Typo London: see you next year?

Three days of top speakers from around the world playing to a (largely full) venue: in Typo London does the UK capital finally have the design conference it deserves?

Chip Kidd and Neville Brody at Typo London. Photo:Thorsten Wulff

Three days of top speakers from around the world playing to a (largely full) venue: in Typo London does the UK capital finally have the design conference it deserves?

Late on Saturday night, Chip Kidd rounded off the first Typo London conference with a manic Joker’s laugh, but it’s the organisers who should be happy after seemingly pulling off the immensely difficult task of staging a major design conference in London. This team has huge experience, gained from running Typo Berlin over so many years, but even they must have thought twice about running an event in London when co-organisers Tim Fendley and Robin Richmond proposed the idea.

Why is it so difficult? Primarily because London is a very expensive city to put an event on in. Venue hire, hotels, catering – everything is costly compared to many other European centres. And because things are so costly, the ticket prices have to be high: £650 full-price or £290 for students. That’s an awful lot of money to find, particularly these days and particularly given that most UK design businesses are very small operations without large training budgets. But even at that price, and with (I was told by one of the organisers) 800 delegates, Typo London may well lose money in its first year.

Nevertheless congratulations to all involved and let’s hope the event becomes a regular fixture. A word too for everyone who dug deep and bought a ticket: it’s a great tribute to the UK design industry that so many people cared so much for their professional development that they were prepared, in these much-straightened times, to make such an investment.

Did they get their money’s worth? From what we saw (CR dipped in and out over the three days, you can read Mark’s day one report here) and heard via Twitter (@typo11) the reaction’s been very positive. If you went, let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Matt Judge from Design Assembly has comprehensive coverage.

Michael Bierut. Photo: Gerhard Kassner

Themes/highlights? Personally I really enjoyed Tony Brook’s tongue-in-cheek thesis on Northerners in Graphic Design and It’s Nice That had a lot of interesting and intelligent things to say about design publishing. Michael Bierut, as ever, was witty and hugely entertaining and Jonathan Ellery drew some interesting comparisons between art and design as did Lawrence Wiener. I’m sorry to have missed Morag Myerscough as, by all reports, her talk was brilliant.

Morag Myerscough. Photo: Gerhard Kassner

Lawrence Weiner. Photo: Thorsten Wulff

Neville Brody closed things on Friday night. I’ve seen Brody talk a number of times and haven’t always enjoyed the experience but Friday was a vibrant mix of thought-provoking comment and visual treats. A Taschen book documenting Brody’s Fuse project is imminent and so he took the opportunity to run through some of its highlights. Beginning in 1991, Brody invested both his time and a great deal of his own money in this hugely ambitious experimental typographic project, producing both a regular publication and conference. Seeing the work again in his talk underlined just what an incredible array of exciting work Fuse produced as it probed the limits of what type design could engage with.

Neville Brody. Photo: Gerhard Kassner

Say what you like about Brody but he has always been prepared to invest a considerable portion of his time and his earnings back into projects that give others a platform to push the boundaries of his profession – whether Fuse or CD-Rom publishing or last year’s Anti-Design Festival. How many other design ‘stars’ have done likewise?

And now, of course, he is ‘putting something back’ by his involvement at the RCA and D&AD, where, next year, he will be president. Brody gave an intriguing hint of what that might mean by suggesting that he wanted future D&AD award winners to support the next generation. How might this work? Are entrants going to be asked to commit to some kind of educational involvement in order to receive their pencils if they win? Could be interesting.

Tom Uglow. Photo: Gerhard Kassner

As for themes, both Brody and Google’s Tom Uglow who preceded him on stage touched on the dominant one – data and what we might do with it in the future. Uglow urged us to remember that data is not spreadsheets – it’s everything we do. And now, of course, because we share so much of that and because we have the means to record it, that data is available and waiting for creative people to do interesting things with. Data visualisation has made a start but as Uglow and Brody and other speakers stressed, that’s just scratching the surface. As Brody said, we are not experiencing a ‘digital’ revolution, we are experiencing a revolution in knowledge, just one that is enabled digitally. And the outcome could be spectacular.



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