Our visit to Ampersand: web design & typography

So Redg and I went to Ampersand the other week. Amazing! As you might expect by looking at the list of speakers, we were treated to a really inspirational day filled with great talks.

Ampersand represents “the overlapping worlds of type design, web design and software”, and what an interesting overlap indeed. Jonathan Hoefler tweeted that “the web and typography are shaping one another [and that is] just a beautiful thing”. To me, that single tweet sums it all up. It is truly an exciting time for both web designers and type designers.

Here are our top 3 best moments at Ampersand:

1) Mark Boulton

Funny, relevant and very inspiring. He touched on a lot of interesting topics while managing to connect all the dots. He talked about how we should design from the content out and truly embrace the chaos that the plethora of different screen sizes & devices bring. Holding on to old ideas of a fixed canvas is a bad idea.

The most important thing when using the content-out approach? Content!

Content will define the typeface you choose, and that typeface can serve as the base for your layout (content-out), rather than using the viewport as the base for your layout (canvas-in).

A show of hands revealed that practically every web designer in the room frequently creates a design without content - something, Mark pointed out, that has to stop. We couldn't agree more.

2) Jonathan Hoefler

Jonathan Hoefler gave an incredible talk all-round, but the best moment was when he announced that H&FJ have created web versions for 100% of the typefaces in their catalogue. Typefaces like Gotham, Sentinel and the like have been completely redrawn to ensure optimal legibility at small text sizes and are ready to be used as web fonts.

3) Tim Brown

We had heard Tim Brown speak at Build 2010 about the idea of using “modular scales” when designing. Impressive stuff. He recently published his ideas in a great article and expanded on those ideas at Ampersand. Tim is a gifted speaker and it was a privilege to see him in action once again.

Honourable mentions of course for all of the excellent speakers: Vincent Connare, Jason Santa Maria, Jon Tan, David Berlow and John Daggett. Thank you for all those inspiring words!

To new friends

And finally, a word of praise for our newly discovered friends: type-designers.

As we learned while listening to Jonathan Hoefler and David Berlow: converting fonts for the screen, whilst ensuring optimal legibility at smaller sizes, is an extremely delicate and complicated process. Every single glyph for every style & weight needs to be evaluated and adjusted for the screen. An epic undertaking. We now have a deep respect (and compassion) for all type-designers out there. Thank you!

And thank you Mr. Rutter for putting on such a great conference.

Edit: Looks like I forgot to include praise for Vincent Connare in the honourable mentions. Fixed. Vincent is the man. He smashed it.


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