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Eskapades in Typography

Dutch designers Autobahn, Jos Buivenga, Martin Majoor and Typeradio were invited to speak at the typography symposium 33pt. Eskapade held recently in Dortmund.

By Katie Dominy / 16-04-2009

33pt. Eskapade took place 3-4 April at the Design Department of the University of Applied Science and Arts in Dortmund.

Organised completely by 4th year design students, the lectures were free and open to all. The symposium’s aim was to explore different perspectives in language, fonts and typography. Twelve designers were invited to lecture, including four from the Netherlands: Autobahn, Jos Buivenga, Martin Majoor and Typeradio. The Internet radio station Typeradio came to Dortmund in the form of Donald Beekman and Lisa Enebeis, who interviewed a selection of the speakers.

The symposium’s theme was Eskapade and Design.nl asked Autobahn, Jos Buivenga and Donald Beekman of Typeradio how they had each interpreted Eskapade in their lecture.

Autobahn was founded in 2005 by Maarten Dullemeijer, Rob Stolte and Jeroen Breen. Utrecht-based, the trio is drawn towards the experimental side of typography, even employing unconventional materials such as ketchup or toothpaste to accomplish the task. Rob Stolte of Autobahn tells us, “We decided to do a new typography project especially for the symposium. Called 'Von A nach Z', it's a typeface of 26 letters showing our journey by night from Utrecht to Dortmund. On the front of the windscreen of our car, we fixed garbage bags with cut-out letters. On the passenger's seat was a camera filming through the letters. The distance from Utrecht to Dortmund is 208 km. So to get 26 characters we had to stop every 8 km to change the letter on the windscreen. Working with motion in our letter designs was a new experiment for us and we now have to decide if we are going to create a .ttf font (TrueType font for computers) out of this or just leave it as an autonomous project.”

Jos Buivenga began his studies at the Academy of Arts Arnhem, developing his first font "Delicious" in 1994. Although his primary occupation is art director at an advertising agency, he still continues to design fonts, putting them online for free downloading. His most famous fonts are Anivers, Delicious and Museo. Jos Buivenga says “The Eskapade theme really appealed to me because I’ve always regarded my type design activities as a kind of side leap to escape the “appliedness” of my day time job as an art director. I somehow need a way to be able to express myself. It sounds a bit contradictive when related to type design, but until now I have always been able to do my own thing with type and every typeface I worked on was a great journey and I could really lose myself in a creative process. And, for me, that is what counts. So, for me it really is an escape. Not from but to reality.”

Donald Beekman of Typeradio studied graphic and audiovisual design at Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam and runs his own graphic and music studio called DBXL in Amsterdam. Donald Beekman explains, “We went over the Typeradio archive of interviews to see in what way our questions or the answers given would touch upon the Escapade theme. For instance questions like 'Do you have hobbies?’ ‘How do you relax?’ or ‘Do you have rituals?’ lead to sometimes surprising answers about escaping. In our presentation we briefly explained Typeradio and presented the sound fragments to the audience. We thought it would be a nice escapade in itself, after two days of mainly visual presentations, to have a presentation in complete darkness. This worked quite well, we were told afterwards. A lot of the audience said they had closed their eyes during the presentation.”

And the best parts of the symposium?

Jos Buivenga “I liked the diversity of speakers all linked to typography in different ways. Best parts for me were the fact that special attention was given to typography and the very, very enthusiastic students and teachers that made Eskapade possible.”

Rob Stolte, “There was an interesting mix of knowledge and inspiration. The collection of speakers ranged from hardcore letter designers such as Martin Majoor (known for his Scala font) and Jos Buivenga (Museo), Meek and Müller who combine typography with audio, through to the visual violence of Icelandic designer Siggi Eggertsson."

“Martin Majoor is serious about his work, but doesn't take himself too seriously, questioning typographical dogmas, such as saying that you can never create a serif letter from a sans serif (Majoor was one of the first to create a sans letter from a serif (with Scala)) or that it is blasphemy to create a slanted letter from your regular version (the 'a' of an italic should be a different 'a' than that of the regular version), which was exactly what Jos Buivenga told us in his lecture the next day that he had done to his font. A feud between the Arnhemmers?”

Stolte continues, “Siggi Eggertsson went further than knowledge and inspiration; his lecture was pure entertainment. He solved his fear of speaking to the general public by creating Lawrence, a purchased computer voice. The computer voice read his entire speech. Lawrence was a computer on LSD that didn't know right from wrong. He cited complete kerning codes for letters and finally deviated from the topic of typography and graphic design."

Donald Beekman comments, “The atmosphere was very laidback; yet everybody involved was driven and interested by typography and design. Alas, we didn’t get to see many presentations, as we were in a room interviewing all the speakers. Those interviews will be used as content for a book that will be compiled, edited and designed by the students as their graduation project. That makes it even more worthwhile.”

Image 1, Photography Philipp Külker

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