A Look at The TypeCon2012 MKE Shift Identity

The TypeCon identity radically changes every year – see for example my post on the 2009 identity by Under Consideration/Department of Design. SoTA always picks a local(ish) designer to represent the area through designing that year’s logo and identity. They usually go with “name” designers and have been happy with the results. This year however SoTA decided to mix it up and try using the identity as a teachable moment. I talked to designer Corey Holms about their approach.

Corey Holms | “Most of the time, TypeCon partners with a local art school to help sponsor the convention. This is usually in the form of exhibition space, workshops and using the students as volunteers. The students really enjoy this and we thought it would be nice to open up their involvement. So instead of using the local school (which is already quite involved), we thought it would be nice to open it up to a different school, located fairly far away. The idea being that we get at least two different groups of young people interested in the convention, one at a local level, the other from a distance, where they have a chance to learn about the area and create an appropriate identity that celebrates typography and the region TypeCon takes place in. And that’s our teachable moment — not only do the students get to work on a national design conference identity, they also get to learn about a part of the country they are not native to, learn what is typographically significant to that area and apply a design solution that expresses what they’ve learned in a professional way. It’s taking what they learn at art school and applying it on a slightly larger scale. Hopefully they have fun doing it.”

TypeCon Workshop at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Photo by Lester Public Library

What school did you work with on the identity?

Corey Holms | “We decided to try the University of Georgia, Atlanta for this as we have a liaison with the students there. That person is Neil Summerour, who has been indispensable as he’s been visiting the school, talking to and advising the students along the way. The teacher is Julie Spivey, and the students we are using are all 3rd semester students (except on 2nd semester), by the names of Kaitlyn O’Connor, Alli Treen, Kory Gabriel, Mary Rabun, Blake Helman, and Liz Minch.”

How did the students approach the assignment?

Corey Holms | “The students spent about a month studying the vernacular typography and history of Milwaukee, the host city of TypeCon2012. They came back with a nice report detailing their findings and four different proposals for the identity, including the rich history of the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum and Press. Of those four, the graphics board were torn between two; so we had them explore those two a little more. After receiving a couple updates on those looks, we choose what is now the current identity.”

What typeface was used as the basis for the logo?

Corey Holms | “The logo is based on Receiver – the slab typeface companion to Antenna – by Cyrus Highsmith, who is a Milwaukee native. The students have taken the skeleton of the letter forms, broken them apart and reformed them using ornaments and fragments of wood type to make a cohesive look. These “clip-on serifs” are stamped over the main typeface as though they’ve been printed on a press. We are hoping to include ways of using these stamps at the convention so that attendees can play with making their own versions of the logo.”

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