Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Society of Typographic Arts (STA–Chicago) 2013 Winter Retreat: “The Architecture of Letterforms”

STA Promotion Materials
L–R credits starting at the top:
Aaron Siskind, 1951; Norman Ives, 1967; Walker Evans, 1973; Dennis Ichiyama, 1991; Candice Martello, 2010; Renata Graw, 2011; Jack Weiss, 2011; Peter Fraterdeus, 2011

Recently, January 19–20, 2013, the Society of Typographic Arts Winter Retreat was held at the Eaglewood Resort, Itasca, Illinois. The STA was founded in Chicago in 1927. The theme of the retreat was, “The Architecture of Letterforms” and the list of enthusiastic conference attendees ranged from Chicago design luminaries to distinguished design practitioners and acclaimed design educators.

The events began on Friday evening the 19th with Rick Valicenti leading off with an enjoyable, keen and jam-packed keynote presentation titled Talking Type. Rick is a master at observing and understanding correlations of a particular topic. Valicenti is the founder and design director of Thirst, a communication design firm based in Chicago.

Valicenti’s presentation highlighted the necessity of having conversations about type (“We need to talk”) and the aspect that “We’re all in this together.” It presaged the eleven or twelve presentations that were given the next day at the conference. Using the metaphor of “rhizome” as community and continuum, Valicenti summarized the history of communication design starting with the Texturalis (1190–1407), to Gutenberg’s Bible (1455), to Bradbury Thompson (Rock and Roll), to Paul Sych (Toronto) and the present.

Valicenti’s Talking Type presentation initiated a dialogue and was a wonderful celebration of the art and function of typography. Conference presentations on Saturday continued with thoughtful conversation.

Thought-provoking conversation can bring out the paradoxical. For instance, while not incongruous to Rick’s message and other presenters was Joseph Michael Essex (SX2) who expressed in his presentation, “What separates art from design is typography… a highly manipulative process… and an element of communication—not art… typography is the language of [visual communication] designers….”

Discussing the differences and similarities of the art of typography in communication design is fascinatingly and relevant for today’s designers. We need to talk about type.

At the conference, Jack Weiss, who was proud of his students efforts and accomplishments, presented student portfolios of typographic work in which his students were asked to cut-down letters to the esence of form and yet still retain the identity of the letter. In addition to his design practice Jack teaches in the graphic design program at Columbia College Chicago and organized the 2013 STA Winter Retreat.

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