Last week, 340 typographers, type lovers, and lovers of type lovers met in Prague for the annual ATypI (Association Typographique Internationale) conference. Most of the week’s events were held in the Archa Theater, in the center of the city. Prague’s transformations over the past 15 years, as well as Central & Eastern European type design, served as the theme and inspiration for the conference, entitled Crossroads of Civilizations.
Apart from the conference hotel — the Park Hotel (a communist-era behemoth not centrally located but centrally expensive) — and the Friday night “Kerning Party” thrown by the otherwise fabulous VŠUP (pronounced fee-shoop) students, the entire conference was a fantastic event, filled by a three-track schedule of broad-topic lectures and opportunities to meet all of the other delegates.
The conference began a day early, with the two-day Type Tech Forum, lead by Thomas Phinney and FontLab. FontLab unveiled a new logo, and Microsoft unveiled new OpenType support for their upcoming OS, as well as cool ClearType freebie booklets. The Conference was closed five days later with the election of a new slate of board members, as well as John Hudson’s elevation to Vice President and Jean François Porchez election as ATypI President.
Rick Poynor’s keynote speech sparked more controversy than the rest of the conference put together — and at least 45 minutes of questions. Many in the audience interpreted his speech as being condescending to Eastern European designers, encouraging them not to sell out to western commercialism, but conceding that if they don’t, they will be destined for poverty.
Probably drawing the smallest crowd, and the least amount of controversy, was a small lunch discussion led by P22’s Carima El-Behairy entitled “The Value of a Font.” She intended to talk about circumstances in which fonts add value to products — i.e., when a typeface becomes the bulk of a product being sold, such as a stamp set made from a font and sold by a third party. Most of the few attendees at the session wanted to talk about something else, perhaps real piracy or OpenType pricing ranges.
My favorite talk was the Education panel discussion, where Gerry Leonidas made all of the young designers worry, by remarking that only about five new jobs in type design are available every year (I’m not sure if that is an understatement or an overstatement). Later, a member of the audience asked an off-topic question that was nonetheless amusing: Why haven’t type design programs changed their names to font design programs, since most people just call typefaces fonts nowadays anyway?
Next year’s ATypI conference is already less than a year away, and will be held in Helsinki from September 15—18, 2005. But you needn’t wait until then to get in on ATypI discussion; a few, longer recaps of the conference have already been posted online, including one by Luc Devroye, and another by myself at TypeOff. Jean François Porchez has also posted some photos on his blog. Conferences never seem to end on their closing date anymore, do they?