At the scene: TYPO San Francisco 2014 — Day 1

Published:  April 14, 2014

Image: René Knip

TYPOtalks is the premiere typography event of TYPO San Francisco 2014, a two-day conference with an emphasis on design, society, culture and kerning, and one of Europe’s most successful design events. This year, TYPOtalks focused its speakers with the theme “Rhythm”, exploring the cadence of the creative process, the underlying tempo of inspiration and the beats of the design experience, over April 10 & 11, 2014.

Reported from San Fransico by Lisa Loxley, here are the highlights from the first day of talks, which inspired students and designers alike, reigniting and encouraging the passion for design and type in our everyday world. Stay tuned for day two, published tomorrow.

Do we write to remember something, or do we write just to get it down? — Gemma O’Brien

Sydney-based typographer Gemma O’Brien (aka Mrs Eaves) is “crafting authenticity” through the use of words and vivid illustrations. She questioned, “What role does the author have in authenticity?”, and says, “Typography is the vessel to aspirations in life”.

Gemma O’Brien at TYPE SF. Photo by Lisa Loxley

The traditional rules of typography go out the window with some of her newest work – she reports that the ‘incorrect stroke’ of letter irregularity is fast becoming the ‘stroke of trend’. With a demand for age-old techniques such as calligraphy, letterpress and the hand type movement, it’s not wonder to see why O’Brien is in demand. Her practice is one focussed on process and rhythm, refining each stroke over and over again.

Current commercial and personal projects for O’Brien include; Ambassador Artist for the lifestyle and street culture fashion brand Volcom, a solo show in conjunction with representative Jacky Winter group later this year and a trip to Rome will see her complete a Masters of Typography.

O’Brien’s recent type work for Volcom

“We create. We contribute to the world” — Maria Popova

New York-based curator and blogger of the popular Brainpickings site, Maria Popova delivered her keynote on The Science of Productivity and the Art of Presence.

Her study on the sleep patterns and daily routines of over 37 writers queried whether the time you wake and rise dictated the rest of your day. Asking “Is there better density of an early riser? and ‘Do later rises create more work than early rises?’, she delved into the meaning of work life balance and the delicate osmosis between life and productivity. Her conclusion was there is no golden hour to creative superiority and not to “mistake the doing for the being”.

Brainpicking’s research into sleep’s impact on success

The Dutch letter man, René Knip.

Beginning his career as a graphic designer, René Knip’s passion for type led him to environmental design. From the days of dry etchings and 80’s pencil lettering, his passion for construction saw him foster his own discoveries on the relationship between environmental type and visual images. Now with a significant contribution to the Amsterdam city landscape in street signs and billboards, he works with plastic, tiles, cardboard, aluminum and dot type, perfecting hand lettering. He explains he loves the tangibility of an object and constantly asks himself, “Should I engrave, pencil or paint it?”.

His collaboration with Janno Hahn saw them create 25 OpenType fonts, specifically used in architectural lettering and environmental graphics, which you can peruse at

Environmental type work by Knip

This humble designer enjoys the reaction and interpretation of each lettering project, and signs off his talk with, “Sometimes, just take a potato”, meaning: keep things simple when you begin to create.

René Knip

Human design: evolve, emerge and grow — Luna Maurer from Moniker

A standout of the day was Amsterdam-based design studio, Moniker. Specialising in interactive, print, video and physical installation, the studio was founded in 2012 by Luna Maurer, Jonathan Puckey and Roel Wouters. Working on commissions whilst simultaneously investing in projects of an autonomous and experimental nature, Moniker projects explore the social effects of technology – how it influences our daily lives. Often the public are asked to take part in the development of their projects, where the person partaking can potentially evolve, emerge and grow together with the designed environment.

Studio Moniker’s ‘Do Not Touch’ (

The interface design work for each project is intelligent in its form, but with an emphasis on being user friendly — accessible to the general public, children and adults alike.

These design installations are in uncontrolled (to a certain extent) environments (online, in gallery spaces or general public spaces) – where Moniker creates a story within each space for the general public to explore. The studio are leading the field in opening up dialogue between users, celebrating the fact that their systems have little or no control over audience, which creates imperfection, or “general humanness”.

They report that with this ‘generative design’ approach, you often don’t know the final outcome — it can create emergent behaviour, and storytelling and strategy are co-dependent. This public intervention includes, (new digital-based experiment forms), (dealing with the disappearance of the mouse cursor) and

The second day line-up focuses heavily on Californian designers and artists. From Portland-based designer and Illustrator Aaron James Draplin of Draplin Design Co. to Facebook designer Josh Higgins, the highlights will be published tomorrow.

Article, interviews and photography by LISA LOXLEY (@loxsavvy)

Biography copy credits: and the artist.


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