8 reasons
to visit ATypI Prague 2004

Text: Adam Twardoch
Photos: Jill Bell, Lubomir Fuxa, Frank Jonen and Joachim Müller-Lancé

1. World-class content

Each year, ATypI meets in a different city of the world. The program content is being developed by talented local typographers who do their best in combining program elements that showcase typographic developments in the local country and worldwide.

Robert Bringhurst, keynote speaker in Vancouver 2003. Photo by Frank Jonen. Gerard Unger presenting in Vancouver 2003. Photo by Frank Jonen.

ATypI conferences are proud to have the best speakers in the (typographic) world, either for typography, comedy, history, moral (e.g. code), moral-comical, historical-moral, typographic-historical, typographic-comical-historical-moral, speech individable, or panel unlimited: Morrison cannot be too heavy, nor Tschichold too light. For the law of writ and the typography, these are the only men (and women). An ATypI conference is worth visiting just because of the program – but wait, there’s more...

2. Great exhibitions

In addition to presentations and workshops, each ATypI conference features excellent exhibitions of typographic art. The ATypI Prague 2004 conference, for example, hosts an ambitious exhibition of the type designs of Matthew Carter. The Master himself gives guided tours through the exhibition. A certain conference visitor gladly exhibits himself and has already gained the nickname “the exhibitionist”. What would you want more?

ATypI exhibitions sign painted by John Downer, Vancouver 2003. Photo by Frank Jonen. ATypI exhibition, Copenhagen 2001. Photo by Joachim Müller-Lancé.

3. Hands-on experience (that may be useful in your household)

ATypI conferences include workshops that give you the chance to gain practical experience. At the Vancouver 2003 conference, Dann Carr gave a punchcutting workshop. Conference visitors had a chance to work with the same tools that punchcutters used for centuries to make matrices for casting metal fonts.

Dan Carr's punchcutting workshop, Vancouver 2003. Photo by Frank Jonen. Chloe Seo at Dan Carr's workshop, Vancouver 2003. Photo by Frank Jonen.

Chloe Seo at Dan Carr's workshop, Vancouver 2003. Photo by Laurence Penney. Chloe Seo at Dan Carr's workshop, Vancouver 2003. Photo by Frank Jonen.

The program of an ATypI conference often includes workshops or presentations on using font creation software to make digital fonts, but also on calligraphy, stonecutting, punchcutting or signpainting. Even though many of these skills may no longer be required today, such experience can help you get closer to the essence of typography and type design. It can also work as a party gag!

4. Madness in great ones must not unwatched go

Neither must they. But normally, they do go unwatched. Roger Black drives his car through his ranch in Texas, Matthew Carter hides away on churchyards where he is contemplating the fragility of human life and the persistence of gravestone inscriptions, Sumner Stone spends most of his time growing walnuts on his Alphabet Farm in Northern California, and Erik Spiekermann switches planes at Heathrow, going from San Francisco to Madrid or from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro.

Roger Black, Rome 2002. Photo by Jill Bell. Matthew Carter and Rick Cusick, Rome 2002. Photo by Jill Bell.
Sumner Stone and Jean F Porchez, Rome 2002. Photo by Jill Bell. Erik Spiekermann, Rome 2002. Photo by Jill Bell.

But they’re all there at ATypI. Perhaps not all of them each year – every now and then one of the great ones stays at home to work on a new typeface. You can say “Hello,” meet one of your idols face-to-face, perhaps show him samples of your work. If it’s crappy, one of them may say “I’m not a good judge of the commercial potential of type designs,” while another may tell you “It’s crappy.” But probably each of them will add, “You’re on the right way, just keep on doing what you’re doing.”

5. You start early...

The coffee and lunch breaks are not just filling gaps between the speeches and presentations. They are an occasion to gather, chat about the program content, exchange some gossip. And enjoy the (food and) drinks prepared by the organizers – whether it’s hectolitres of coffee, water, beer, or wine. At ATypI Vancouver 2003, the conference organizers were particularly generous in serving beer and wine just before the ATypI Auction – their strategy seemed to have worked out since the financial outcome of that traditional event had never been better.

Before the break, Copenhagen 2001. Photo by Joachim Müller-Lancé. After the break, Vancouver 2003. Photo by Frank Jonen.

6. Gala Dinner, not to be confused with a Garlic Diner

On one of the evenings, ATypI usually hosts a Gala Dinner, a semi-official reception where the delegates can enjoy the great local cuisine and fine beverages. It is a great opportunity to relax after a busy day, and often is just a prelude to a long night...

Eileen Gunn and John D. Berry at the Gala Dinner, Rome 2002. Photo by Jill Bell. David Lemon, Gary Munch and Ross Mills at the Gala Dinner, Vancouver 2003. Photo by Frank Jonen.
Delegates at the Gala Dinner, Vancouver 2003. Photo by Frank Jonen. Silke and Luc(as) de Groot at the Gala Dinner, Rome 2002. Photo by Jill Bell.

7. ...and you finish late!

An ATypI conference usually goes for 3–4 days, after which most of the visitors are completely exhausted. This is due to the fact that the official program, the lectures, presentations, workshops etc. only make up for the half of the content. That is, for the daily content. But the nightly content is just as important. Clubs, bars, crowded hotel rooms, friends, late hours... Remember: before coming to ATypI, make sure that you get plenty of sleep for a week or so!

ATypI by night, Vancouver 2003. Photo by Frank Jonen. Tony de Marco. ATypI by night, Vancouver 2003. Photo by Frank Jonen.

8. Not just a spot on the map

For each delegate, with every ATypI conference, one of the cities of the world ceases being just a spot on the map. Whether it’s the famous Trajan column in Rome, which every typographer should see at least once, or it’s Luc(as) de Groot’s “Trabbi” parked outside of the Konsum building where the Leipzig conference took place, or whether it’s the panorama of Vancouver seen from the Stanley Park, or perhaps it’s a few of Prague’s alleged one hundred spires – every ATypI conference location is unique and fascinating.

Trajan column, photographed in Rome 2002. Luc(as) de Groot’s “Trabbi” in front of the Konsum building where the Leipzig 2000 took place. Photo by Joachim Müller-Lancé.
City panorama from the Stanley Park, Vancouver 2003. Photo by Frank Jonen. Some of Prague’s one hundred spires, Prague 2004. Photo by Lubomir Fuxa.

I see you’re convinced now.
ATypI Prague 2004 registration is open!

Photos: Copyright © by Jill Bell, Lubomir Fuxa, Frank Jonen, Joachim Müller-Lancé and Laurence Penney.