At the scene: TYPO San Francisco 2014 — Day 2

Published:  April 15, 2014
Bonnie Abbott

Image: Josh Higgins, Obama Election Night party invitation, in collaboration with Jessica Hische.

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.

The second day of talks showcased local Californian designers, with a local San Francisco bay twist. San Francisco is quickly becoming the haven of startup business, a hub of innovation and design. Yahoo!, Google, Uber and Facebook all have headquarters in the bay area. The first day is reported here.

“It’s all about the moments” — Josh Higgins

Design Director Josh Higgins, originally from San Diego and now residing in San Francisco, had a passion for poster design early on in his life. Growing up with punk and touring with his band lead him to exploring and experimenting with type.

His recounts the experience of redesigning Fender’s logo for a t-shirt, which later lead the business to use this work across various other apparel and upon posters, without his permission. “Always sign a contract”, he advises.

Higgins received an email in 2011 that would change his life. He screen-grabbed the moment — “You should come work for Obama”. He worked as Design Director for OBAMA2012 campaign, building a team of 28 designers to create logos, inaugural invites, posters, brand identity kits, vehicle wraps and outdoor campaign collateral, through to A highlight, or ‘game changer’ as he calls it, was creating the ‘Quick Donate’ and ‘Call Tool’ facilities for the OBAMA campaign website.

Higgins shares the screen-grab of the email that changed his career. Photo by Lisa Loxley

Barack Obama playing ping pong with the design team

Higgins continues to dedicate part of his time to social causes and initiatives that he finds “super rewarding”. In 2010, he started The Haiti Poster Project with Leif Steiner, just a few days after the earthquake in Haiti, on a series of limited edition posters with designers and artists from around the globe. Other charitable projects include work for The Hurricane, So-Cal Fire Poster Project, ARTCRANK and more recently, Do The Green Thing (UK) and Love Like Beer.

The Haiti Poster Project

His current role as Communications & Design Manager with Facebook sees him working closely on all facets of design, video and identity work for Facebook initiatives.

This mode of working between Facebook and not-for-profit causes is what identifies his value to both — bridging a gap between brand value and work culture through design and good will.

“Always question the urban environment you’re in” — George Zisiadis

The youngest speaker at TYPOtalks, this interactive artist and designer, working and living in San Francisco, just wants to make you smile. His playful and energetic talk had the audience hi-fiving and laughing as he offered curious delight and inspiration.

Frustrated with his everyday surroundings within his urban landscape and social conformity, Zisiadis creates interactive installations and social experiences through experimentation.

One example is Pulse of the City, recently commissioned by the City of Boston. This public art interactive installation turns pedestrians’ heartbeats into music. Another is the Bubbleverse — an immersive experience commissioned by Nestle Nesquick last year. The installation gives the general public a glimpse into the “secret happiness laboratory” where childlike joy is engineered into magical bubbles.

Inside ‘The Bubbleverse’

Zisiadis’s The New Year’s Eve Experience in November saw him convert a 20ft truck into a penthouse apartment, within which New Year’s was celebrated every 10 minutes. Participants were greeted with overwhelming amounts of champagne, party hats, hugs and kisses with a DJ.

“Just make some shit” – Aaron James Draplin (DDC)

Residing in Portland Oregon, Aaron of Draplin Design Co. creates print work, identity and illustration with craftsmanship. He lists his services, that include (and aren’t limited to) “friendship, road trip navigation, guitar tuning, colour correcting and the occasional usage of big words”.

He’s designed for the OBAMA Administration, Nike, Wired, Target and the well known FIELD NOTES brand, to name just a few. His love for punk influences all aspects of his work, and he adises the younger generation to  “Roll with the graphic art punches”, and “Say yes more than you say no”.

Aaron Draplin at TYPO SF. Photo by Lisa Loxley

Aaron Draplin at TYPO SF. Photo by Lisa Loxle

Inspired by the vanishing subgenre of agricultural memo books, ornate pocket ledgers and the simple, unassuming beauty of a well-crafted grocery list, the Draplin Design Company in conjunction with Coudal Partners created Field Notes in 2006, now a global brand that aims to give their audience “an honest memo book, worth fillin’ up with good information”.

Field Notes

He debated freelance design work versus the paid salary, and appreciates how the design industry worked was back in the day before computers, a time when being a designer was a more physical and tangible profession. With good humour, he ends his talk with an encouragement for the audience to “Do good work for good people”.

Read the report on day one here.

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

Biography copy credits: and the artist.


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