Six Things I Learned at Typographics 2019

Every year to reward initiative and the continued desire to learn, full-time Nimble. creatives receive a financial stipend for continuing education or specialty workshops, conferences or mentorship programs. So naturally, when it came time for Nimble.’s brand designer, Heather McNamara to decide how to use her annual stipend, NYC’s Typographics Conference was top of mind on her ‘design bucket list’.

A two-day event in New York, jam packed with designers from diverse backgrounds and conversation focused around one subject (typography), Heather leapt at the opportunity to attend a conference that could help sharpen her eye for epic type design, pairings, illustrations and more. Settled into the city, with ‘learn’ as the only item on her agenda, here are a few nuggets of wisdom (and complimenting illustrations) from Heather’s adventures for those curious about what this NYC conference scene is all about.

A conference recap by Heather McNamara.


Rules are Taught to Be Broken” – Ed Fella

‘Nuff said.

Just because it isn’t Swiss design, doesnt mean it is experimental,”– Jerome Harris

There is a time and place for modernism in type, but I found it very interesting that most designers spoke about their concern for the growing use of generic sans serif fonts in logos today. Multiple speakers displayed a screen of brand marks that once possessed energy and stood out among the crowd, that had been rebranded to use simple type and no supporting icon. The continued discussion revolved around the concern that you had no idea what each brand sold or provided. A technology company brand could sell clothing, a clothing company could be a restaurant, and the list went on. There was seemingly no distinction between brands and no singular brand showcased what it actually provided to end users. Although the brands felt elevated and professional, they were all starting to feel the same. It was an interesting discussion about where the world of branding is heading and where unique serif and display fonts now belonged in a world of clean simple fonts.

Type should be an integrated part of the design process and not just an afterthought.

This seems obvious, but after hearing Joyce N. Ho speak about her use of type, design and motion to create some of the most inspiring and well known motion graphics to date (including the True Detective opening sequence), it seemed to click. With special cases like motion graphics, type is more than an addition or extra piece added to a scene — it’s the sole focus. Opening credits of shows are similar to type marks and brand creations where the type is just as important as the visual it is interacting with. In order to have a successful brand, the type and visual explorations should be working in tandem. Type can be used as the inspiration, visual thread, or the main focus. The type and visuals should elevate each other and be used as equal thoughts.

Ugly Typefaces with Marta Bernstein

Marta Bernstein gave a lecture on ugly typefaces. At first I thought she would discuss the abundance of typefaces being created today with very little thought as to how they would function, but she came to the table with a much different perspective. Type history throughout Italy is fascinating to look at and explore with their overly designed letterforms and extreme ornamentation. But the typefaces themselves show a timeline of how we use type in day to day life and what we look for in a successful exploration. She showed her study of type history and encouraged us to look at type as more than a tool, but a piece of history.

Client Feedback Cycles Range

Janet Hansen showcased her portfolio of book covers crafted during her time working for Alfred A. Knopf and Pantheon Books. She revealed the lengthy process of cover design and opened up the conversation for a collaborative discussion centered on client feedback and interaction. Rather than just revealing final product, she took us through a few case study renditions, explaining that some projects take 50 design and edit rounds before reaching completion. It was grounding to learn that even the best designers out there still go through similar processes and feedback loops. In the end, if the client is happy then it’s a project success in her book.

Designing ‘The Thing’ Versus Loving What You Do

James Edmondson discussion was hilarious and inspiring. He revealed his unceasing desire to design “the thing” — the timeless Helvetica’s of the world that would never go unused. After much contemplation, he realized that “the thing” was not what he wanted to create after all. Instead, he revealed what it’s all about — truly loving what you do and the ability to have fun in your work. Design can be more than the norm and more than the expected, and it’s increasingly important to continue exploring how we can push design and type uses to reach untapped potential.