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Sunday July 25th, 2004. Leaving TypeCon 2004. Sitting in the San Francisco airport. Waiting to go home. With a long flight ahead of me I begin to think about the last few days, what I have seen and heard. Many subjects, many styles and thoughts make me wonder — what makes a good speaker?

Erik Spiekermann provided us with a fun, energetic and visually saturated presentation charged with last minute jokes (mostly referencing the fact we were running behind schedule) titled “Sex and Type and Rock ´┐Żn’ Roll”. Before him, Linotype held its “Linotype’s International Type Design Contest 2003” award show. With each honorable mention and winner announcement the public would hear the entire story behind the font, the why, the how, what others had to say, the experiences, etc. Long story short, each story was long and the entire thing dragged for way too long. Granted, two extremes next to each other. I get it. But, really, what does it take for us, the public, to consider a speaker as a good presenter? What keeps us interested in what that person is saying and from leaving the room?

Alastair Johnson kept us all rather entertained with lots of photos from his many travels in which he showed us numerous examples of Tuscan fonts. Similarly, John Downer in “Little Lettering Snafus” showed slides with countless interesting, funny or full of mistakes hand-made signage. Both presentations made us react by laughing, gawking or sighing, and yet, left us with little or no baggage to take home. Dan X. Solo talked to us about “The Day Gutenberg Died”, tracing the history of movable type up to our current situation without slides. No visual stimuli. Nothing but his voice and what he had to say. Few left the room, as the rest listened and wondered, and are now (or at least I am) following a series of connections between events that happened centuries apart, and centuries ago, and realizing how they impact us directly. Wow. Another way of presenting is by showing and explaining very detailed facts, dates and/or situations. Akira Kobayashi did this by showing us the little details of fonts which he has modified while re-working classics such as Optima and Palatino. Armin (and I use him as an example, only because he is perfect for this point) kept his audience interested if not for any other reason that his material was unexpected and new, and nobody saw it coming.

A very important aspect of a good presenter is, not surprisingly, personality. A good speaker is usually an energetic, intelligent, thoughtful and involved individual. S/he is expressive, knows how to keep a conversation interesting and alive, while reading the audience. Good intonation is key. An interesting subject essential (for a at least half of the attendees). Visuals, not a main factor. Personal touches, a good bonus but not a must.

In your opinion, based on the presentations you have attended (no matter the subject, if related to design or not), not taking into account workshops or small intimate encounters, which elements are key to a successful speaker? What makes or breaks the individual standing by the podium? What keeps you from leaving the room?

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PUBLISHED ON Jul.26.2004 BY bryony
Ron Hubbard’s comment is:

Inspiration is the main thing I look for in a speaker whether it comes from the great work they are showing or the words/stories that they tell.

The first 2 speakers that I saw when I was a student were David Carson and Marc English. Both very different but I walked away with the same thing, a love of the world of design and it left me searching for that same inspiration ever since.

One of the most recent speakers to really move me was Kevin Carroll from Nike. It was at the HOW Conference in Orlando 2 years and the things he said have continued to move me to this day. He is in fact not a designer so there was no design work that was shown to move the audience. It was only his stories of inspiration and perseverance that have stuck with me. Things such as that that can transcend the 9-5 world of client work and can be applied elsewhere is really what make a good design talk.

On Jul.26.2004 at 10:01 AM
Rob ’s comment is:

I agree with Ron. It's definitely what you are able to take away from the speaker that really matters the most. Are they able to inspire and energize and educate you and make you feel the passion of their topic. If they can do that, then should be speakers extraordinaire.

Two of my recent favorites include Simon Williams, Sterling Group, who gave a fabulous, creatively inspiring presentation at IIR's Brand Business Forum last November. Also, Tom Peters, totally wowed me on a recorded webcast of a speech he gave at a Design Management Institute conference in 2002.

On Jul.26.2004 at 10:30 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Good question Bryony.

For me, first and foremost, it's the style of delivery. Even the most interesting information can fall flat when delivered poorly. I had Stefan Fangmeier come out from ILM for a conference one year. He presented some of the most incredible ILM/film footage you've ever seen, including his then current work on The Perfect Storm. But his delivery was sooo dry and mechanical that a good portion of the audience was asleep when he finished. Similarly, we had Amy Frendeschini come give a talk once. Again, incredibly interesting work (Future Farmers stuff) completely destroyed by insipid delivery, IMHO.

Awareness of the audience's mood is also key — you can tell when a good speaker is genuinely connecting with the audience, not just reading off a script behind the lecturn. You can tell when a speaker hits that connection, and changes the content of his/her talk to suit the audience. The pros really do that well. People like Bierut, Heller, Hinrichs, Kyle Cooper, and the likes. That ability to captivate a crowd takes more than practice — either you can do it, or you can't.

And lastly, it takes presence. Such an intangible thing, but you know it when you see it. Say what you will, but Mau has that presence. So does Vanderbyl, Arnett, Ralph Caplan, and Stephan Geissbuhler, to name a few. Some presenters can exude that sense that lets you know you're about to see and hear something special. It's an aura or something about them. And it's about more than just being famous — you get the feeling that those people have always had that presence, even before they became well-known. Maybe it's one of the reasons why they're well-known.

On Jul.26.2004 at 11:49 AM
Armin’s comment is:

To me the best speaker at TypeCon was Erik Spiekermann. And what he did is what I look for in a speaker. Lots of energy, funny, smart, intelligently loud, excellent delivery and not afraid to say what's on his mind… although his condescending tone and quips to some of America(n)'s traits (like only speaking one language) can potentially turn off a whole crowd. Like Remembering Ronald Reagan proved, a heavily opinionated sentence can ruin whatever else is being said. Nonetheless, Spiekermann was great.

Like Tan said, there are people that are just good at speaking. Last year, I blasted Allan Haley for being a tad over-energetic in his TypeCon presentation but the truth is he was extremely engaging, he knew his material and knew how to deliver it. Of course, that is years of experience — and that is a common trait of all the people you mentioned Tan.

Few people are good at it from the get-go.

I enjoy people who can ad-lib but I can also enjoy a well-written read presentation.

On Jul.26.2004 at 12:30 PM
CCHS’s comment is:

One of the best lectures I ever saw on design was given by Michael Moshen, the juggler.

After a brief and dazzling display of his craft, he began by teaching an audience of about 500 people how to juggle. He did this by breaking down the process into its component parts, and leading us in a series of simple hand movements. He then reiterated his opening performance, employing the same techniques we had just learned. He took us through the act slowly, isolating a single colored ball here or there to help make his techniques more transparent, and narrated his performance to help us understand what we were seeing. The rest of the lecture followed a similar vain, though he gradually moved away from illustrating practical techniques, and began using them as a metaphor for design as a process.

What made his presentation so compelling? Several things:

1. It was unexpected, immediately motivating the audience from a passive state as we all asked ourselves, "What the hell is this?"

2. It was risky. Performing live carries with it the peril of failure. A carousel of slides is by its nature predictable to the speaker, and thus removes them from sharing a common experience. It is very much I-thou.

3. It was participatory. Once we all stood up and collectively failed at a new skill we became interested and involved in the process. "How come he can do that and I can't?" Suddenly there was utility in his presentation.

4. It was paced. Michael punctuated his demonstration with humor, personal details about himself and his life, live demonstration, taped performances, and even some very rough work in progress.

5. He was engaged. Michael is someone who his obviously devoted to his craft, and his passion and dedication were manifest in his presentation. To a degree, we cared because he cared. We were interested because he was interested.

On Jul.26.2004 at 12:44 PM
Tim Lapetino’s comment is:

Edward Tufte, the guru of information design, does an excellent job at this. He has a whole section of his one day seminars devoted to the presentation of information, which bleeds heavily into public speaking.

Tufte knows what he's talking about, and he hits the important points--that your content should be the key, but you need to take the time to present it as important and exciting. Respect the content.

BTW, his books are top-notch as well. Exquisite printing--so much so, that he self-published, b/c no publisher would meet his crazy standards for color reproduction, die-cuts, etc.

I've been to his seminar twice (it's expensive, but you get the full set of his books with admission), and even though he recycles some of his jokes each year, he is *definitely* worth seeing once. The man is engaging, funny, passionate--practices what he preaches.

On Jul.26.2004 at 01:03 PM
Hrant’s comment is:

What makes a good speaker? Armin. He had the best talk at TC2004, and I'm not just saying that. Extremely relevant and under-rated topic, good presentation, funny funny funny, and incredible semi-hidden insights in those street interviews.

Armin, keep this going - you'll become a (well-deserved) "must" at any font conference.


On Jul.26.2004 at 01:03 PM
nick shinn’s comment is:

I like to be totally surprised by seeing things I've never seen before, finding new ideas, a new viewpoint. A well-performed audio-visual essay.

At TypeCon, Michael Harvey's talk on "drawing" did it for me, showing a variety of historical engineering drawings (eg 1820 battleship, 1930 automobile), rough sketches (some incredibly precise); then tying in a dash of neurological theory, some diagramatic drawings of his own hands drawing a variety of strokes, and relating all this to his work as a lettering artist/type designer, and his transition from analog to digital.

All the while maintaining a relaxed, light touch, with the occasional anecdote and joke.

Strangely, two of the most effective speakers at TypeCon showed no images. Ilene Strizver spoke of her early career working for Ed Benguiat, and Dan X. Solo gave a potted history of moveable type (not the conventional wisdom, but a personal perspective). Story-telling - a lot of people in a darkened room listening to one person's voice. The quality of audio we have today can make that a very intimate experience.

On Jul.26.2004 at 01:06 PM
marian’s comment is:

This is an interesting topic. For me it seems to be mostly about personality--how much of a person comes across and how much they connect with the audience and with me personally. The best speakers are relaxed and talk animatedly and passionately, and--incredibly--personally and directly. The more they reveal of themselves the more engaged I am.

Though sometimes their topic is just bloody interesting and it doesn't matter who they are.

A while ago a friend loaned me tapes of the AIGA conference from 1999(?) in New Orleans, I think. It was really bizarre to listen to speakers referring to visual material I couldn't see. With some, like Sagmeister, I had the benefit of knowing the visuals he was referring to, but with others I really had to listen to what they were saying to try and figure out the parts I was missing. Michael Beirut, natch, stood up to this test well. The really funny part was hearing David Byrne bomb ... like just absolutely bomb on stage. His presentation was almost entirely visual but somehow I could tell from the lack of audience reaction and the increasing tension in his voice that whatever he was showing was either a total yawner or cliched or ... whatever it was he was going down in flames. For a guy who's used to thousands of screaming fans, that was pretty funny. Debbie told me, when I described this to her, that that presentation is famous for its awfulness.

Some good speakers I saw recently are Sean Adams and Noreen Morioka (great tag-team approach, funny, very revealing about the way they work, great visuals coupled with interesting anecdotes). They're naturals.

One thing I wonder is I guess people have sort of set routines and they might give the same presentation many times. I've always wondered how they stand up to a second or third viewing.

On Jul.26.2004 at 01:22 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Aw shucks… thanks Hrant. Really.

I have to work on my diction and intonation though.

On Jul.26.2004 at 01:22 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> One thing I wonder is I guess people have sort of set routines and they might give the same presentation many times. I've always wondered how they stand up to a second or third viewing.

I watched Aesthetic Apparatus for the first time last year at TypeCon and saw them again here in Chicago a month or so after the AIGA Vancouver conference. Basically they showed the same work with some additions of the work they had done during those six months as well as new slides of their new office. Both times I was highly entertained and engrossed by their presentation. There were absolutely no ground-breaking thoughts but you can tell they love what they do and they enjoy doing it. Like Sean and Moreen, they are an excellent tag team. It was also interesting to see Michael become more comfortable as a speaker from the first time I saw them.

I also saw Drentell and Helfand's presentation from Vancouver twice. Bill came to town earlier this year for AIGA's Incite/Insight series. We all know how much I "enjoyed" their presentation in Vancouver… I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed (notice the sans quotes) it the second time around. Mostly because it had plenty of footnotes and explanations missing from their previous showing.

But these were exceptions, since the presentations varied at least slightly.

On Jul.26.2004 at 01:36 PM
Nary’s comment is:

enthusiasm. humor. wit. enthusiasm. confidence. energy. enthusiasm. i think that if you can show how enthusiastic you are about your topic, it gets the audience interested. a good speaker can make a presentation on lint interesting by employing all that you have all mentioned above.

i have not had the good fortune of having listened to a lot of speakers; however, if i can use lecturing professors as an example - and they are all intelligent and all know about what they are talking about - the biggest difference between someone who i dread listening to and someone whose class i wish lasted for four hours, is the level of enthusiasm. my most enthusiastic professors always have stories and anecdotes, they gesture wildly and they are all over the room, exuding all kinds of energy. that kind of enthusiasm is very contagious. the others speak mostly in a monotone.

one of the best speakers i have had the luxury of listening to was Andy Cruz from House Industries at an AIGA event. well-spoken, at ease, and very funny. and you could tell that he loves what he does.

one of the worst was a presenter at a local film festival i went to. you can tell he had his whole speech prepared and rehearsed: "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you ALL so much for coming. we have a great program for all of you tonight..." there were five of us in the audience. he wasn't being facetious. that in itself should say something about reading your audience and being flexible about your delivery. don't ever memorize your speech word for word. never.

On Jul.26.2004 at 01:46 PM
Tan’s comment is:

One of the most absolutely brilliant presentation I've ever seen was by J.Otto Seibold. You know, the illustrator of the Mr.Lunch book series. He had 2 slide projectors going side-by-side, advancing automatically, while he talked. He did what David Byrne tried to do, but where he succeed, Byrne bombed. His images were seemingly random, but they somehow always brilliantly tied in to his work. And while his talk just seemed to be steam-of-consciousess ramblings, he always coincidentally hit points of intersections, seamlessly. Mind you, he was always facing the audience, which means he never saw which slide was showing throuhout his presentation. At the end of 45 minutes, he finished his last thought just as the last 2 slides popped up. Without a pause, he thanked the audience and left to roaring applause. It was the most brilliantly orchestrated presentation/performance I've ever seen.

On Jul.26.2004 at 03:21 PM
lara’s comment is:

TypeCon had such a wide variety of speakers, the one presentation I really enjoyed (to my surprise) was Michael Harvey's talk on "drawing". I think it was the glimpse into his process with those rough sketches he showed.

I get alot from a speaker who shares his process, as well as the story behind a given project/concept. Personal anecdotes are great.

I was disappointed by David Lance Goines. He had no visuals, spoke on type form Neolithic era to 1450. He could've been my high school history teacher. His work is so beautiful I would've loved him to talk more about that.

Cool visuals always suck me in. Armin, your incorporation of video footage was great!

On Jul.26.2004 at 03:35 PM
ps’s comment is:

What struck me at typecon (wich overall i thought was rather weak) was, that even a poor presentation or "not that great design material" can bring a positive reaction from the audience. Emory Douglas and Ayana Baltrip presented designs from the Black Panther Party. I thought the presentation was extremely weak, the designs shown did not impress me. Especially the typography, (there were some good visuals), What seemed to make the presentation successful was the cause, and the history behind it and not the presentation or the actual work itself.

On Jul.26.2004 at 04:13 PM
Dirk Brandts’s comment is:

That was my first TypeCon, I was really impressed by all of the great talent. The quality of the presentations varied. I tend to judge them by multiple criteria, beginning with whether or not I'm initially interested in the topic. After that, I like a confident, self-assured presence. Usually the quality of voice conveys that. And I expected flawlessly tight visuals and was surprised a couple of times when they were kind of funky.

I didn't manage to see everything, but I was really pleased to catch the Jim Parkinson/David Farey presentation; I admire their work so very much.

(I'm sorry to admit that I missed Armin's talk, because I was looking forward to it.)

On Jul.26.2004 at 04:40 PM
Adam’s comment is:

While our own goals in design are varied and often aspire to effect others, our reason for attending lectures is to help ourselves. For me, I feel most influenced by lectures or presentations about design related topics that inspire me to think beyond the words of that talk. Be it a well made point, a visual accompaniment, or a passing comment - if it leads my mind in tangents, then I start to feel satisfied.

If my pen hits the pad and can't scribble as fast as I'm thinking and I don't even notice the speaker until minutes later, then I am learning something. If I sit to write after the lecture is over, or if I become unavoidably engaged in discussion about its contents, it was a good one.

Many of the responses in this thread do provoke such a consequence - enthusiasm, content, originality - but they alone don't do the trick for me. Neither does the most inspiring work, if presented blandly or with no particular insight.

Similar to the primary objective of educators, a lecturer should teach and inspire - not by force, but by guiding and aiding the lessons left to be concluded by the audience, individually and through discussion.

On Jul.26.2004 at 05:22 PM
Cheshire Dave’s comment is:

I thought Dan X. Solo's session was very well-presented. It was focused in that, as pointed out above, it was a story with a definitive arc, and he delivered it with charm and grace. Not only that, but with a title like "The Day Gutenberg Died" (or something like that), I think we're trained to see that as a little hyperbolic, but for Mr. Solo, it expressed his profound grief in the loss of a beloved tradition. How personal it was for him, and how he managed to make his personal experience our own, was incredibly moving to me.

I was also taken with Tony de Marco's presentation of Samba. He's not alone among type designers who love to hear themselves talk (my comments about Spiekermann are coming up, don't you worry), but his outsized energy and delight in both design and the world at large entertained me no end. He took the time to create a slide show that was much more (and better) animated than any other I saw, and he enjoyed it along with us. He tends to dominate whatever conversation he's in, it seemed to me watching him talk elsewhere during the conference, but as a presenter that's just fine with me, if he's doing a good job of taking me somewhere interesting, and he did.

Spiekermann is quite entertaining as well, primarily because of his opinionated rants, though the flipside of that is that he occasionally devolved into attacks that were either downright mean for no good reason or stuck on complaining about something that happened 20 years ago and has been more than rectified by now.

His talk Thursday night was entitled "Sex, Type, and Rock & Roll," and as far as I could tell, it had no rock & roll and very little sex -- pretty much just a lot of type. To paraphrase Christian Schwartz mimicking Spiekermann criticizing one draft of Schwart's or another, "What the fuck is that?" But I'd never seen Spiekermann talk before, and it really was something to behold, even if it could have easily been half as long as it turned out to be. I'll wander with someone for a little while, but eventually I'll wander away if they don't look like they're heading anywhere useful.

Focus, focus, focus. Make the talk about something, and take the audience there. Don't just throw up a bunch of unrelated stuff and say, hey, take a wandering tour of my mind. And much as I loved seeing Jim Parkinson's work, his session with Dave Farey seemed linked only by the fact that they're old friends. That's cool, but it seems like they could have dovetailed their presentations more.

A more effective partnership on stage was Ken Barber and Ed Benguiat, who kind of needled Ken mercilessly as Ken previewed the House Benguiat Collection, but everyone knew it was in good fun. It was staged and spontaneous at the same time, and personable.

On Jul.26.2004 at 06:07 PM
James’s comment is:

Armin, are you going to post your speaking notes or material online anywhere? Thanks.

On Jul.26.2004 at 06:54 PM
marian’s comment is:

Make the talk about something, and take the audience there.

Yeah, this is really true. There's nothing like hopping on for the ride, then part way through starting to think ...uh, where is this going? and at the end being left stranded in the middle of nowhere, none the wiser for any of it.

On Jul.26.2004 at 07:14 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> I've always wondered how they stand up to a second or third viewing.

Just want to add one more thought to this. It's like watching a good movie a few times. You catch things that you didn't catch before. You notice nuances in the beginning that eventually lead to the ending. There is always the "Oh, I love this part…" moment.

> Armin, are you going to post your speaking notes or material online anywhere? Thanks.

James, not any time soon. I want to see if somebody (the AIGA mostly, or the STA here in Chicago) is interested in letting me give the talk again. So I don't want to give the whole soup away (is this even a saying, "giving the soup away"? I'm hungry).

There is a small teaser I posted on Design Observer in regards to their Gotham discussion, since Gotham was one of the typefaces I highlighted. You can see the Quicktime (1.7 Mb) by clicking here.

On Jul.26.2004 at 08:12 PM
Monib’s comment is:

On the topic of public speaking, there is a classic book by Dorothy Carnegie (based on Dale Carnegie's writings) that is a great read for anyone interested or engaged in public speaking. The table of contents listing alone is an excellent check-list for organsing a talk. Naturally not every 'rule' applies every time, but the overall wisdom is priceless. You can view it here.

On Jul.26.2004 at 08:16 PM
Don Julio’s comment is:

Although I missed the privilege of attending TypeCon, I would like to post a note from Excite's quote of the day (today):

The meaning of life is creative love. Not love as an inner feeling, as a private sentimental emotion, but love as a dynamic power moving out into the world and doing something original.

- Tom Morris, from his book 'If Aristotle Ran General Motors

In addition to enthusiam I would include dynamic, passion, and underline originality. Always a nod to the Shaman English. Duane Michals (photographer/writer) was on fire at the 1999 Y Conference - everyone should hear him. Talk about motivating people to get off their asses - completely in contrast to his almost frail appearance. Ryan Mcguiness was just himself, quirky, very funny and unusually insightful. I would also go see Doyald Young any day of the week as the eloquent master that he is. Sally Hogshead brings a fresh, in your face, too often missing female perspective with her "Creative Myths".

Maybe Armin would honor us at next April's Y Conference in San Diego?

On Jul.26.2004 at 08:24 PM
Armin’s comment is:

You just tell me where I have to sign up!

Perhaps I can one-up Felix's presentation…

On Jul.26.2004 at 10:01 PM
Don Julio’s comment is:

I will send the Y details separate from this string. Felix was cool, and now I know why everyone rips him off ;). I think Woody Pirtle sitting right in front set him a little on edge.

On Jul.26.2004 at 11:23 PM
bryony’s comment is:

For me it seems to be mostly about personality--how much of a person comes across and how much they connect with the audience and with me personally. The best speakers are relaxed and talk animatedly and passionately, and--incredibly--personally and directly. The more they reveal of themselves the more engaged I am.

I agree. Without personality, a presentation will go nowhere. One thing I have noticed in this area, is that, usually, a good presentation is one where the speaker references notes, but does not read. Not everyone has the abilities and the confidence to go on stage with a few flash cards and prepared slides. I have encountered insecurities in people saying stuff like, what if I mess up the dates? I can’t remember all the names/firms/projects/facts I wish to reference… It sounds better if I read a well structured, thought out sentence than if I just try to say it and miss some key words.

Would you rather listen to a perfectly written topic read with charming wit, or listen to somebody stumble over a few words, double check flash cards for specific facts and present with equally charming wit?

On Jul.27.2004 at 08:34 AM
nick’s comment is:

>perfectly written topic read with charming wit,

It still depends, because even when reading, there's variety of execution. The main thing is to be able to take your eyes off your notes (or the laptop monitor on the podium) and look out over/at the audience. Even if you never fix on a face, you give the impression of engaging and the promise of interaction, rather than merely being a spectated performer.

On Jul.27.2004 at 10:59 AM
T. Brock’s comment is:

Here are two more for the fine performer list.

Bruno Monguzzi: seems to enjoy every minute on stage, precise and poetic, excellent at sequence and punctuation, master of the nonlinear slide presentation

Art Spiegelman: meant for the stage, master storyteller and teacher, completely engaging, able to pack more into an hour and make it relevant than anyone I have seen

On Jul.27.2004 at 07:28 PM
Nary’s comment is:

to answer Bryony's question, i'd rather have someone stumble over their words, recover, check their facts if necessary, and go on, rather than listen to someone read a perfect speech or presentation. for someone to read a one hour presentation, i could probably read it myself in 20 minutes. why would i sit there and listen to that and waste 40 minutes?

besides, very very few people can pull off reading a speech successfully or with charisma. there is usually no eye-contact and a droning monotone. i mean, come on, you've all seen the current president trying to read off of a teleprompter...

knowing that someone is reading off of something just never engages me. i just start looking around the room, my watch, the ceiling, whatever.

On Jul.28.2004 at 12:10 AM
erik spiekermann’s comment is:

Thank you all for your comments/critique of my presentation at Typecon 2004. To tell the truth: i thought it was pretty lousy. I have never done a presentation twice, and this time there was good stuff in it that i was actually looking forward to seeing. If i enjoy my own material, it's usually a good lecture. But i had been thrown off by it a) being so late (i thought i would speak at 7pm, but actually started just before 10pm) and by b) being acutely embarassed by my friends from Linotype going on over 90 minutes, just handing out some prizes. Part of it was the fact that i felt ashamed to be in the same room with a bunch of humorless Germans, part that i could have dispensed with that ceremony in 30 minutes and still give everybody a share of the limelight. When it was my turn, i was in a terrible mood. I know i made some comments which were in-jokes or purely aimed at a few people in the audience. I am arrogant enough to do that for my own pleasure. Seeing that i come a long way for a lecture at my own expense, i feel i can take a few liberties and still give the audience something for their money. There are a few issues going round the typeworld that bother me and i (mis)used the opportunity to mention some of them, perhaps too cryptically.

It is always difficult when you don't know your audience and subsequently under- or overestimate it. Both is equally bad. I presumed that in SF at Typecon, there would be only be hardcore typomaniacs present who would get the innuendo. But a lot of people didn't, which totally threw me and made a large part of what i said redundant.

But had it been a little earlier and a more inspiring place, i could have sensed that and adjusted my remarks. After all, i don't have anything written down, ever, so i can direct what i say in almost any direction, even skip some of my material.

This is what happens when the speaker is one of the crowd instead of an outsider: what goes on within that crowd goes back to the stage, both good and bad.

I wish i had more criticism like this instead of just people afterwards who want an internship or a signature in their books.

On Jul.29.2004 at 03:08 AM
erik spiekermann’s comment is:

pretty much just a lot of type.

Well, wasn't the conference called Typecon? Didn't people come for lots of type? I realize now that Ian Dury's song "Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll" is not known over here. In Britain, that would have brought up a lot of references. I got that one wrong. But could you tell me (us?) what the things were from 20 years ago that i brought up but that have since been "rectified"? Seriously: either i can clear up a misunderstanding on your part or you on mine. I understand that to be one of the purposes of these postings, seeing that they are private and public at the same time.

On Jul.29.2004 at 03:16 AM
Dirk Brandts’s comment is:

I enjoyed your presentation quite a lot, Erik. I picked up on your edgy mood, which surprised me at first, but then I began thinking that I might be seeing traits or characteristics which enable someone like you to rise to the forefront of a profession--impatience, competitive ambition, so forth.

Hey, next time try "Hit me with your (composing) stick!"

On Jul.29.2004 at 03:57 PM
Armin’s comment is:

I too enjoyed the talk. It started with a lot of energy and it was exactly what we needed after the Linotype yawn fest. It seemed like you lost a little bit of steam — understandably so — towards the third quarter of the talk and that's where the talk might have felt a little disconnected. Mostly, I think everybody was tired out of their minds by that point. I know I was. Of all the ripoffs of Helvetica you showed by 10:30 pm (12:30 am Chicago time) I couldn't tell one slide from the next. I completely cracked up with the mention of the Akzidenz "incident". Good times.

On Jul.29.2004 at 04:53 PM
Hrant’s comment is:

Maybe I'm too much of a freak (probably), or I get too much sleep during the week (I don't think so), but I didn't get too bored during the Linotype thing, I liked Erik's presentation (and failed to note any loss of steam anywhere), and I really enjoyed his jabs, both political (we need it) and "industrial" (we need it). And I ate and drank until 2AM each night, and I was there for the 8:30AM presentations each morning. I even showered - twice! And when I got home Sunday night I didn't sleep until midnight. When it comes to talking type, I'm an efficient German robot I guess. ;-) Maybe we need a workshop about how to be a good type freak. I'll do the drinking section.

Anyway, R'n'R NYC! Although I'm really sick of feeling sorry for that city. What I'd really like is a "I{FUCK}NY" shirt.


On Jul.30.2004 at 07:59 PM
Armin’s comment is:

A Speak Up reader recently submitted this question, if you could help out with some recommendations that would be swell:

It is one thing to be a good designer - and another to be a good speaker. I am trying to find those who are both inspiring and interesting. I am part of an organization that brings up multi-discipined desginers, architects and artist to Alaska to speak. But because I am up here, it is hard to hear good speakers. A few folks that are on my list for the upcoming season (which is themed - not titled yet ... but hand-crafted is the nature of it) are Ed Fella, Jack Stauffacher, james victore, Irma Boom, benjamin savignac, and aesthetic apparatus are on our short list. If anyone has heard them speak --- i would love to hear what you thought...... or if you have heard someone that has been amazing ... it is nice to have good recomendations.

On Jun.30.2005 at 08:59 PM