Seven Days in Warsaw - An ATypIcal Adventure

Jason Pamental // September 2016

I got home last night from spending a week in Warsaw, Poland at the ATypI conference: the annual gathering of the Association Typographique Internationale. I taught a new workshop on Responsive Typography there, and stayed on through the rest of the conference. Being a) not a type designer and b) mainly a web geek rendered me a bit of an outlier, but ultimately I think that’s what made it such a memorable week. As soon-to-be-retiring head of the Adobe Type Team David Lemon put it: “there aren’t a lot of jerks in this business” — and that was indeed my experience throughout the event.

Stunning Polish poster designs of the 20’s, from Deputy Director of the National Museum Piotr Rypson’s talk of ‘Polish Characters’

My goal is to write something each day this week about particular developments and experiences. There were some pretty big ones: the release of OpenType 1.8 and the concept of ‘variable fonts’ (also written up beautifully by Typekit’s Tim Brown on the Typekit blog), DJR’s release of Forma DJR, a panel discussion of ‘growing the pie’ that included broad representation from the type industry, new tools for font creation and optimization (from FontLabPrototypo and others), a screening of an in-progress documentary called Graphic Meansabout the evolution of type-making and typography over the past decades by Briar Levit, the need for (or irrelevance of) knowing the language for which you’re designing, and the conflagration of historical events that were the real culprits behind the demise of America’s rich history of wood type, punchcutting as a profession, and indeed dozens if not hundreds of written languages themselves.

Some really gorgeous lettering lit large at the Neon Museum

This isn’t to say that I saw nothing of Warsaw during the week: I did take some time to go explore the Poster Museum, the Old City and the hip creative industry park that contains the Neon Museum. And a few bars. Those type designers can drink. Great food, great beer, great conversation: powerful drivers for too many late nights that might have contributed to missing a couple talks I really wanted to see on the last day. Thankfully the videos are appearing quickly on YouTube. They’re not all there yet, but more are forthcoming.

What was truly the best thing to come from the week for me though was, as Saul Kaplan loves to put it: the random collisions of unusual suspects. Coffee, drinks, lunches, dinners: I found myself talking with people from Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Google — all of whom are deeply committed to type on the web as much as anywhere else; type designers I’ve known through their creations but never in person; and many whom I’ve known and spoken with online but never (or rarely) in person.

For now I’ll just raise my new Type Network mug to new friends, better friends, and fans of type and typography alike!

Read more:

Part 2: ATypIcal Leanings


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