Typo SF 2014 Recap

Happy Wednesday friends! Or for me, not so happy. I’ve been sick since monday which is why this post is a little delayed. Last week I tweeted “What better way to kick off moving back to San Francisco than to go to #typosf”, and I wasn’t wrong. Last thursday and friday I attended the Typo conference here in San Francisco for the first time. I’m really glad I convinced myself to go, and I have my long time friend Allie Wadford to thank for reminding me to get tickets in time for the event. These last few weeks I’ve been so busy trying to fit in my contact job, my freelance work, and life which is why I haven’t stayed on top of design events going on in SF. I especially am glad I went since this year I won’t be going to the HOW conference in Boston. Sad face! Already a few people have pinged me on twitter asking or emailed me and it kills me that I won’t be going this year. It’s just not financially wise right now, but I WILL do my best to follow along on the hashtags and i’ll most likely purchase the audio from HOW after the event is over.


That being said, Typo was a great 2 day event with international speakers, which was a huge draw to have the opportunity to hear from people I may never hear from again. I found it fascinating that you could definitely tell a difference between the Europeans and the Americans both in presentation style and design aesthetic. The over-arching theme of the show was Rhythm, and it was really cool to see how the speakers not only incorporated what rhythm means to them but also how there was a common message from many of them: Do what you love, and the client’s will follow. You can only be successful if you are truly passionate about what you do because that passion will fuel you to persevere.

There were so many great speakers but there were four in particular that really inspired me and those are the ones that had less to do with Typography and more to do with an overall message of finding your rhythm.

Maria Papova


Maria was our opening keynote and what a good choice! She kicked of the talk about Rhythm and how she related that to routine and finding your own process. The overall feeling from Maria was one of comfortableness in her own skin. She seemed totally at ease on stage and comfortable with herself, not trying to be funny or smart; just being herself. She spoke about a passion project where she measured the routines of 1oo famous authors.

She found that the authors who were late risers produced more work, but won less awards than their early bird counter parts, which says something about quality over quantity of work. After she did this extensive study she realized the key to personal Rhythm is this that there is no specific secret routine that will guarantee success but to follow these two rules:

1) Show up, show up, show up:  Develop a routine in just showing up, “putting your ass in the seat” and doing the work. The muse will come.

2) Be Present: don’t spend your time worrying about other things going on. Immerse yourself in your work and your best ideas will come.

She also BLEW my mind about the concept of work/life balance. She said it was a terrible way to think about your work because it implies that one is bad and the other is good and that there needs to be balance in order to lead a happy life. It really made me reflect about the way I’ve been approaching “work” and “life”, because truthfully, I love what i do. Most times, my work doesn’t feel like work and I actually have to force myself up out of my seat after 8-9 hours or I’ll just keep going. I put my work above all other things, like going out and being social, cooking.. cleaning. In college I spent a total of 10 minutes making my meals and then I’d go back to working. I think my need for balance is not necessarily for my happiness, but for my health. If it were for Jeremy and Zero I know I would probably be even worse of a work-a-holic, recluse than I am now.

Maria ended her talk with a question to ask yourself at the end of the day:

Would I be willing to do what I did today for the rest of my life, would I be happy?

Gemma O’Brien


Gemma is an Australian script writer and quite easily stole the show for me the first day with her cheerful disposition and humor. This is not her first, but second time in a period of just a few years that she has spoken at a typo conference, the first one being in Berlin. She shared with us her career journey, through gaining recognition for some of her student work, then perusing passion projects like the vomit puns on vomit bags.

She spent her time studying typography that was hand-made. She embraced the idea of the artist and the human element.


Lisa Congdon


I’ve heard Lisa speak once before at Moxiecon and she was just as amazing as the first time. Her talk, titled “Embrace the Abyss” echoed a lot of the themes in Moxiecon, which was about taking charge of your own career, pushing through your fears of failure and coming out on the other side happier and more fulfilled, which is exactly what she did. Lisa is a self-taught artist, primarily hand drawn illustrations, paintings, and typography. She showed us some of her work, which was so inspiring to see the progression into different mediums and styles. As she told us her life/creative journey, she gave us some tips along the way:

1. Lean into discomfort and embrace the abyss. This goes along with the quote above about how great creatively happens in the space when we are most vulnerable. 

2. Go outside of your comfort zone every day for at least a little bit. Lisa did this through sharing her work online. The best way to get exposure is to share share share.

3. When Lisa started to gain success, she noticed that she felt more insecure about her work than she had when no one had noticed. She said there’s a tension between the taste of success and the fear of vulnerability. It’s at that point when many artists run. It’s our job to push past it and embrace success, rise to the challenge and come out the other side.  Risk is essential, it leads to great things.

4. Invent your own challenges. Passion projects are great places to play and explore, which will lead to mastery.

5. Define yourself by your humanity, not by your achievements, failures, or mistakes. Most importantly, measure your self-worth by your happiness and quality of life, versus how much success you’ve had.


George Zisiadis


Out of all the speakers, I really think I admire George the most. He approaches life’s problems with a mischievous curiosity and flips the circumstances to create delight and awe. I really found his personality very charming and wished that more people saw the world like George. He started off by talking about how following curiosity and frustration lead to some projects that created delight for others and himself. For example, he didn’t like all the pressure that we put upon ourselves to have new years plans, so in the middle of november, he created his own version of new years every 10 minutes for one night. He truly is a user experience designer in the most authentic way possible. I really hope I come across one of his “amusements” now that I’m back in the city.

He really changed the way I think about problems. With most of the work I do, it’s all on a computer, on the internet, and never in a physical location. I never thought about solving physical problems, solving problems that affect us in our daily lives. He said that people should be able to interact and affect their environments. It made me much more aware of my surroundings.

And so ends my coverage of the typo 14 conference. There were many other great speakers, but I chose to focus on these four who really resonated with me and my current career journey.