Thanks to the splendid weather, a great setting, and a relaxed atmosphere, Typeradio's free Now we are talking Festival was the perfect end-of-the-summer event for graphic designers and students in the Low Countries. It was held last Friday, September 2 at the Free Architecture Surf Terrain (F.A.S.T.) at Scheveningen beach in Den Haag, The Netherlands. The turnout was impressive – after the initial 500 tickets ran out an additional 100 were issued. I registered with the special package. This included a "Special Box" containing four unpublished interviews with type and design legends Gerrit Noordzij, Adrian Frutiger, Ed Benguiat, and Wim Crouwel; four unpublished vinyls composed by Legowelt, Jacq Palinckx, Supercity, and The Walt; with sleeves designed by Strange Attractors, Erik van Blokland, Buro Destruct, and Experimental Jetset; and an essay by Ellen Lupton; available in a limited edition of 250. I will try to review this fantastic collector's item at a later date. Here's a photographic report of the event.
The entrance to the F.A.S.T surf village displays a colourful lack of optical correction and proper spacing/kerning. The letter shapes reminded me of the wilful anti-aesthetic of NeubauLaden.
Bottom photo by Indra Kupferschmid
The Free Architecture Surf Terrain welcomed over 500 graphic designers and students over the course of the day for Typeradio's Now we are talking Festival. Underware's Bello reminds the guests to "Think Fast!"
Bottom photo by Indra Kupferschmid.
A large crowd showed up for the festival kick-off: a conversation of Dutch design legend Wim Crouwel with a special guest, who turned out to be iconic Dutch type designer Gerard Unger. The informal talk crackled with energy and wit. It revealed two designers with a profound knowledge of the history of design, yet who are acutely aware of the aspirations and challenges of current-day graphic designers and students, and have a clear view of what the future may bring. Although Wim Crouwel clearly stated he hated calligraphy, at the end of the talk he was asked to write a message to the audience.
Keep your radar turning to register all that is happening, but find your own direction.
As an aside – contrarily to what Gerard said during his conversation with Wim I never wanted to strangle Massimo Vignelli at ATypI 2006 Lisbon; in fact, I barely needed to be restrained.
The LUST (the two people in red shirts in the top photo) workshop revolved around capturing a progression of time in a single image.
The team workers of the Autobahn workshop were asked to create a monumental typographic message on the beach using moulds and the sand. From top to bottom sand-based pixel typography; "zandweg" (sand road) script; ampersand on a hexagonal grid; and "three – two – one" countdown waiting to be washed away by the tide.
Experimental calligraphy was the focus of the Yomar Augusto (top photo) workshop "for unorthodox traditionalists", where simple balsa wood strips were used to write with ink on paper.
The constructors participating in the Janno Hahn workshop built a typographic shed of found materials, also using metal letters and stencils created by Janno (right in top photo).
Corel Cup 3.0, the only official Dutch design soccer competition. Watching that orange ball fly so close (and sometimes even into) the sound equipment on the stage was quite worrying.
Top photo by Indra Kupferschmid. Bottom photos by Max Kostopoulos.
There are no "official" pictures of the TypeShorts because the photographer appointed by Typeradio simply forgot to drop by (!). Indra's photo at the top is me in the bar, adding some more examples to my slides. As you can see in the photos Max Kostopoulos sent me, one hour later the sauna-like place was packed to the rafters with the audience. Unfortunately due to an incident beyond his control Dave Crossland (bottom photo) arrived barely by the end of the allotted half hour. To fill up the time I strung together three TypeShorts covering typographic clichés in film collaterals (middle photo), two decades of Trajan in movie posters, and cultural references in typography.
After the TypeShorts segment TypeFreaks entertained the audience with a fun preview of the Great Typographic Dictation, which will be organised in Amsterdam in February next year. Once they were finished I made my way to the main stage to find LUST halfway their presentation.
During a fun interlude Donald Beekman on guitar and his partner-in-crime Alex Schroeder a.k.a. Howling Alex on vocals had the audience profess their love and admiration for Typeradio Blues-Brothers-style.
Next up was Erik van Blokland who gave a very inspiring talk about the power of ideas, basically telling the slackers to get off their collective asses and get to work to develop their ideas and make them reality. He used the example of Frederik Berlaen who acknowledged the limitations and shortcomings of existing type design software and set out to create RoboFont, a UFO glyph editor to be presented at ATypI Reykjavik next week.
It's easier to teach programming to designers than it is to teach design to programmers.
O.K. Parking then proceeded to teach the audience the dance routine for Michael Jackson's Thriller, aided by flip-chart drawings.
By then the sun started to set over the North Sea, and I decided to quit the reporting and start the partying.
At 1:07 the multi-talented Peter Verheul and me interpret Benguiat Frisky as a funky groove in a video by Indra Kupferschmid. More on YouTube.
I was, however, not done for the night. Three days before the festival Strange Attractors had invited me to back them up musically for their presentation. Having created the record sleeve for Ed Benguiat's exclusive vinyl in the "Special Box", their talk focussed on Ed Benguiat, jazz, type, music, design, etc. Because the main stage was in open air there was no beamer at hand, so they created large versions of 20-odd Benguiat pieces to show to the audience. Ed Benguiat being a professional drummer I was asked to improvise and translate the type/typography into music. The day itself I learnt Peter Verheul was joining me on guitar, guitar synth and effects. We all wore fake moustaches, bushy eyebrows, and NY Yankees caps, and had a ridiculous amount of fun.
Legowelt steered us safely into a night, partying to "a hybrid form of slam jack combined with deep Chicago house, romantic ghetto technofunk and EuroHorror Soundtrack".
In conclusion Now we are talking Festival was the ideal way to end the summer. Some members of the audience noted that the type and design-wise the festival didn't meet their expectations, but everyone still enjoyed it very much. Well, it was the first edition, and in open air, and free, so all I want to do is congratulate and thank Typeradio for this superb initiative. Hopefully this could become a recurring event.
All images by me except where noted.