting a broad selection of speakers to talk about their understanding of places. We aim to have architects and urban planers speaking about the physical experiences they create, from buildings to environments. “Places” will also feature presentations from information designers and specialists in signage and wayfinding design who have discovered that the projects they work on define the cities they work for. We aim to have both contemporary projects and the historically recognized represented through keynotes.”

“Graphic designers and brand agencies will speak on the places that their brands have helped to create, both as physical items and as services. Digital designers, UX professionals and interaction designers will be talking about the places their work creates. We have speakers from a varied background working with the film industry and keynotes will vary from the metaphorical understanding of place through to the visual record or our urban environment. We hope for further keynotes on service design and the sense of place and belonging that underpins a successful enterprise. As ever we’ll have a blend of established international talent mixed up with a blend of fresh up and coming London design practices and no doubt someone will talk about themselves as opposed to the theme, but after all, it all adds to the colour of the event.”

TYPO London 2011 “Places” on Facebook
TYPO London 2011 “Places” official website
TYPO London 2011 “Places” blog
Follow TYPO conferences on Twitter

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