The first week September saw one of the largest international design conferences come to Dublin. The annual conference of ATypI (Association Typographique Internationale) took the form of a two-part seminar with Preface being hosted by DIT Mountjoy Square and the main conference The Word being hosted in Dublin castle.
With approximately 450 delegates and a packed programme of events, it was always going to be tough choices made on what to attend.
The Word opened on Thursday night with registration and reception in Dublin Castle. The welcoming address was by President of AtypI, John D. Berry, and main Keynote speaker being Robert Bringhurst, delivering a poetic talk on the sociology of type design.
Friday’s session started with Professor Paul Stiff of University of Reading who’s talk discussed themes about typography in both historical and political contexts. After which I attending a talk by design historian, Wendy Williams on “Edible Words” and letterforms used in the branding of Jacob’s biscuits between 1900-1939 – and for very personal reasons as both my paternal Great Grandfather and Maternal Grandmother both had worked for the Jacobs’ company during their lives.
Wendy’s talk was to be the first of a number of localised Irish themed discussions throughout the weekend. I had noted this with a fellow delegate from Chicago, who had being attending AtypI conferences since the 1970′s and said that although usually the conference would usual be some what localised to the host country there seemed to be a greater bias this year on Irish type and themes.
The Irish theme continued with Linotype’s Dan Reynold’s paper on Victor Hammer and the development of Hammer Uncial and debunking the myth of Irishness in the development of the font – but also went on to discuss the working relationship that Hammer and Colm Ó Lochlainn had in the final development of Hammer Uncial.
Michael Everson’s talk was on the “Overlooked treasure of Ireland’s traditional type forms” in which he argued that historically, the Gaelic script has gone uncategorised and this has lead to confusion of understanding of the insular letterforms. Everson charts the development of the first Irish printing type developed at the request of Queen Elizabeth I, right up to the development of digital Gaelic fonts, in which he argues that only a hand full of type designers have been working in this field between 1988 and 2010. Everson highlighted my own work in designing the Uachtaráin Gaelic face as being of interest in this field. My personal feeling is it that the categorisation of Gaelic should be done, but if we do, it should be done for historical reasons as as a nation, we are never going re-adopt the script. But it’s important in the sense of being actually recognised as distinct from Latin and as designers being able to draw from the correct cultural references.
“Head to head on type nationalism” was an informal sofa-chat between Jean François Porchez and Ciaran O’Gaora in which both discussed the relationship and influence type has had on their work.
IADT’s Linda King continued the national theme, with a discussion on the development of the Aer Lingus brand identity between 1936 – 1996. Later on Friday evening the Irish theme was continued by James Mosley from the University of Reading with his discussion on The Types of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic – highlighting the authenticity of the original document and how imperfections in the type available at the time of printing makes this such a unique and historical document.
Friday’s Keynote address was delivered by Dr. Dermot McGuinne, formerly of DIT and now researcher in the National Print Museum. Entitled “A Roman Arrested in Time” the presentation examined the traditions of printing Irish language as distinct from the Roman character. The evening finished up with a reception and tour of the National Print Museum in Beggar’s Bush, in which many of the delegates had the opportunity to view, typeset and print on letterpress machines themselves!
Saturday’s session started early with Marian Bantjes giving an entertaining and witty talk on “Meaningful letters”, although she described herself as not being a type designer, it is clear that her work with letterforms is both beautiful and exceptional. The second talk on Saturday I had a chance to attend was Brenda Dermody and Teresa Breathnach’s seminar on Retro Type and Design – based on their successful book “New Retro: Classic Graphics, Today’s Designs” they describe how the relationships between graphic design, the conditions that surround it and the need to communicate leave it best placed to express the style of an era and how to keep these references authentic.
Later on, we were treated to a light hearted and entertaining exchange between Mathew Staunton and Hrant Papazian on the evolution of Armenian and Irish typography. Which was both surprising and good fun!
Hrant Papazian later moderated a discussion forum with Erik Spiekermann, Martin Majoor, David Berlow, Nina Stössinger, Fiona Ross and André Baldinger on “Managing multiplicity” in which the theme of individual creative process of type design was debated. Later, the theme of collaboration was discussed in further by Martin Majoor and Jos Buivenga where both renowned type designers treated us to a preview of their joint type design project called Questa.
Bas Jacobs, from Underware delivered one of the most curious talks of the weekend, themed on voluntary suffering. Featuring Underware’s latest publication “Book of war, mortification and love” by Ruud Linssen which is printed in the author’s blood!
Saturday’s Keynote speaker was Ellen Lupton who discussed the role of designer and typography and
authorship – Ms Lupton even managed to get a Jedward reference onto her talk and remain credible! Saturday ended with a reception for AtypI delegates in the Guinness Storehouse, which was a perfect opportunity to sit down have a pint, a chat and a laugh with both speakers and fellow delegates.
Needless to say, by Sunday morning, we were all tired! Fortunately, the morning started with a relaxed AGM in where a number of Special Interest Group were formed, including one to categorise the Gaelic face as proposed by Michael Everson. Seminars continued with Todd Childers, Associate Professor of Graphic Design, Bowling Green State University School of Art discussing the used of Dimensional Type in both printed, 3D and virtual forms. Later Pamela Bowman and Claire Lockwood from the Institute of Arts at Sheffield Hallam University discussed Typography and craft in Graphic Design education and how there has been and identified a shift in terms of student expectations and decision making around their educational choices.
AtypI was an intensive weekend of seminars, chatting, seminars, Guinness, chatting, laughing, joking, learning, drinking and socialising. The Irish contingent was well represented by speakers and delegates such as Mathew Staunton, Wendy Williams, Michael Everson, Brenda Dermody, Treasa Breanach, Ciaran O’Gara, Linda King, Dermot McGuinne, Dave Smith, Lisa Godson, Daragh O’Toole, John O’Connor, Hilary Kenna, Keiran Corcoran, Louise Reddy, John Greene, Mary-Ann and Bill Bolger, Ed McGinley, Conor Clark, Stephen Kavanagh, Ann Brady and of course Clare Bell. I’m sure there are a few I missed!
Anyone who was at AtypI or Preface would agree it was a great event and we owe our gratitude to Clare Bell, Mary-Ann Bolger and all those who worked behind the scenes to bring AtypI to Dublin.