AIGA notes

meredithalix's picture

Greetings from the AIGA conference. (I chose wrong this year, but I'm trying to make the best of it.) Is anyone else here at the conference?

I attended a seminar on OpenType by two Adobe Toronto guys. They were good at their jobs, which was clearly to be cheerleaders for the CS suite -- showing off the admittedly dazzling combo of InDesign and OpenType Pro fonts. Two peeves, however:

1) They started off with a general presentation (done in Acrobat) in which all the quotation marks were actually inch marks. Way to boost your credibility, guys.

2) During Q&A, they pretty much tap-danced around anything potentially negative about the new Creative Suite model. I realize their job is to evangelize, but when you can't even get a straight answer out of them I don't think it helps Adobe any. F'rinstance, I asked about the next round of upgrades: if you purchase the Suite now, are you locked into always upgrading the whole Suite rather than individual apps? Their answer boiled down to, "Yes, because that's the way you want it, and you'd be a dolt to want anything else." Sigh. Someone else asked about the (current) Photoshop-owner upgrade, and whether there were better upgrade options for people who own more than one Adobe app. Again, their answer was basically, "But why would you want such a crazy thing?" The guy who asked the question actually had to follow up with: "So... are you saying no?"

I know it's hard to be in the position of marketing something that's problematic. But maybe they could take a page from Tim Cole, who's the only evangelist-type I've ever heard actually give straight, no-nonsense answers. It sure made one want to hear and believe what he had to say. Speaking Marketese doesn't fool anyone.

IMHO, of course.

meredithalix's picture

(Separating the rants from the rest...)

Tonight I'm going to Allan Haley's Typography Quiz and find out the depths of my ignorance. Wheee.

One question for tomorrow: Erik Spiekermann or Lucille Tenazas? They're making us choose, the bastards.

hrant's picture

Meredith, I hear you on the propagandism. It's like the 1920s all over again. (No, I wasn't there. :-)

BTW, assuming it's not too late, make sure you get a copy (it's free) of Doyald Young's "The Art of the Letter": he's having a signing/giveaway session there, and it's a great little jewel.

hhp

Grant Hutchinson's picture

>Erik Spiekermann or Lucille Tenazas?

I just saw Herr Spiekermann speak at ATypI and it was enjoyable, as always. However, if it was up to me, I'd sit in on Ms Tenazas. Gorgeous work.

If you get a chance for another diversion, swing by the Veer booth at the Design Fair. Tell them Grant sent you and maybe they'll set you up with a couple of goodies to take home.

:-)

meredithalix's picture

So I came in 5th place in the Typography Quiz... but they only gave out 4 prizes. Poor me. :-) Luckily I did correctly answer the question whose answer was Nick Shinn.

Hrant, yep, scoring the Young book was already #1 on my agenda for tomorrow morning.

Grant: thanks, I will stop by Veer! (Would've anyway, because Veer's my new stock-art best friend.)

Really torn about Spiekermann vs. Tenazas (the fight of the century). I feel like I should take the opportunity to hear Spiekermann, but I've long wanted to meet Tenazas. She does do beautiful, interesting work. I think Lucille's winning out over Erik.

Grant Hutchinson's picture

>Really torn about Spiekermann vs. Tenazas (the fight of the century).

Maybe at future conferences, they should run the talks like a thunderdome.

Nick Shinn's picture

>Luckily I did correctly answer the question whose answer was Nick Shinn.

Thanks, Meredith -- I wasn't there, and vanity propels me to ask, what was the question?

Nick Shinn's picture

And congratulations -- looks like ShinnType will be ponying up a prize for 5th...

John Hudson's picture

[Duplicate post]

hrant's picture

Font socializing withdrawal? ;-)

hhp

John Hudson's picture

I'm not at AIGA, but if any typophiles visiting Vancouver would like to get together for a drink, let me know. Since that may sound like a personals ad, I should mention that I am apparently winsome and borderline adorable.

meredithalix's picture

Reply round-up...
Joseph, good question. I don't have time to answer in depth now, but I'll just say that the direction of the "new" AIGA appears to come from the sincerest of intentions, and the content of this conference does reflect the new direction, but I'm skeptical about how long it will all last.

Grant: what we really need here are Monster Trucks. Oh, and I did stop by the Veer booth and dropped your name, at which point they forced me to pose for a photo. Dirty trick. ;)

Nick, they showed a slide of a sample of Fontesque and the question was, "name the Canadian designer of this best-selling font. Bonus question: What is the typeface name?" I'm just glad I got it right so I can still show my virtual face here.

John: if there's at least one other typophile who's in, then I'm in. I'm much too shy & exhausted to be good company ce soir.

meredithalix's picture

To respond to Joseph's question in a little more detail: most of the sessions at the conference do focus on the designer's responsibility for and role in Making The World A Better Place. Some sessions do this more successfully than others. Not to dismiss an admirable goal, but it reminds me of the "First Things First" so-called manifesto: easy to scrawl your name on it, but how many people actually took risks and changed things in their own lives & deeds as a result? I'm afraid I can already see the hand-wringing turning into back-patting. I hope I'm wrong, but it's hard not to be cynical.

meredithalix's picture

Nick writes:
And congratulations -- looks like ShinnType will be ponying up a prize for 5th...

Thanks! You can send the Vespa and the dual-processor G5 to my Seattle address. I'll come pick up the sailboat in person. ;)

So the Tenazas talk was a bit more basic than I'd hoped, but she only had an hour, so I guess it's understandable. I still adore her work. Tomorrow I'm going to the Hoefler/Frere-Jones double bill.

hrant's picture

Please ask Hoefler how he can get away with having 4 distinct kinds of stroke terminals in Mercury:
http://www.themicrofoundry.com/other/mercury.gif

hhp

meredithalix's picture

Hrant, by "get away with," do you mean you think Mercury is a success, or a failure? And if a success, is it in spite of or because of its quirks?

BTW, This morning's talks by Fritjof Capra and Dan Sturges left me inspired and much more hopeful about the possibility of real change in the design world and the world world.

hrant's picture

I mean it in a good way. You're not "supposed" to have that much variety. When I was making Patria (which has two styles of terminals), a Famous Type Designer told me I'd have to choose one. In a formal aesthetic way that does make sense. Pomo designers however balk at that stuff. Mercury seems to be something in between, and I guess I'm mainly wondering what kinds of reactions from what kinds of people the mixing of styles has received.

hhp

meredithalix's picture

I just have to tell someone. Not two feet away from this computer, Spiekermann, Tenazas and Sagmeister are engaged in high-spirited conversation. I'm hoping if I stand next to them for long enough, some of the brilliance particles will fall off onto me. So far it's not working.

John Hudson's picture

I don't think Jonathan is mixing styles at all. It might look that way because the serifs are very sharp and cleanly defined, which emphasises their superficial differences, but really all he's doing is regularising and actually reducing the variation seen here (Janson):
Janson terminals

Ignoring the balls and concentrating on the serifs, all the terminals in Mercury are either triangles (top of i, bottom of d) or half-triangles (foot serifs, a, s). The half-triangle is softened in a, and and softened and made heavier in s, but the forms are much similar to each other than in many other typefaces.

John Hudson's picture

Meredith, please go up to Erik and ask him to give me a call (six oh four six six nine four eight eight four).

hrant's picture

Meredith, cool!

--

Mercury uses four kinds of terminals: adnate wedge (bottom-right of "L"), abrupt wedge (all over), ball (why would I ignore them?) and regular adnate ("s"). That's not counting the funny tail of the "a"...

Please name another (non-grunge) font with just three...

hhp

John Hudson's picture

I consider Mercury to have two kinds of wedge serifs. The fact that some of the serifs are adnate and some are not is the only remarkable thing about the design. The fact that a and s have different kinds of terminals from everything else is not unusual; these letters are often exceptional because their terminals are not strictly speaking serifs. The fact that some letters have ball terminals is also not unusual (see Fenway, Arnhem, Paradox, to name just a few recent designs). So let's focus on the adnate vs. non adnate wedges, considering the uppercase L. This is a letter in which the terminal needs to be heavier than a typical serif, both because it is vertical and because it is so far distant from the main stem, connected only by a thin stroke. The connection of the terminal to that thin stroke benefits from being strengthened, hence the adnate connection, which adds weight and makes the terminal a terminal, i.e. something that belongs to the stroke, and not merely something stuck on the end. For comparison, take a look at how Matthew Carter solves the same problem in a different way in Fenway.

[PS. Shouldn't this be a separate thread?]

meredithalix's picture

John, damn, I didn't see your note until too late (I had to run up to my room & send files to a client). I'm going back down in a few minutes -- I'll see if I can track him down for you. Thanks for giving me an excuse to talk to him!

Hrant, if I get a chance I'll ask Jonathan about Mercury & let you know. I agree that Mercury does work well in its own pointy way -- though at display sizes I find it distracting.

John Hudson's picture

Thanks, Meredith. If you do talk to Jonathan, please ask him to give me a call too. I might wander down to the convention centre later and see who is around.

meredithalix's picture

John, would you like me to schedule any appointments for you while I'm at it?

(Just kidding, I'm happy to do it -- as an introvert it's always handy to have a prefab reason to approach.)

John Hudson's picture

Thanks. I really appreciate it. By the way, feel free to give me a call youself: it's always nice to meet another Typophile, and I have lots of introverts in my life so know how not to be overwhelmingly extroverted. If you don't catch me at the office, call my mobile number, which the office answering system will give you.

meredithalix's picture

John, mission accomplished. Erik says he's leaving in about a half-hour but will call you first. Perhaps I'll ring you after the next round of sessions -- I think I'll skip the closing party tonight.

Are there really no other Typophiles here at the conference?

Hrant, Jonathan was pretty much surrounded after the seminar, so it was all I could do to hand him John's number. If I see him later on I'll try to corner him about Mercury. ;)

hrant's picture

> I consider Mercury to ....

Individually each of the things you mention aren't enough to make a design "unorthodox", but in Mercury they're all there. And I think that's why Meredith for one feels the end result is "distracting". My own view on it is undecided: when does adding another layer of harmony result in discord? For one thing, it depends who you ask: a classical type designer, a Pomo type user, an oblivious layman, etc.

> Carter solves the same problem in a different way in Fenway.

But Fenway is much more regular (like see the tail of the "a" in the new display cut launched a couple of weeks ago in BusinessWeek). The original Fleischmann stuff though (at least his masterwork #65) is much weirder than Mercury! Variable x-heights, the lone Didone "o" in a Dutch Oldstyle design, etc. The guy was a genius.

I'd be curious to hear of other high-profile fonts as "free-willed" as Mercury. It takes balls to deploy stuff like that in big-name publications.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

See, I don't think of Mercury as either unorthodox or 'free-willed'. I can think of a reasons for all the details you've pointed to so far, or at least a justification that puts them squarely within the bounds of not only acceptable but even normal practice. Maybe your view of what is orthodox is simply too limited?

I have not looked closely at the new Fenway cut, but I've looked very closely at the original, having used it in Language Culture Type and all the ATypI Vancouver material. Take a look at the L and see how Matthew maintains the regularity of his abrupt serif connection but at the same time links the wedge to the stroke. He is solving the same problem that Jonathan is solving in a different way. I don't have a problem with either solution, and if anything Jonathan's is the more orthodox and less innovative.

kentlew's picture

Apologies to Meredith for continuing this tangent to her thread. (I hope you thoroughly enjoyed AIGA and Vancouver.)

Hrant, I confess that I'm not entirely sure exactly what you keep carping on about with Mercury's terminals nor what you mean by 'free-willed'. But take another look at all that's going on in Galliard:
Galliard Terminals

You've got a 'lachrymal' terminal in the 'c', but the 'r' becomes more of a beak, while the 'a' has a logic all its own, none of which is similar to the serif-like terminal on the 's'. And what about that 'a' tail compared to the rest of the foot serifs or the 'd' tail serif? Plus, of course, the broad triangular head serifs compared with the thin foot serifs.

Or what about Monticello:
Monticello Terminals

The head serifs are all over the place -- compare the 'b' to the 'd' and the 'r' to the 'i'. Don't ask me what's going on with that 's' terminal. And I didn't bother to show the huge, broadly bracketed serifs of the caps. How did Binny (and Griffith/Larson and Carter) get away with it?

The tension between harmony and contrast is present in all good form-making. You find it in painting, sculpture, architecture, and music, as well. Of course, one generation's (or person's) contrast is another's discord. I'm not surprised to see this in Mercury, as it was inspired by Fleischmann and this kind of extreme combination of contrasting elements was part of the zeitgeist of the late Baroque period.

Speaking of abrupt vs. adnate, I'm surprised John didn't mention Fenway's 'v' with its remarkable juxtaposition of serifs -- straightline abrupt, curved abrupt, and fully adnate.

Fenway 'v'

-- K.

Grant Hutchinson's picture

>Speaking of abrupt vs. adnate...

Personally, I just love saying the word adnate.

Adnate.
Adnate.
Adnate.

Oh, sorry.

hrant's picture

John, my own gauge of "unorthodox" is much looser than that - for one thing I think Fleischmann's #65 would make a superb text face, while no Fleischmann revival has dared to go to its real depths. I'm just trying to figure out what clients think. But I do see your point. And Kent, thanks for that great illustrated post!

Well, I guess I'm mostly convinced about Mercury not being so "out there" - but I still think it pushes the envelope in terms of general contemporary typographers' expectations, which I do feel is too conservative.

BTW, I hope the Famous Type Designer who had a problem with Patria's two terminal styles is listening! :-)

hhp

cchs's picture

Just back from Vancouver myself. I was able to make an average of eight lectures per day for each of the three days. Sadly, I missed most of the early morning sessions (and 6AM yoga) due to, shall we say, a rather zealous dedication to after hours socializing.

All in all the conference was an inspiring and worthwhile experience, and one which I would recommend. If you did the math in paragraph one, you'll know that I attended about 24 lectures. What is remarkable is that of them only one, Jonathon Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, showed any actual work. To many this was a disappointment, but I found it uniquely envigorating to hear designers really TALK for a change. Yes, a little show and tell could have gone a long way, but after such a drought of discussion of ideas, the change was welcome.

Incidentally, misters Hoefler and Frere-Jones, positively awed the audience with the rigor of their craft.

Of course the greatest value of the conference (besides Lucille singing kareoke) was meeting so many interesting new people, reunited with old friends and deepening relationships with heretofor casual acquaintances. It was in these exchanges I took comfort in knowing that there are others out there who care as much as I - miraculously about the same issues.

As far as any new direction is concerned for the AIGA, that's tough to say. It has a diverse constituency and I think it is therefore difficult to make such generalizations, no matter how dearly some might wish to. I do think, however, that change will be manifest in two deomgraphics: region and age. Regional attitudes towards design, business and culture (and the degree to which they can be seen as independent from one another) are already becoming evident. This was clear from the presentations, but more notably from the sea of portfolios I reviewed. And age, well, there is a generation of 50 and 60 somethings who have defined the profession in the modern era but who are now close to the end of their run. I think in large part it will be the generation of current 30-somethings (many of whom work for or studied under the aforementioned) who fill the inevitable void and lead design into new territories by their example.

meredithalix's picture

I missed Lucille singing karaoke? Damn. What did she sing? (Possible new thread topic: Designers' Theme Songs.)

Agreed that Hoefler & F-J gave an excellent presentation -- inspirational.

I do hope you're right about the younger generation of designers. I've sat through so many idealistic organizational "revolutions" that never came to anything, so I'm perhaps unfairly cynical about it all. I did find some of the presentations really inspiring and exciting (Fritjof Capra knocked my socks off, and Helfand & Drenttel were pretty great), and have been thinking about practical changes I can make in my business.

Joe Pemberton's picture

Meredith, I'm curious. Can you tell that it's a new AIGA? Or
does it feel like the same organization we've all known (and
loved).

Specifically, is the "Power of Design" focus and the "we're
now proactive, not retrospective" coming through in the
presentations and events?

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