Last week, a few of us had the pleasure of attending TYPO SF the first TYPO conference in the United States. Our interns Will and Karen attended Day 2 and Karen had this to say about the experience, “it was such an awesome opportunity to be at TYPO SF, and it definitely boosted my weekend with great lessons from the speakers.” Below are some highlights from our tweets from Day 1, and summaries of the talks from Day 2:

Day 1:

Tina Roth Eisenberg
“Access to information is overrated. Access to each other is underrated.”

Kutlu Çanlioglu, Senior CD of BBC World Service
“It is our responsibility as designers to push the boundaries of technology… to allow us to be ambitious & deliberate with our typography.”

Khoi Vinh
“The most important time for designers to be involved in a product is all the time, especially after launch.”

Michael Bierut
“People actually like when you actually sell them back their old logo.”

Day 2 Morning: Karen

Jessica Hische
Jessica talked about ‘procrastiworking.’ “Procrastiworking is a concept that suggests what we are doing now could end up being what we will be doing for the rest of our lives. What motivates us and what we enjoy the most will likely turn out to be the best career choices.” Another great perspective from Jessica is that she suggested students should show projects that they enjoyed making the most in their portfolio, because they will gradually get better execution skills, but portfolios can represent where a person’s heart leans rather than merely showing what a person is good at.

John D. Berry
John taught a great way to use design and typography to solve design jobs that lack budget. John mentioned that, “juxtaposing contrast, and initiating typography hierarchy to organize information are some examples of great ways to bring interest. Also that a “Kinkos cheap black and white poster is always a designer’s best friend.”

LUST (Thomas Castro)
LUST inspired me with their work called the “Digital Anthropology” — connected humans becoming part of the digital sector. We in the digital world generate new types of infographics in living spaces. Codes and data are no longer being ignored by the public, because they are important for tracking, recording, and bringing people together, as well as promoting interaction and contribution towards each other. Even a basic daily object could become an important piece of information in our daily life.

Day 2 Afternoon: Will

Thomas Phinney
Lastly, endlessly interesting stories from Thomas Phinney, the typography Sherlock Holmes. Phinney believes there’s nothing better than being able to help and benefit society. He uses knowledge of typography to help investigate court cases, bringing justice back to people. One short example Thomas gave to the lecture was a case where a legal document needed to meet the requirement of the font size wiof twelve point, and thomas had to find out whether a high condensed font meets the requirement or not. Phinney had to explain to the court “unfortunately there is nothing you can physically measure about print output that directly corresponds into point size for digital type” and “a classic case was when Mac OS 10.2 upgraded to 10.3, and Apple took one of their Keynote fonts, and blew it up three times at the same point size, because they decided to scale it so it would look kind of tiny.” Phinney later found the original font and measured the size with print outs of the original font to solve the case. In the end, Phinney gave a suggestion to us: pay attention to what fonts we use, paper, inks, and printing methods, because every little detail brings evidence of what you are trying to do.

Morag Myerscough
Morag travelled from the UK to share her brilliantly colorful and playfully designed public spaces. Her work can be seen in the corporate and education sectors primarily, and her most relevant work to the San Francisco design community is her designs for the interior spaces of the Zynga offices. She gave a fairly conventional lecture, chronologically discussing recent projects she has worked on. Morag even admitted up front, “There’s not a lot of depth in my work really. I just like doing things.” Despite not having a clear message to impart on the audience, there was plenty to take away from Morag’s talk. Interestingly, as a rule, she still builds a physical model of every space she designs in a bit of an Eames-esque fashion, and she also insists on meeting every client in person, travelling as far as Burma to do so. I was struck by the sheer volume of work she presented, and when questioned about this after her lecture she replied with, “Yes, I do work every single hour of every single day.” Her fervent dedication to her work and design ideals made it obvious by the end of her lecture that through color and type, even the most mundane of public spaces can be transformed into engaging, communal, and social areas that people will be proud to spend their time in.

Michael B. Johnson
Michael is a pre production engineer currently working at Pixar. His talk was primarily a love letter to the collaborative process, and despite coming from a film background, I believe most of what he said is relevant to all creative fields. He began by explaining that, “Movies are intensely collaborative enterprises,” and that Pixar is driven by a “Best-idea-wins culture.” Michael explained that drawing is vitally important to Pixar’s process, and that when it comes to ideas, until you get them out of your head you can’t know how to improve and change them. He also explained that in order to have success in a studio environment you need people who you are comfortable baring your soul to, people you can trust and get honest feedback from. It was fascinating to learn that Pixar works on a single film for an average of 4-7 years, and that the final storyboard for WALL-E was 14,000 frames. Clearly work so detailed could not be done without teamwork, and Michael ended by giving three practical tips on how to give constructive criticism: (1.) Point out a problem (2.) Propose a solution to the problem, and (3.) Give criticism when it can still be used.

Neville Brody
Brody took the stage casually sipping on a soda, and proceeded to give an untitled talk on typography as art, the 20 years of his magazine, Fuse, the state of design education and his recent appointment as the dean of the Royal College of Art in London, and the state of the design industry in general. He began by stating that he believes that design is quite political, no matter what you think, and as the world starts to look the same everywhere he’s becoming more interested in seeing if we can push type and visuals to the edge of legibility while still having a meaningful discussion. He provided many thoughts on typography, stating that he believes, “typography can be poetic.” In recent times he explained that he’s been interested in escaping the highly engineered and gridded digital systems that typography lives within on the web, and has enjoyed returning to the magazine page, where the only grid he uses is the edge of the page. Brody believes that type can be arranged compositionally on a page in a way that it most closely resembles a painting, and he’s interested in seeing this translated over into our web spaces. Brody explained that he believes type can live fluidly within a responsive digital space. Brody touched briefly on design education at the Royal College of Art, saying that he is trying to treat art school as a laboratory, and that he believes art schools are places where great brains should be made. He is allowing students to create and design their own classes and modules to fit their interests, which he said are surprisingly political. When it came to the graphic design industry, Brody said that he believes studios today are too focused on producing slick commerciality, and that they are no longer playful, risk-taking, and graceful. He believes that too often studios are afraid to take risks because they are worried about losing their clients or upsetting somebody. He finished by saying that in today’s post-disciplinary design culture, the designers who connect with society and other skill sets outside of the design world will be the people creating the most meaningful and exciting work.

Mike Monteiro
Monteiro, widely known for his “Fuck You, Pay Me” talk, rounded off the evening with a humorous and insightful discussion about how little clients understand about the design process, and why this is completely the fault of the design industry. He began by discussing how people in every industry seem to have no empathy for their clients, and that designers especially don’t seem to realize that clients aren’t involved in the design process on a daily basis. He advised that everyone in the design industry take a moment to step into their clients’ less stylish shoes, and realize that they are just customers who want to buy some design, the same way you may walk into a bike shop with a handful of cash and just want to leave with a bike. I became even more engaged in his talk when he said that designers shouldn’t accept a job just because it shows up. He believes if you know you’re not a good fit for the job that you should not waste the client’s time, and refer them on to someone else. He also believes that RFP’s are a client’s way of telling you they’re scared, and that an RFP is nothing more than a cover-your-ass move on their part. He believes design studios should not fill out RFP’s, and that everyone needs to get away from the script and just get to know each other. He advised that a client should never tell you how to do your job, and that it is critical that the client knows you are confident enough to not let them screw up and make uneducated design decisions. He closed out the evening by reminding everyone that clients aren’t born good clients, and that the only thing designers can do is roll up their sleeves, practice their craft, and realize that everything that is wrong is our fault.


  • Thanks for the highlights. I wasn’t there but caught a few tweets during the event. Was hoping for a followup like this. Much appreciated.