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Piotr Rypson delivering the ATypI Warsaw 2016 keynote speech at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Photo by Anastasia Buialo. All photos copyright and courtesy of ATypI.

ATypI Warsaw 2016, Day 2, Part II: The Polish character

The second half of Day 2 made one thing abundantly clear: the new business track is a vital addition to the ATypI program, and needs to be held in bigger rooms to accommodate demand.

The ATypI crowd in the bookstore at the Academy of Fine Arts, before the opening keynote. Photo by Maciek Sobczak.

The second half of the first day of presentations was unfortunately marred by problems with the catering. Many attendees were stuck in a queue going down the stairs for quite a long while, only to discover that there was nothing left by the time they arrived at the food table. The local organization and the caterer scrambled to prepare more, but when replenishments arrived, the afternoon sessions were beginning. This is the reason I missed the very first part of Toshi Omagari’s presentation.

Toshi Omagari showcases BubbleKern, an alternative kerning method based on character shapes. Photo by Anastasia Buialo.

In our onstage interview with Jürgen Siebert during the wrap-up of TYPO Labs last spring, Nina Stössinger, my co-moderator at the event, said she could not wait for characters to break free from the constraints of the rectangle. BubbleKern, developed by Toshi Omagari, could very well be the first tentative step in that direction. To provide context, Omagari gave an overview of the legacy kerning systems found in metal and wood type before moving on to graphical kerning strategies for digital systems that hinted at his solution.

Omigari’s live demo in Glyphs illustrated how the BubbleKern extension automatically generates an extra layer with a ‘bubble’ around each glyph. This path converts to horizontal bands, 20 units in height, defining the minimum distance to the adjacent glyphs. Through a combination of clever rules for exceptions and manual editing, a very good approximation of the best possible kerning can be achieved, making the final (manual) kerning far less time-consuming. Amusing fact—to inject some fun into the kerning process, Omagari uses a modified XBox controller, complete with a special Konami code that erases all kerning.

The new business track at ATypI Warsaw 2016 was bursting at the seams. Photo by Maciek Sobczak.

After watching some of the tech track sessions, it was time to move on to the business of business. I was stopped at the doors of the business track venue by volunteers who warned me that the (smaller) room was completely full, and to allow any more people in would be a liability. This proves that the brand new track, initiated after Indra Kupferschmid’s excellent precursor presented last year in São Paulo, is vital to our industry. Which makes sense, because ensuring that type designers earn a decent income is the best guarantee that they will continue producing beautiful, useful digital typefaces that are in sync with the times while addressing the requirements of ever-evolving media. I got lucky—some people left after Bruno Maag’s Earning a Living, and I found a tiny space on the floor. Unfortunately, there was so little room, that I really couldn’t take notes.

After explaining what Fontstand is and charting the service‘s evolution since it launched in May of last year, Andrej Kratky stressed the differences between their model and the subscription schemes offered by major distributors in Creating a Platform for Type Foundries. Fontstand’s model of charging a monthly rental fee of 10% of the cost of a perpetual font license makes using new type more affordable for casual users, who may only need a font for a short period of time. This model also makes it easier for professional users to budget expenses, as it spreads the cost of a font license out over time. Both end users and type designers gain from initiatives like Fontstand, which are beneficial for the type industry as they diversify its ecosystem.

Just like last year, the Industry Update from Google’s David Kuettel, Monotype’s Theo Skye, and Adobe’s Christopher Slye mapped the current state of the font business and web fonts in particular. The main thing that stuck with me was this: what if Google could pay even a fraction of a cent to typeface designers each time their Google font was served?

David Jonathan Ross wearing a Gimlet T-shirt. Photo by Kaja Słojewska.

At the beginning of his talk, The Price is Right!, Type Network foundry partner David Jonathan Ross noted that he recently had the opportunity to rethink the pricing structure for his entire DJR type library. While the ‘old’ Font Bureau had simple, straightforward pricing across its website, the new Type Network allows designers to individually set their own prices.

Ross’ font family Input marked a turning point, as it was targeted toward programmers, not designers. Input’s intended audience demanded a different kind of licensing—he made the typeface a free download for private use within code editors, while asking a reasonable price for all other license types. Similarly, Ross offers his spectacular Bungee for free, as the innovative typeface was sponsored by Google Fonts and Font Bureau, and is now available under the SIL Open Font License (OFL) The licensing of DJR typefaces is now tailored to the font families. Ross neatly summed up his rationale, saying, “it’s all about whose eyeballs are looking at the font.”

Joyce Ketterer delved into the complex topic of End User License Agreements in Why Don’t EULA’ve Me?. In her capacity as CEO at Darden Studio, she is responsible for enforcing the EULA, with success—in the 20 or so cases from the past four years where parties infringed on Darden’s EULA, most decided to continue the use of the fonts and paid license fees that were far superior to what was required by settlement.

Ketterer reminded us that most EULAs are really dry and annoying to read. This is incompatible with the fact that this vital document is the greatest expression of any foundry’s values. Foundries need to see the potential of the EULA as a sales tool that can help convert violations into sales. The truth is that the majority of violators were not bad actors, but merely sloppy actors who didn’t necessarily set out to do wrong. With this in mind, the surprising conclusion was that EULAs must be written for the retroactive reader, with comprehensible clauses that make sense, because they are primarily reviewed after the infringement has already happened. I can only commend Ketterer and Darden Studio for their level-headed and empathetic approach, which clearly works well for them and their customers.

Picking up the thread after Ketterer, Type Network collaborator CJ Dunn made A Proposal for a Common EULA. Despite his hilarious slides that featured unlicensed use of schmalzy stock photos, Dunn was quite serious about his call for improving EULAs. While looking to create a structure that could be helpful, he came up with the idea of creating a website for making EULAs. A hands-on person, Dunn argued that it’s better to first build something and then have a conversation on how to improve it. His EULA Builder is a working prototype consisting of modular blocks that can be assembled into a EULA by using options, pull-down menus, etc. The project is open for collaboration, including opportunities for translation for localized EULAs.

The informative and frankly excellent business track ended with a few five-minute presentations. Vinod Balakrishnan, a senior computer scientist at Adobe, and Adobe Type designer Miguel Sousa announced OT-SVG support in Adobe Photoshop CC, showcased color fonts, and demonstrated on-canvas selection of alternates. BUAP lecturer Jesús Barrientos Mora sent out a call to open up internship positions for type design students in order to remove Mexican type design from the amateur and hobbyist sphere. Finally, Typographics co-organizer Roger Black introduced Type Network as the natural evolution of Font Bureau. Now that Kontour has joined as the first ‘outsider’ foundry, Black invited other foundries interested in joining to get in touch.

Piotr Rypson showing iconic Polish avant garde typography from the interwar period. Photo by Maciek Sobczak.

After the very intense Forum Day, the ATypI audience broke for dinner, then reconvened in the new building of the Academy of Fine Arts (ASP), where we were welcomed by Professor Lech Majewski and Marek Knap. A brief history of the Academy preceded the opening keynote speech by Piotr Rypson, who talked about The Polish Character (The Polish Letter, as it was titled in the program, stripped the double meaning from the original). In his hour-long exposé, Rypson traced Polish typography and design from its roots to modern times.

Starting with the earliest examples of Polish printing at the dawn of the Modern era, back when the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was the largest country in Europe, Rypson touched upon iconic typefaces like the Antykwa Półtawski—the first original Polish type family—and the avant garde experiments of Władysław Strzemiński. Rypson showed countless examples of Polish design from all eras and art movements, dwelling on the legendary Polish School of Posters, and ended in 1981 with Jerzy Janiszewski’s iconic logo for Solidarność. Rypson’s keynote was an excellent introduction to the Polish character, and a great start for the conference proper.

The ATypI Warsaw Reports

Bald Condensed, né Yves Peters, is a Belgian-based rock drummer known for his astute observations on the impact of letterforms in the contemporary culture-sphere. A prolific writer on typography, he has a singular knack for identifying the most obscure typefaces known to man.