There are many good things about Typecon and many nice things I could say, but instead I find myself seized with a compulsion to recast Typecon like old metal type that’s melted down and mold into a new font.
I’ve got lots of experience with conferences in a number of different industries, as an attendee. a sponsor, a presenter and a host. I think I’ve probably run over 50 conferences, from book fairs to gaming conventions to political events. They all have common needs and common problems regardless of what the subject matter happens to be.
Typecon has some definite strengths. Not surprisingly its strong on visual presentation. Great banners and logos a flashy video – lots of nice stuff to look at. It’s also got a lot of good talent involved as speakers and presenters.
But there are some shortcomings too.
For example, the commercial potential of Typecon is almost entirely wasted. All the major foundries are represented here as sponsors and as attendees. Why do we have a half-assed communal store to sell products? Why isn’t there a well developed exhibit area where font foundries have their own space to show off their fonts, have staff to talk to potential customers and even sell fonts. It seems like an obvious failing. Hell, they could even market their designers with signings like at Comicon.
Going along with that they’ve missed a major part of the potential audience – font consumers. The audience here is mostly people who are in the industry or want to be in the industry, but they could reach out and involve at least higher end font users, buyers for publishers and product designers. They could drop the roughly $300 price and broaden the audience and get bigger attendance. This really is too much of an insider even inbred event. Broader is better. Typecon might not ever become as big as Comicon but there’s a lot of potential going to waste.
They could also improve the schedule by splitting presentations up into smaller events. It seems counterintuitive but having all the attendees attend all the events in a single huge room one after another is not the best way to run a program. First off, not everyone wants find ever topic fascinating. I may not want to attend a session on the fonts of Facebook or an examination of Urdu typography. Second, a huge hall with 300 people in it is not the ideal way to experience some of these presentations. Yes, bring everyone together for the keynote and other prime features, but take the rest of the program and break it up. Run three presentations at a time and let people choose which they will catch and with they will miss. If you worry about people not being able to catch everything they want, repeat presentations. They will definitely go better in a more intimate environment and if a 20 or 30 minute program is worth presenting, its worth giving twice or ever three time.
Not that Typecon is not a great deal of fun. There are good programs and diverting things to do, and there are attractive social aspects to mingling with your peers. But there’s still a lot of room for improvement, though its possible that the font nerds want to keep it just the way it is.