Winter 2006

Type conference for the ‘little guys’ [extract]

TypeCon 2006

Boston, Massachusetts
7-13 August 2006

The existence of TypeCon speaks to the popularity of type – or fonts, as most people would put it – in the contemporary world. The conference arose from a nascent community of people who simply liked type, and wanted to talk about it. Nearly 400 people in Boston this summer celebrated that fascination and the way the profession of type designer has spread out into the world at large.

In 1997, the very first TypeCon, with its rock-bottom price and informal style, drew a surprising number of independent type designers, and this focus on small business and love of type has persisted ever since. People in the typographic community think of TypeCon, and its sponsoring organisation, SOTA (the Society of Typographic Aficionados), which began as an amateur organisation, as the ‘little guy’, in contrast to ATypI (Association Typographique International), which came together in 1957 as a consortium of large type manufacturers. But, as the technological and economic context of type has changed, that distinction has largely evaporated.

Linotype had a significant presence in Boston – a presence that begged all sorts of questions, since Monotype Imaging had acquired the company just the week before. Linotype and Monotype had been rivals for more than a century, but both had been through implosions and reorganisations in recent years, and were owned by larger companies. Since Monotype had been bought by Agfa some years ago, and Agfa had already incorporated Compugraphic, the upstart phototypesetting company of the 1970s, some people at TypeCon joked that the giants of hot-metal typesetting had finally been absorbed by the world of phototype – a couple of decades after phototypesetting became obsolete . . .