Ampersand Conference quick round-up

This annual UK conference in Brighton, now on its third year, is a neatly packaged event focussed squarely on typography with a strong leaning towards web type. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day. Here’s a brief summary of the talks and my personal highlights.

Keynote, Erik Spiekermann

Erik gives a mean keynote. On reflection, pinning down it’s core theme is tricky as he jumps around covering lots of ground – some new, some we’ve seen previously. “Type is visible language”, Erik’s mantra of Type + Colour = Brand, was further discussed. The premise is that a logo, or layout, set in a certain typeface with a particular colour is enough to visually represent a brand. Other crowd pleasing topics:

  • Details of designing a new mobile friendly typeface for Mozilla, currently in Beta, called “Feura” (and sounding way too close to the German: Führer)
  • Correcting everyone on "Neue Helvetica", pronounced “Noy-ah” and also not "Helvetica Neue", which is a system filing hangover
  • Saying Helvetica light [iOS7] is being kept alive by London design students regularly rediscovering it. He called it a “Clerkenwell disease” (which made me laugh, since this is where I live, yet I’ve never really used this weight)

The Newest New Typography, Gerry Leonidas

The type design course director at Reading on text hierarchies, flow and semantics of online content. To demonstrate the need for more robust programming capabilities to enable the construction of more sophisticated document layouts online, Gerry worked with Jake Giltsoff and Typecast to recreate the structure of a complex printed page, complete with side-notes, footnotes and line references to highlight where the restraints and weaknesses currently lie. Enough information here for a blog post on it’s own, but you can see a layout experiment by Jake:

Typography in Responsive Design, Mark Boulton

Agile design; the DNA of typesetting, the need to understand content to design for it, working from the paragraph up and working with CERN.

Designing GOV.UK, Ben Terrett & Chris Heathcote

Taking us through, the predominantly typographic, UK government information site. The site dubbed “” by the loathed British paper, The Daily Mail, (so taken as a compliment) won the Design Museum’s Design of the Year award, and a D&AD black pencil. It employs an updated version of the 1960’s UK road signage typeface Transport, designed, in part, by Margaret Calvert. Now called New Transport.

Designing BBC World Service, Kutlu Çanlıoğlu

Lifting the lid on the challenges of designing for a global service in 30+ dialects around the world and the weaknesses of system fonts in global scripts, especially arabic.

Being Ernestine, Nina Stössinger

A lovely talk on her three year journey to make the beautiful typeface Ernestine a similar subject to her talk given at Typo Berlin last year, which you can watch here:

Web Fonts as a Progressive Enhancement, Andy Hume

Looking at cross-bowsers typeface computability and more.

On Icon Fonts & Working with Designers, Jenn Lukas

A very informative, lively and ‘gif-tastic’ presentation from Jenn, featuring many cat animations and dancing stormtroopers. There was a plethora of “totally awesome” snippets covered. Two in particular that I was unaware of:

  • An amazingly useful browser app bookmarklet by WhatFont to detect what typefaces you are seeing on the web just by hovering over.
  • Pictos and Icomoon Royalty-free icons for UI design, All downloadable or served like web fonts.

Webfonts are Just Fonts, Christian Schwartz

Taking us through designing Guardian Egyptian, for the Guardian newspaper. He suggests people are now looking more closely at the quality of screen fonts and comparing their hinting. “Fonts you use should just work; hinting is our issue”

Conference photos above by Ben Mitchell. Ben, also on the 8 Faces team, organised the amazing exhibition of student type design work on show throughout the conference.