Thoughts on Typo San Francisco

Typo is a series of design talks that began in Berlin over 15 years ago. Last Thursday and Friday it was held in San Francisco for the first time. Let me start by saying that, in general, I found the Typo conference interesting and inspiring. Being that it’s the first year that they’ve done it in San Francisco, I’ll give them a Mulligan for the organizational hiccups like not having a large enough second stage venue. That said, I have a couple of thoughts on what to do for any future Typo San Francisco events.

1. Theme or No Theme
If you’re going to have a theme, the presenters should address the theme. Quite frankly, I forgot that there was a theme until Neville Brody mentioned it in passing in the second to last talk.

2. To the Speakers: Thinner Decks, More Depth
You’re speaking to a specialized audience. One that’s interested in the process, what you were thinking about, what went right, what went wrong, rather than just the final outcome. Wouldn’t it be better to pick a couple of projects (maybe ones that relate to the theme) and speak about them in depth rather than trying to run through a larger group of projects in a cursory way?

3. Debate and Dissent
Try breaking the single speaker model more often with panels or conversations between an interviewer and a speaker to get beyond the usual show and tell dynamic. It doesn’t have to be antagonistic, but what about having a panel where various people come at a subject from different perspectives?

4. Interaction
A lot of lip service was given to the importance of the interaction that takes place at these conferences. Is there a way to make this a more integral part of the program rather than leaving it to the 15 minutes (provided the speaker hasn’t run over and you don’t have to get in line for the next talk) between talks? Do you have breakout groups to discuss a topic after a presentation is given? What about just allowing for questions from the audience at the end of the talk? You can even pre-screen the questions by either having the submitted ahead of time or even during the speech via Twitter hash tag. That way the tweets have more function than just an echo chamber of adoration.

5. Have Mike Monteiro Close Every Conference
As I mentioned before the conference was inspirational, but Monteiro’s talk was a great reminder that it’s about more than just having great ideas or even doing great work. It’s about how we live, work, play, and act in the 363 days that we’re not at a design conference surrounded by people who speak the same language that we do.

So, in the end, it was a good experience which has the chance to be a great one. Whether or not the suggestions above will help I don’t know, but I hope that Typo San Francisco will be back next year and that I’ll see you all there.

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