Going Places

Mildly (Un)Enthusiastic Review: Typo Berlin 2017

I returned recently from Berlin where R and I took part in Typo Berlin, an annual design conference, and I have opinions.

er-typoberlin17Typo Berlin 2017

Category: Events

What it is:
As I said, an annual international design conference with lectures by really well-known and lesser-known speakers from around the world (but mostly from Berlin, London and the USA).

How I found it:
Ah, back when I was a design student, Typo Berlin was a fetish some of our professors talked about in dreamy voices and I was sure it must be this transcendental (design) experience that would improve my skills and understanding tenfold and make me buddies with my design heroes. However, the conference has always been quite expensive, absolutely beyond what I could have afforded as a student, and I still wouldn’t have wanted to go at full price even now, except I used a special price for school workers.

Summary judgment:
How could anything live up to the expectations above? Of course it couldn’t nor did I expect it to, really. But even with my considerably lowered expectations it still managed to disappoint me in a few minor ways.

Best things about it:
It was good to get it out of our system, most of all – see it for ourselves and for what it was.
But I also enjoyed some lectures, particularly Oliver Jeffers’, whose books I always liked and who turned out to be quite an entertaining performer, speaking with a lot of Irish swagger and humor.

Worst things about it:
The worst thing to me was how most of the speakers were already over design and all they wanted to talk about was, well, anything else. A lot of the talks ran like this: “You know me from this and that, cool, but instead I want to talk about this hobby I’ve been really getting into recently.” And then instead of typography they would discuss potato salad arrangements. And I really wanted to hear them talk about the stuff I admire them for, interesting as their side culinary explorations might be.

Other pluses:
Luckily not all the speakers were like that. Some just talked about the recent work they’d been doing and it was interesting enough. A few of them even delivered what you could call design stand-up and that was pretty fun. The conference is also held in a building in Tiergarten, a huge, forest-like park and we enjoyed exploring that during boring points of the program, especially with wild rabbits roaming the place.

Other minuses:
All those minor things I mentioned. It was absolutely impossible to get into the workshop we wanted as it only admitted about ten people or so. Many lectures were overly self-indulgent. Sometimes we felt like people who only came there to provide the audience and financing for a group of strangers to allow them to tell each other how they like one another – and watching people pat each others’ backs is a pretty boring spectator sport.
It wasn’t also the greatest weekend for sightseeing in Berlin, with some sort of churches’ day and soccer finale: it was crowded, the train station was out of lockers and, worst of all, they closed off a large section of the park.

How it enriched my life:
Now I know I wasn’t missing all that much all those times I couldn’t afford to go to the conference. I enjoyed seeing some of the speakers live and also comparing their different styles of public speaking. Also, see below.

Fun fact:
After a couple of years of fangirling over a Canadian designer Marian Bantjes I finally learned how to pronounce her name. I still would’ve preferred to hear her speak rather than hear her mentioned by someone else but I enjoyed that anyway because I love her work and I discovered she’s terribly nice once she answered my email with my PhD thesis questions.

I’m starting to think I would only consider coming back to another Typo Berlin for an extremely select lineup of speakers that would definitely have to include Marian Bantjes.

Recommended for:
Fans of graphic design who don’t necessarily want to hear anything specific or technical. People who love Berlin.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Next time: The Joy Luck Club



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