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TYPO Berlin 2018: insights and takeaways

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Berlin, what a city! It's been 10-years since my last visit, and this year I had the opportunity to enjoy this European capital while attending one of the most awaited typography conferences in Europe, TYPO Berlin 2018.

This year the theme was a very interesting, Trigger, dedicated to transformation, disruption, and radical shifts in the design industry.


I’ve known since last December I was going to attend TYPO Berlin (thanks to Smashing Magazine for the gift!).

Having just enjoyed 3 amazing days in Cologne, sharing knowledge and pictures with the vibrant Joomla! community at J and Beyond 2018, I arrived in Berlin fully energised and raring to go, despite an unfortunate train cancellation.

I was super ready. While on the train from Cologne to Berlin I browsed the program and created a list of all the talks and workshops I wanted to attend.

Typo18 Calendar


First day
Between branding and typography experiments

The civic city in a nomadic world
by Charles Landry

Charled Landry at Typo18

Charles Landry, a well-known speaker and city advisor, opened the first day with an impressive talk. It was an interesting reflection on the transformations many cities are experiencing due to globalisation, widespread Internet, data movement, nomadic lifestyles, and crossing cultures.


  • Cities need to build and create to accommodate the ‘movement’ of culture, goods, people, and places.
  • A city should be planned to empower people to be the best version of themselves.
  • Cities need to take account of technology: the ‘app revolution’ started by Uber, Airbnb, and Facebook, teaches us about sharing more than owning.
  • City planning as meditation.
  • Create city identities able to build bridges between heritage and creativity, between differentiation and inclusiveness.

Watch the talk



The letter in my head. How design influences reading
by Antonia M. Cornelius


Antonia M. Cornelius at Typo18

I really loved Antonia M. Cornelius’ talk. It was a trip back through time to the basics of typography, when it was treated as a science. In this digital era, where variable fonts are becoming a trendy buzzword, you will be surprised to learn that despite the way written text has changed, the way the eye sees, reads, and process typefaces hasn't changed much at all.


  • When using typography, consider 4 important aspects: perceptibility, detectability, legibility, and readability.
  • Typography has an incredible impact on the speed of reading.
  • Understand how the brain works and how different parts of the brain are activated to create new connections, reinforcing new associations.
  • Don't forget typography creates emotional bonds with the reader.
  • Not all typefaces look nice in different languages.

Watch the talk (in German)



Designer as Filmmaker
by Briar Levit

Briar Levit at Typo18


Briar Levit is the author of a great documentary, Graphic Means, which was screened during the second day of Typo Berlin. I missed the documentary, but I loved Briar’s honest talk about how difficult it was to step out from her role as a graphic designer and embrace different areas of knowledge to create a narrative flow that could work.


  • Challenge yourself and step out your comfort zone to work with people who know more than you.
  • Ignorance is bliss (if you use it as an opportunity to learn more).
  • Graphic designers can be storytellers with the help of a bunch of people who can transform the story into a visual miracle.
  • Making movies is exhausting :)

Watch the talk

by Jonathan Hitchen and Sam Meech


Tricotype at Typo18


I was already excited about this talk before book designer, Jonathan Hitchen, and digital artist, Sam Meech, stepped on the stage. In fact, I am currently following a project here on the island on Syros with a similar subject, and this talk was enlightening and inspired me, opening up new possibilities.

Ever since I founded The Pattern Tales, I have explored the idea of new patterns. I thought my love for typography and motifs had found the perfect representation in the work of Jonathan and Sam.


  • A new way to explore and understand typography through the use of Jacquard cards and a knitting machine.
  • Patterns and typography can create amazing things together.
  • Create a pulsating community around a nice idea.


Persil: The Evolution of an Icon
by Katrin Niesen and Armin Angerer

Katrin Niesen and Armin Angerer at Typo18

It’s interesting to see behind the scenes of big companies and how they deal with famous and iconic brands. Persil is currently the representation of purity and cleanliness. These values are not universal, they can be interpreted differently by various cultures.

Katrin Niesen and Armin from the Peter Schmidt Group presented a very interesting case study, full of insights and great advice for building multicultural, iconic brands.


  • A brand icon is flexible and permanent.
  • When creating something new for an old brand, respect what it represents (the icon) and its history.
  • Create rules to follow.
  • Don't forget to be brave, even if continuity is your main goal.
  • Don't fall in love with your idea: you risk damaging the consistency of a brand.

Watch the talk



Second day
Between emotions and experiments


Type in Couture
by Elizabeth Carey Smith

Elizabeth Carey Smith at Typo18


It’s impressive to see how, in a typography conference, the most neglected element on the slides is actually the typography. When I saw Elizabeth’s first slide I said to myself, ‘Finally, some slides with terrific typography.’
A creative designer by trade, Elizabeth guided us through the story of the most famous and iconic fashion magazines to highlight how trends and taste have changed the face of typography in fashion.


  • Typography is a crucial part of the story and can represent history, current trends, and ages hidden in its descenders and ascenders.
  • Typography can emphasise images and express emotions.
  • Typography is used in fashion to create authenticity.
  • On the subject of authenticity, never read but talk. The audience needs more eye contact :)

Watch the talk


Things that don’t have a thing to do with graphic design
by Aaron James Draplin 

Aaron James Draplin at Typo18 

Among the talks I saw at Typo Berlin, the ones from graphic designer and founder of Draplin Design Co., Aaron Jampe Draplin, were the most emotional ones. He showed us his life, his family, his mistakes, challenges, achievements (a really proud guy, at least on stage. Rightly!) and the loss of his beloved father.


  • Use your design skills to save money.
  • We live in a complex world: Design to simplify.
  • Your job as a designer is a way to keep the things you love most close to you.

Watch the talk


Magic Eye
by Hansje Van Halem


Hansje Van Halem at Typo18

Graphic designer, Hansje Van Halem, entertained the audience with a range of different projects, some of which were truly amazing, where typography becomes a way to experiment. It comes to a very interesting conclusion, use your passion to experiment and do the things you love the most.


  • Your origins and the people around you in the early stages of your life can really influence your career (referring to her parents and their work, she ended up in a world of patterns and typography).
  • Find comfort in your passions.
  • When your idea is rejected, try to make something creative out of it.
  • Surround yourself with other designers to help make your idea possible.
  • Variable fonts: an open debate for me, but a very interesting experiment for Hansje.

Watch the talk


A Tinker Story
by dina Amin


dina Amin at Typo18 

A very young designer stepped on the stage on the second day of Typo Berlin. I really loved dina’s (yes, with a lower-case d) enthusiasm and sense of humour, but also the way she talked about her background in Egypt, and the preconceptions and challenges of being in what many called a third world country.


  •  If you don't know what you want to be, explore your possibilities trying what you think you love the most, even if it requires ‘tearing things apart’.
  • We live in a privileged world.
  • The Internet helps to overcome distances, and despite general beliefs, improves human interaction and the exchange of ideas.
  • Design can happen anywhere. Creativity can flourish out of necessity.
  • Privilege is not just about having fast internet, but also about having time to think, so you can choose who you want to be without rushing into a job you don’t like.

Watch the talk



Third day


Now is Always the Wrong Time
by Elliot Jay Stock

Elliot Jay Stock at Typo18


I have previously seen a talk by Elliot Jay Stock about side projects at another conference a few years ago. Therefore, I already had an idea of what to expect, and his talk lived up to my expectations. Side projects can be extremely disappointing and aren’t always as successful as you’d like until you take the plunge and dedicate the right amount of time to them. The best time to take the plunge is NOW.


  • Passion projects are good when you start to consider them as real work, instead of waiting for the weekends to dedicate time to them.
  • Make time for the projects you like, between your real job and your responsibilities.
  • Ask yourself why you are doing it.
  • Follow your passion or you will regret it.

Watch the talk


Dissolving Borders
by Saar Friedman


Saar Friedman at Typo18


Creative director, Saar Friedman, showed us a different Jerusalem from the one we are used to. Design can truly make a difference and play a big role in ‘dissolving borders’ where politics and religion fails. Design can create a way where differences are synonymous with richness. A talk I truly enjoyed.


  • Design to create a language that unifies cultures, people, and religions.
  • Make your own path out of your comfort zone.
  • Design to change perception.
  • Design to invite people to make a deep and profound change.

Watch the talk



I loved this conference. It was impeccably organised. Each speaker had a short introduction that provided the audience with the right perspective. However, I realised three days packed with good talks was too much. By the third day, my mind was so saturated with information that after the morning talks I left to explore the city, sum up my takeaways (hence my blog post), and stay inspired (rather than losing focus).

The only downside was that I didn’t get to attend any workshops. In fact, to attend a workshop I should have spent most of my time in line, missing most of the inspiring talks summarised above.

I think the ‘first come, first served’ philosophy could be applied a bit differently for the next event. In the morning, the first arrivals should be able to register for the workshop of the day, guaranteeing he/she can follow the talks until it’s time for the workshop. It would be fair for all the people who want to follow the talks without losing considerable time in a queue.

I love how the break was organised. I had time to talk to other attendees and connect with new friends and designers. Here’s a picture of me and my new friend, Manal!

Manal and I at Typo18