Design Desk

7 Things We Learned at TYPO SF

In April, Chronicle’s Design Department spent two days soaking in inspiration at TYPO SF, an international design conference at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in downtown San Francisco. It was a chance for us to refuel and get inspired, and it didn’t disappoint. Keep reading for seven things we learned at TYPO SF, including some of our favorite moments from the conference.
Chronicle design dept at TYPO SFChronicle’s design team, ready for the first speaker!

1. JUST MAKE IT.
There was a point in René Knip‘s lecture when he spoke about choosing a typeface for a project. He would search and search (as design professionals do), and if he didn’t find what he needed, he would, in his words—just make it. Sounds simple. But it showed so much ingenuity, while adding a very personal touch to all of his work.
—Ryan

René Knipenvironmental graphics by René Knip via arktype.nl

2. LIVE OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE.
One of my favorite speakers at TYPO was longtime Chronicle collaborator Lisa Congdon. Lisa talked about her career with honesty and humility. She spoke about feeling like an “impostor” in the art world, bringing to light an insecurity that most designers and artists share. One of her key points was “risk leads to great things.” I walked away from Lisa’s talk feeling inspired to go out and create what I love, with the reminder that the only one keeping me inside an “impostor” box is myself. Thank you, Lisa!
—Meghan

Lisa Congdon
illustration by Lisa Congdon, from her newly released book Whatever You Are, Be a Good One

3. EMBRACE MULTIPLICITY
Hands down, the person whom I thought best personified the spirit, or “rhythm” as the TYPO conference billed itself, was the Dutch designer René Knip. Far from dogmatic, Knip informed and entertained us as to the derivation of his myriad fonts, many of which found their way into the Dutch environment including signage, railings, light poles, fire baskets, clocks and furniture. And yet among these diverse applications of his typographic art there was a connective tissue, one that celebrated his appreciation for historic fonts and their robust architecture. For me, he represented a multidisciplinary approach to design, one not tied down to the page but rather alive in three dimensions and a multiplicity of materials.
—Michael

René Knip
3D typography by René Knip via arktype.nl

4. DO GOOD WORK FOR GOOD PEOPLE.
I loved the authenticity, sincerity, and humor from Aaron James Draplin. He communicated more than just good design. He focused on the bigger picture—of life, family and connection. He was the perfect ending to an inspired conference. (And he turned me on to Tame Impala—a psychedelic rock band from Australia.)
—Vanessa

Aaron James Draplin
Aaron James Draplin; photo by Amber Gregory via typotalks.com

5. LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES.
A highlight for me was the interview with Victor Moscoso, the iconic designer best known for his contributions to the psychedelic aesthetic of the ’60s and ’70s. He was so humble and such a charming character! His perfect one-liners had the whole audience alternately laughing and inspired. Here are a few that I scribbled down. (Imagine in an old-school Brooklyn accent):
“You’ll learn more from your failures than you ever will from your successes. A success just means you guessed right. With your failures—if you wanna be good—you gotta study what you did wrong . . . and that’s hard!“
“White space?! Get outta here, Bauhaus. You can fill that up with art!”
“Drawing while you’re on acid is like trying to draw while you’re falling down the stairs.” (when asked whether psychedelic drugs ever figured into his work process.)
—Emily

Victor Moscoso
Victor Moscoso; photo by Amber Gregory via typotalks.com

6. WE’D LIKE TO HATE RENÉ KNIP BUT WE CAN’T.
I loved René Knip. At first I really wanted to hate the guy—he started of his presentation showing of pics of his idyllic life: his hundreds-of-years-old converted live/work barn, his private lake and sailboat, his beautiful wife and son, and on and on. But then he started showing his amazing work: handmade typography, 3-dimensional, with incredible breadth of materials, scale, and imagination. Man, this guy is wildly talented. He also seemed really sincere and authentic, and I started to really warm up to him. Then I decided someone of such outrageous talents was deserving of such an amazing life, and in fact it’s probably the source of his fuel and inspiration, so yay for René!
—Amelia

René Knip
architectural letter by René Knip via arktype.nl

7. YOU ARE MORE THAN YOUR WORK.
Lisa Congdon shared more than just her beautiful work. She stressed the importance of humanity. A great quote that I jotted down:
“Define yourself by your humanity, not your achievement, failures, or mistakes.”
—Vanessa

Lisa Congdon
illustration by Lisa Congdon, from Whatever You Are, Be a Good One

top image: 3D typography by René Knip via arktype.nl

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