Are you curious about the happenings of the type world abroad? In this series, interviews provide a glimpse into their fascinating world through the lens of the designers, programmers, educators, vendors, and other members who make up the fabric of this type-loving community.
“All roads lead to Typography” had an interview with Indra Kupferschmid, a typographer from Germany.
Please introduce yourself briefly.
Indra Kupferschmid (IK): I’m a typographer and a professor of communication design at HBKsaar – University of arts Saarbrücken in the South-West of Germany.
Favourite Latin alphabet?
IK: I like the lowercase alphabet best because it has lots of variation, ascending and descending forms, and feels more natural and less authoritative than the uppercase alphabet.
The first character you draw when drawing a new style?
IK: The ‘n’ is a good letter to start with. It gives me an idea of proportions (width/height), stroke thickness and stroke contrast, terminal treatments (serif). And you pretty much get five or more other letters to go with it for free – m, u, i, l, h, r … – with which you can start spacing and typing some text.
Any current project you can openly talk about?
IK: I am about to start working again on a new revision of the German DIN (Deutsche Industrienorm – German industry standard) classification of typefaces. I got involved in this way back in 1998, but the process had stalled over many years. Since then, I have published my ideas on how I think type classification could be more useful in books and articles on my website. But this time, the committee might be set up better and more efficiently, so I am confident that we will come to a good agreement in 2020. And finally say goodbye to the classification from the 1950s when most successful Latin sans serif typefaces were not even released yet.
Other than that, I want to make this the year where I finally finish some of my own book projects I have been working on for decades.
Any language you would like to try to design a typeface for?
IK: I am very intrigued by the logic and systematics of Hangul, maybe because it can look a bit square and rigid. Thai, in contrast, appeals to me because of its rounds and occasional loops in some styles. So I would like to try these two writing systems one day, but just for fun. There are so many talented and skilled native designers who can tackle the task so much better than me.
Your first ATypI conference is probably also the most overwhelming
Any ATypI conferences you were impressed by?
IK: I always loved the conferences at, for me, remote and less familiar locations, preferably home of great diacritics or scripts. If the place is so new to you, your fond memories are made up of all kinds of encounters and activities, not just the conference itself. I fondly remember ATypI São Paulo in 2015, being struck by the wonderfully warm people, the crazy city, and this keynote by Catherine Dixon I have to think about deeply at least once a week still. And it had hands down the best conference party of the decade.
Also ATypI 2011 in Reykjavik was amazing. We got an opening address by the Icelandic president talking about how he persuaded Bill Gates to support Icelandic characters in Windows. And the wonderful Harpa conference building with its facade designed by the artist Ólafur Elíasson.
I like his work a lot, so I was happy to see that they had an exhibition about him in Montreal in 2017 during ATypI there, just around the corner from the conference location.
My first ATypI conference was in 2000 in Leipzig, close to Weimar where I lived back then. Your first ATypI conference is probably also the most overwhelming when you are still trying to figure out how it all works, who these people are and what they are talking about. By your third or tenth, it’s like coming home to a room filled with your friends.
Any typographic events you attend every year?
IK: I have been to many TypoBerlin, ATypI and Typographics conferences in the past years. Besides some local events, this year I will attend the Fontstand conference again which will take place in Porto, Portugal. And maybe the Bits conference in Thailand. That would be my third time there.
You are one of the judges for Morisawa Type Design Competition 2019. Anything you are looking forward for in this competition?
IK: I am looking forward to being surprised by unexpected designs and solutions. With so many typefaces released just in one year, one can become jaded and I often get asked if there aren’t enough typefaces out there. The answer is “no”. Because every year I see typefaces that surprise and excite me, things I have not seen before. So I think it is perfectly possible to still design interesting new and better functioning typefaces that stand out from the masses.
You will visit Japan this year. What is your image of Japan?
IK: I imagine that everyone and everything is super super organised and composed, efficient and on time. Although the rest of the world thinks that Germans are pretty organised, I will be the confused, chaotic alien there. Also, I am looking forward to eating all of Japan’s delicious rice, fruit and vegetables!
Tea or coffee?