ATypI in Prague


At the end of September and the beginning of October, the 48th anniversary conference of the international typographers’ organisation ATypI took place. Its key theme was The Crossroads of Civilisations. Over three hundred of type designers, journalists, typographers and computer programmers gathered in Prague. Only a minor number of visitors came from the Eastern Europe; however, they formed a significant part among the speakers, since the bloc Centraland Eastern European Traces was the largest one of all.


1) Gerard Unger
2) Pavel Zelenka, František Štorm
3) Audience in Archa Theatre


The conference was opened by a talk by British critic Rick Poynor. He talked about the new spirit in design and typography from the East and Central European countries, and about the designer’s responsibility towards the visual environment. We reprint the full speech in this issue on page 2. Fears of organisers that local themes will be neglected have proved false: the presentations of topics from the Eastern and Central Europe were a great success among the audience (among the doyens of Czech typography thoroughly presented were Oldřich Menhart, Vojtěch Preissig, Ladislav Sutnar and Josef Týfa). The success may have been caused, apart from other things, by the fact that mainly new, unknown people had presented themes little known outside the region.


1) Peter Biľak, Mark Thomson
2) John D. Berry, Rolf F. Rehe, Eric Spiekermann
3) Iva Knobloch 


Fairly large amount of space was dedicated to multilingual typography and diacritics (the bloc Typographic Babylon). Although there exists a strong international trend to “latinise” national alphabets, there are some European and American typographers who, in cooperation with local experts, respect and try to preserve the national traditions. A visible outcome of this new approach can be seen, for example, in some Adobe Pro typefaces, in the new families of Fedra and Gentium typefaces which are being created, or in the new collection of Microsoft typefaces, intended for use in the future version of MS Windows (we discuss them in detail on page 14).


1) Yuri Yamola
2) Congress book store Nijhof & Lee
3) During the pause


We are not so naďve as to think that a few talks in Prague will force the important font distributors to immediately add a great number of new characters to the present-time typeface sets. However, we do believe that it is important that “they” know that “we” are dealing with the problem and that we help “them” with its solution. Of course the main problem does not lie only in accents — accents in themselves constitute just a minor problem (apart from the Polish ogoneks). Much more difficult is to create typefaces for the nations whose way of writing is highly complex, with a great amount of exceptions, with various versions of characters where the use depends on context or aesthetics, etc.

Not only typographic details were discussed, though — Andrea Marks introduced a capturing documentary Freedom on the Fence dealing with the vital graphic design of Polish film poster during the communist era. At that time, the poster presented not only exceptional aesthetic values, but it also functioned as an encoded political manifesto.


1) Petra Černe Oven
2) Christian Schwartz


The accompanying program had positive feedback, too: TypeTech forum in Parkhotel (the attendance was greater than the capacity of the conference halls), or the closing of the retrospective exhibition e-a-t (Experiment and Typography) at the Museum of Decorative Arts.

The conference was a success, talks were interesting and enriching, discussions lively, parties long. Everyone we talked to was satisfied.(Even Gerard Unger, a typographer from Netherlands, who had to be treated at a hospital since he fell while leaving the stage after a discussion about new newspaper typefaces.) We hope that even Eric Menninga, an InDesign developer, was content; he managed to improvise his whole talk brilliantly after his laptop with the presentation and other important data was stolen at the hotel.


1) Former ATypI president Mark Batty
2) Dutch poster exhibition Maxem Kismanem


All in all, it is sad that such an important and interesting event was attended by so few Czech visitors. If you are among those who now regret that they did not attend the conference, you will findphotographsand articles about the event at

The TYPO magazine has an exclusive offer for its readers — more than 13 hours of footage on DVD, which can be ordered at the publisher’s address (see the colophon).



Iva Knobloch

He was a web designer before the internet. Iva Knobloch, curator of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague on Ladislav Sutnar (1897–1970s), a Czech-born information designer who spent most of his life in the United States, and was famous for his visualizations of information and carefully crafted catalogs and graphs. Sutnar designed over 1000 books.

František Štorm

As you know, Czech typefaces are the best typefaces in the world. The opening line of František Štorm, when he started his presentation on his Czech Type Library, in which he wants to digitize, preserve, and extend most historic Czech typefaces. This was another fantastic presentation, dripping with juicy typographical details. Štorm guided us through Antikva (Vojtěch Preissig, 1912–1925), Tusar (Slavoboj Tusar, 1925), Antikva (Josef Týfa, 1960), Juvenis (Josef Týfa, 1964), Academia (Josef Týfa, 1968), Solpera (Jan Solpera, 1970), and Metron (Jiří Rathouský, 1973).

Gerard Unger

My dream was to design a kind of typographic Volkswagen. Gerard Unger, about his Demos. Demos had to be converted from the bitmap format in which it was originally designed by Unger, a process he described at length. The outlines generated from the bitmap needed lots of restoration work.

Rick Poynor

It’s too late. The bullshit is already here. Rick Poynor about the big billboards, bad design, rampant commercialism and visual leprosy in the streets of Prague. He lamented the probable demise of home-grown Czech (and Central European) design and presented his Utopia, a world in which designers would refuse to perform certain kinds of work. In a lively Q&A session, Spiekermann suggested taking the money from the big bad firms anyway and using that income to be creative in more charitable projects.

Jovica Veljovič

I am not interested in the IKEA philosophy. Uttered by Jovica Veljović just before he treated us to a sneak preview of Veljovic Script Pro, which was started in the early 90s, but is still not finished.Itwillbeamultilingualface,closetohandwriting. He always starts a typeface from scratch, and is turned off by the IKEA assembly method, which consists of fittingserifsandslabsandpiecesofletters together. A knife perhaps in the back of Martin Majoor, who had the floorjust before him? In any case, Jovica works slowly and carefully and releases faces only when he is totally satisfied.

Petra Černe Oven

We will never be willing to abandon our diacritics. Petra Černe Oven, at the end of her presentation, as a preemptive strike against possible type rules that would come down from the EU officesinBrussels.

Quotations from ATypI conference wrote down Luc Devroye, Canadian mathematics and computer science professor.