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ATypI All Over 2020 Talk: New Typographic Environments

Navigating the Typographic Frontier: Unraveling New Environments in Typography and Design

In the rapidly evolving landscape of digital design, typographers find themselves standing at the crossroads of innovation and limitless possibilities. Kaleb Dean, a seasoned design educator and founder of Studio Ostendo, took the stage at ATypI All Over 2020 to shed light on what he terms "New Typographic Environments." As we anticipate ATypI All Over 2021, let's dive into the paradigm shift proposed by Kaleb and explore the profound implications of these new typographic realms.

The Evolution of ATypI:

Before delving into Kaleb's insightful talk, let's take a moment to appreciate the context provided by ATypI. Established in 1957, the Association Typographique Internationale has played a pivotal role in uniting global type manufacturers. Initially geared toward European collaboration amidst technological changes, ATypI has, over the years, expanded its scope to encompass a fully global perspective. Through conferences, publications, awards, and unseen efforts, ATypI has adapted to the dynamic landscape of font production.

Defining the Typographic Journey: Article, Repository, Cooperative, Assemblage

Kaleb's talk introduces a conceptual framework that encapsulates the journey of typographic elements: Article, Repository, Cooperative, and Assemblage. Articles, small designed pieces intended for use elsewhere, form the building blocks of this journey. Repositories, whether public platforms like Giphy or private ones like augmented reality lenses, serve as holding places for these articles in the vastness of the internet.

Cooperatives, represented by tools like Spark AR and Lens Studio, bring articles together for immediate use. Analogous to Adobe InDesign, a familiar tool for designers, these cooperatives streamline the process of combining articles, making design more accessible for a broader audience.

The New Age Assemblage

However, it's the concept of Assemblage that truly sets these new typographic environments apart. Kaleb explores platforms like Snapchat, Instagram Stories, TikTok, Snap Camera, and emerging digital tools where users assemble an infinite array of graphic works. In a departure from traditional design methods, digital assemblages empower every user to create, modify, and contribute to the collective visual narrative.

Kaleb's own project, Akimbo, exemplifies this concept. Built on Lens Studio, Akimbo leverages face filters that not only serve as a unique form of presentation but also allow audience participation, adding layers of meaning and creativity to the narrative.

The Expanding Repositories

Kaleb emphasizes the exponential growth of repositories, citing examples like video games. Games such as Animal Crossing, where users can create their own clothing and pull from a repository of designs, demonstrate a democratization of design within virtual spaces. This shift raises questions about the economic implications, as well as the cultural and societal impacts of this new frontier.

The Virtual Economy and Design

Drawing from insights by L’Atelier BNP Paribas, Kaleb delves into the Virtual Economy—a complex ecosystem of platforms, marketplaces, skilled creators, and volatile assets existing uniquely in virtual environments. This echoes historical patterns seen in the publishing industry, where once-exclusive domains eventually became accessible to the masses. The Virtual Economy not only facilitates the exchange of digital goods for real money but also holds the potential for a new economic frontier.

Kaleb provocatively suggests the application of this virtual economic model to design, imagining a world where designers license QR codes and digital wears, selling virtual apparel in gaming environments. This speculative idea underscores the need for designers to adapt to emerging cultural and economic landscapes.

Navigating the Unknown: Cultural Implications

Kaleb concludes with a reflection on the cultural implications of these new typographic environments. The sheer scale of virtual distribution amplifies the impact of visual communication, requiring designers to approach their work with heightened responsibility. He prompts us to consider the consequences of virtual designs going viral and how the assemblage tools might shape cultural narratives.

The scenario Kaleb paints—a client seeking a face filter instead of a business card or a Facebook shop replacing a traditional webstore—offers a glimpse into a future where digital design permeates every aspect of our lives.

Kaleb Dean's exploration of new typographic environments is not just a glimpse into the future of design; it's a call to action for designers and typographers. As we anticipate the insights of ATypI All Over 2021, the evolving landscape of typography beckons us to embrace change, navigate the unknown, and, in the words of Kaleb, "key into the cultural environment" that lies ahead. The typographic frontier is expanding, and designers have the opportunity to shape its course.

Kaleb Dean
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