Monday, May 31, 2010

The annual European design conference TypoBerlin is possibly the largest, most organized and consistently interesting conferences I have ever been to. Along with type/design legends such as Jonathan Barnbrook, Carlos Segura, Erik Spiekermann, Rich Roat of House Industries and many other talented friends and associates, this years conference also featured the King of Ghana and Erik Kessels of the brilliant advertising firm KesselsKramer whose Hans Brinker Hotel Campaigns prove that truth in advertising can work even if the product is awful.
Avoiding any link between that last sentence and this next one...
I was given the opportunity to screen a working version of the Making Faces film at TypoBerlin on May 22. This was the first time more than a small clip has been shown in public. A 30 minute version of the film was prepared for this presentation with the assistance of Mark Abney of Splice Here. Since each 'chapter' is one step in the process of making the metal type, due to time limitations, a couple steps were not shown at all. Feedback from audience members after the screening was very helpful and additional assistance in translating for subtitles was enlisted. Considering much of the technical terminology used related to typecasting and printing is somewhat specialized and not in common use, additional support material even in English may also be needed.

In general, from what I could gather in spending a few extra days in Berlin, the phenomenon of letterpress revival occurring the North America is not yet at the same level in Europe. European associates have had photopolymer letterpress cards made in the US while in central Berlin one can find a job printer who will set your name and inexpensively print cards using hard to find DDR era typefaces without much fanfare. Schools seem to have little interest in integrating letterpress into design/art curriculum. Finding metal fonts at a Berlin flea market proved to be only moderately inconvenient to bring home in carry on luggage. Erik Spiekermann consistently refers to his love of letterpress printing in most of his talks I have seen in recent years, but he is an exception among high profile designers. Perhaps it was just the small survey that left me with this impression that letterpress is still considered mostly an archaic craft that contemporary European designers do not embrace as much as in North America, but there are signs that it will become more alluring to a new generation of designer/printers.

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