Finally, it is time for (delayed) programming from Typography Day 2011. The reason it has taken so long for this post to happen is that I went to the conference camera-less and it is only recently that I managed to get photographs from Varghese.
Being a typography event stemming from India, it is only logical that cultural identities, multi-lingualism as well as multi-script typography and type design were the over-arching themes for the conference. The speakers, who came from across the world, all touched upon these subjects in one way or the other. To me, most of the presentations belonged to one of the following four tracks – type design; type and graphic design education; structural and three-dimensional typography; and revival and reform of scripts. This post, however, covers the first day’s keynote speech and industrial presentation, which fall in none of the tracks mentioned above.
Typography Day began with Prof. G. V. Sreekumar‘s keynote speech, which set the pace for all the talks that followed. He made a handful of jokes about Arial and its infamous ubiquity that got laughs all around, but more importantly he raised issues that should concern us all as graphic and type designers and typographers working for an Indian audience (One of those issues, of course, was the creation of rupee symbols to go with popular typefaces; something that I blogged about here). He spoke about the need for readying Indian scripts for newer media such as cell-phones, where the text input systems make it close to impossible to type in Indian scripts. He extended this concern also to computers, and laid emphasis on the importance of reforms which can lead to keyboard standardizations.
Another discussion he wished to initiate was regarding the economic viability of being a type designer. That took my thoughts back to this article on the Economist blog about Matthew Carter winning the MacArthur genius grant. The article read,
Mr Carter sits near the pinnacle of an elite profession. No more than several thousand type designers ply the trade worldwide, only a few hundred earn their keep by it, and only several dozens—most of them dead—have their names on the lips of discerning aficionados.
When I read the article, I couldn’t help but wonder if one of the reasons that there aren’t more designers who earn their keep by designing type (only) is because it is simply not possible. Most people do not think of typefaces as something that is designed. They think that fonts just magically appear on our operating systems, and this makes font piracy a non-issue for them.
The only other speaker who brought up this subject was Ted Harrison of FontLab, who was there for an industry presentation. He candidly admitted that the economic viability of type design as a profession is essential to him, his company and the products they offer. After all, if there were no type designers, who would buy FontLab? He was at Typography Day to discuss EPAR – Embedding Permissions and Recommendations. EPAR is a new Open Type table that will allow the designer to add an abstract of the EULA, a link to the full-sized one, as well as recommendations from the designer and the foundry on how best to use the font. This means that a font user will only have to query the font file to find out what they can and cannot do with the font. The hope is that this will make font users aware of the fact that fonts are also licensed software, which come with terms and conditions.
The next post from Typography Day will cover presentations that dealt with type design, especially in a script unfamiliar to the designer.