Should type design contests be "justified"?

eliason's picture

There is lots of conversation going on about the AIGA "Justified" competition, which has replaced its other annual design competitions with one in which an explanation must accompany the submission addressing the brief, strategy, and assessment of effectiveness. The stir about this change was accelerated by Paula Scher's Imprint column decrying the change. The commentary on that post has been rich and spirited both pro- and con-.

How about type design competitions? Would/could/should a type competition also evaluate the purpose that a design serves rather than just the design's qualities (beyond the existing bounds of, for example, display vs. text)?

hrant's picture

I've been thinking about this too (without knowing about the AIGA stuff) and I believe it depends. The more innovative a typeface is the more the judges need to hear about the thought process behind it*; but the more mainstream a typeface is the more it has to speak for itself, and letting the designer explain it might actually do harm.

* Which might not (and in fact usually cannot) involve a client, because making more money and marking cultural progress don't mix.

hhp

Si_Daniels's picture

I agree with Hrant. Some type design and engineering projects require a certain level of explanation, but others do not. The problem would probably be solved by having a third category, "text", "display" and "other".

dezcom's picture

I don't know what the judges would do differently or even consistently with verbal explanation. I doubt if the outcomes of competitions would be changed much if any.

hrant's picture

Consider Legato for example. Often judges have mere minutes to decide if an entry passes muster, and it's too much to expect most judges to immediately notice its subtle genius. But if they (have to) read some sort of minimal explanation they have a chance to pay attention to what the point is.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

It might make sense for commissioned designs.
The premise of “justified” AD/graphic design competitions being that work is done to a brief, within the constraints of a marketing strategy that targets measured constituencies.
But for most foundry-initiated types that is not the case (my designs, for instance, are produced according to whim, with the only market directive a “feel” for what may appeal to font buyers—not readers), the justifications would be indistinguishable from marketing BS.
Perhaps a category for promotional writing would be more appropriate?

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

You mean, featuring a concert by Justin Timberlake?

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

When submitting to Tipos Latinos (Latin American type design biennial) you must include a brief text of around 600 characters set in 10 pt. Verdana at the bottom of the page. I think it is a good decision since I can explain some things there. As an example, I could explain why Gandhi Serif is lighter than usual or why Gandhi Sans has some “serifness” on it; that sort of things that you can’t tell by watching the design and that possibly might be disregarded or treated as flaws by the jury if they don’t have any additional information other than the letterforms.

Or, if I don’t have anything interesting to say and/or the design speaks by itself, at least I can use that space for mentioning what characters it includes, if it has OT features, if it tackles an specific problem, if it is somehow related to some historical precedent… It doesn’t need to be a promotional text, just a concise description.

Breda DeLisle's picture

Competitions and "awards" ceremonies exist entirely for the ego gratification of the people who concoct and promote such farcical and dubious goings-on. Why I refuse to participate in these shenanigans: some tossers hold an "awards ceremony" to glorify and honor nominees. You do all the work, you get nominated, and they expect you to travel to their venue and pay for a hotel room at your expense. The phenomenon itself, the business of shelling out awards revolves around the recipients. Without typeface designers no type design awards can be bestowed. On that basis the whole thing is a bucket of horse excrement.

They need us more than we need them, and they are not getting one piece of me. And now we are expected to provide written justification for the things we create? You have got to be kidding. I'll give you a good idea where you can put that.

@Hrant: But if they (have to) read some sort of minimal explanation they have a chance to pay attention to what the point is.

If the judges need explanation for the point of each entry they should not be judges in a design competition. stoopid. If they don't realize the point of each piece they are unqualified and unfit to serve as judges, stoopid. If the judges can't see the puspose of a typographic design straight off by looking at it then they are thick.

Hrant, if you reply to this post by way of arguments against me as a person, those arguments will count for nothing. Counter not me but what I say.

Breda DeLisle's picture

And I'm lookin' over my shoulder
Lookin' away with nowhere to go

hrant's picture

Time zones, dude. Gimme time.

hhp

hrant's picture

Although there's certainly a dimension of vanity involved in competitions (I admit to feeling it myself) they can still make sense. Both times I've submitted to Creative Review magazine's type competitions I've basically gotten a full-page ad for less than $100, and I get to brandish the win like a big ol' mace. One thing I do mind though is something the TDC does: charge you extra for winning. :-/ In contrast, SoTA's Catalys Award* actually pays the recipient all their costs to attend TypeCon, although they do have to agree to give a talk... which however is yet more positive exposure (unless the person is a total rambling buffoon :-).

* http://www.typesociety.org/catalyst/

If the judges need explanation for the point of each entry they should not be judges in a design competition.

Here again I see a denial of [a] reality. First of all, they're not gods. They haven't thought of everything under the sun. And when they're given too little time (a necessary evil to some extent, although I do think there are better ways than to physically fly judges to a venue and give them too little time*) they might reasonably miss something quite significant, and considering how text faces need to work this might be something very subtle. Think again about Legato.

* In a competition in 1998 Critique magazine shipped the entries (which with letter-size PDFs would be unnecessary) to the judges. I won with Arasan. :-)

--

BTW, I'm not sure why you expect[ed] a confrontation... since you've been here less than two days. :-> Or maybe you've been lurking (which is still better than not being here at all). I would point out here that "Breda DeLisle" does not seem to be a real name.

That said: Thoughts are the skin on a body of emotions; you cannot disembody what you state from what you are, and cannot disembody criticism of your thoughts from criticism of your essence. This is something the West's ideal of "civil communication" has failed to come to terms with. Just sayin'.

hhp

froo's picture

Let's have look at and judge the Inuit map. Then read the comment above the image and judge again.

.00's picture

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.00's picture

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hrant's picture

Certainly the money the winners are charged is put to good use - it's not some bizarre punishment. But to me it's somewhat perverse (I know I'm not alone in this) and it puts the winner (at least some winners) in an uncomfortable situation. I would instead simply charge all entrants a little bit more, avoiding the awkward stigma. Would the number of submissions drop? Probably a little bit. But you might see the drop offset by a (modest) increase in submissions from non-affluent countries. Consider somebody who has to scrounge the submission fee, knowing that if he wins he can't afford the hanging fee; he might conclude that the certificate isn't worth the submission fee. If he knows there are no "hidden fees" he's much more likely to submit.

BTW this is a good opportunity to mention Granshan*. Although I'm not comparing it to the TDC in terms of prestige, it's notable that the entry fee is minimal (and it used to be totally free) and they've always given monetary prizes to winners**. This, from a country that's not at all affluent. One way they make it work is that the judging event is quite modest; when I was on the jury in 2010 the judging took place in tandem to the ATypI conference, with jurors selected from people who were going to be there anyway. Were the results compromised? To me it all felt quite robust.

* http://www.granshan.org/

** Only the venerable Morisawa competition had previously managed that.

--

BTW, minor point: I just noticed that on the TDC's site Michael Bierut's last name is spelled like my hometown instead. :-)

hhp

.00's picture

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hrant's picture

Yes. But don't worry about me. Do a survey! Like maybe all the submitters from previous years; winners and non-winners, to learn from the contrast.

hhp

dezcom's picture

" I just noticed that on the TDC's site Michael Bierut's last name is spelled like my hometown instead. :-)"

I just saw Michael in TYPO San Francisco. In the 1st slide of his presentation, he showed a map of Lebanon with all the city names. He then went on to say that his name was NOT spelled like the city :-)

Chris Dean's picture

As far as competitions of this sort go, I’m with Breda.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TKK6d3-h2U

froo's picture

Bierut is a Polish surname, originally pronounced byieroot, bïaaroot (the accent on the first syllable).

Breda DeLisle's picture

@Hrant Papazian
"Although there's certainly a dimension of vanity involved in competitions (I admit to feeling it myself) they can still make sense."

Sense is comprehensibility and so what? Beside the point. Do they have merit is the qestion.

"Both times I've submitted to Creative Review magazine's type competitions I've basically gotten a full-page ad for less than $100, and I get to brandish the win like a big ol' mace."

Congratulations. Who did you whack with your mace? Word-of-mouth from clients is the best kind of marketing. One comission job leads to the next. Real deal type designers are embarrassed by competition wins. Can you picture Matt Carter entering a type design comp? That would make him look kiddy grade. Same goes for John Hudson and Nick Shinn. We rarely if ever hear of them entering a type design comp.

"One thing I do mind though is something the TDC does: charge you extra for winning. :-/"

Funny about that. I see it bothers you. NYC is the apple in everybody else's eye. You shine their shoes and it makes them look clever, and you pay them for the "privelage" of shining their shoes.

"In contrast, SoTA's Catalys Award* actually pays the recipient all their costs to attend TypeCon, although they do have to agree to give a talk... which however is yet more positive exposure (unless the person is a total rambling buffoon :-)."

Like you for example. A babbling self-vindicating sociopath.

That's very genial of SoTA. Would it be a letdown to point out SoTA is closely affiliated with TypeCon?

> If the judges need explanation for the point of each entry they should not be judges in a design competition.

"Here again I see a denial of [a] reality."

"denial", another thorn word you're using to label some one for negative effect. No, pointing out egotism is not denial of reality. Only small children would believe that statement if it were followed by what you put after it, which is more false logic. Post hoc ergo propter hoc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post_hoc_ergo_propter_hoc

"First of all, they're not gods. They haven't thought of everything under the sun."

Nobody expects them to be gods. All we expect is an intuitive knowledge of the subject, type design, based on extensive experience.

"And when they're given too little time (a necessary evil to some extent, although I do think there are better ways than to physically fly judges to a venue and give them too little time*) they might reasonably miss something quite significant, and considering how text faces need to work this might be something very subtle. Think again about Legato."

Is this too little time thing an example from a real type design comp that took place somewhere? Maybe it's a hypothetical example. Legato is neither here or there, it's just your pet you love to hold up in the air, like doing that makes you look clever. It doesn't. If it wasn't for Legato Hrant would have to find some other text font to use as a soap box.

Every person on this board needs to ask a basic question about type design competitiions. Why is it that Hrant Papazian is never one of the judges? That's a very easy one.

"BTW, I'm not sure why you expect[ed] a confrontation... since you've been here less than two days. :->"

What makes you think I wanted a confrontation? I'm giving you one now because you asked for it.

"Or maybe you've been lurking (which is still better than not being here at all)."

"lurking" another Hrant thorn word. Paint it whatever color you want, it won't make any difference. You will have to come up with something much more convincing than a label.

"I would point out here that "Breda DeLisle" does not seem to be a real name."

Wrong! Guess again. You really know how to insult a person, yeh. You want to be more careful with what you say about people and things you know nothing about. You never know what the person you insult might do.

"That said: Thoughts are the skin on a body of emotions;"

Not always. Pure thought is pure reason and pure logic. Note Hrant's use of a sweeping generalization. Sometimes thoughts are the skin on a body of emotions, and at other times they aren't.

"you cannot disembody what you state from what you are, and cannot disembody criticism of your thoughts from criticism of your essence."

You cannot. I can, and I will.

Actually you can, but you don't, because that would be too much effort and require caring about the things you say. A person who cares about what they say does not act like Hrant.

"This is something the West's ideal of "civil communication" has failed to come to terms with. Just sayin'."

The better part of the civilised world has come to terms with distinguishing the argument from the person. It's the great unwashed who cannot handle it.

Rob O. Font's picture

"What makes you think I wanted a confrontation?"

Lol.

What you said: "Competitions and "awards" ceremonies exist entirely for the ego gratification of the people who concoct and promote such farcical and dubious goings-on"

I don't enter, rarely judge and never concoct, but I know confrontational text when I see it ;)

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