Well, that was rather unexpected. Yesterday the Twitterverse – by way of the inimitable Tobias Frere-Jones, type designer extraordinaire and (co-)creator of some of the most popular typefaces out there – alerted me to the fact that type design had indeed landed on planet TED. Living legend Matthew Carter is one of the very few (the only?) type designers to have worked in all technologies. He started cutting type in metal, then designed typefaces for every subsequent technology, and currently is at the forefront of digital type design optimised for on screen reading. That’s right, not simply doing it but actually leading the pack. So it is only fitting that he would be the one to introduce the audience at TED to this arcane craft last month. His talk My Life in Typefaces “takes us on a spin through a career focused on the very last pixel of each letter of a font”.
It is sobering to witness the reserved reception by the TED audience. Then again, you could wonder if it is possible (or even advisable) to condense such a rich and multifaceted career in a mere 16 minutes. Furthermore, engaging a general audience with a talk about such a specialised topic is extremely difficult – remember the talk is about type design, not the more general field of typography. I am with Oliver Reichenstein, who remarked “Type design not only ‘hides its methods’ it hides its beauty and importance”, and concluded this “[s]hows how far removed from common perception we are in our passions”. I’ll take that over an epiphimony any day.