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Now Online: Lettering and Type Talks from 2023 and Beyond

Our video collections let you catch up on every Letterform Lecture, and — for the first time — all Salon Series recordings back to 2019.

In 2023 Letterform Archive hosted dozens of online and onsite events exploring typographic history and contemporary design, and covering a wide range of writing systems and locales, from Arabic to Cherokee, Buenos Aires to Vienna.

These events include Letterform Lectures, the companion to the Type West certificate program in type design, and the Salon Series, where staff or guest experts delve deep into specific themes within the Archive. Salon recordings are now available to all, thanks to the support of donors and members. If you didn’t get a chance to catch these talks as they happened, here’s a handy summary of all 24 recordings.

New Ideas in Visual Language with Vivian Sming

Feb 1, 2023 — Our Curatorial Fellow, Vivian Sming, presented highlights from her new acquisitions for the Archive that were in dialogue with our existing collection. She guided us through unusual letterforms created by bookworms, modular typography, unique and collaborative reading experiences, and books by contemporary artists using language in their work.

A Byte Sized History of Computer Typography with Ben Zotto

Feb 14, 2023 — This Letterform Lecture with Ben Zotto takes participants on a whirlwind tour of bitmaps, cathode rays, and the symbiotic evolution of type and computer technology. The presentation combines insights into the mechanics and origins with a sentimental acknowledgment of what is inevitably lost to obsolescence.

New Leaves: The Cherokee Syllabary in the 21st Century
with Chris Skillern

Mar 7, 2023 — In 2021, the Cherokee syllabary celebrated its bicentennial, commemorating two centuries since Sequoyah invented this writing system for the Cherokee language. Currently, it continues to play a crucial role in Cherokee culture and identity, undergoing concentrated revitalization efforts. Accompany type designer and Cherokee Nation citizen Chris Skillern on a historical journey through the evolution of the syllabary and its integration with new technologies.

Freedom in Restriction: My Journey with Kufi
with Joumana Medlej

Mar 14, 2023 — Join artist Joumana Medlej as she showcases examples from her work, illustrating the distinct qualities of the two primary strands within this Arabic script family. Through her creations, she harnesses the visual language of Kufic to craft compositions that resonate with pure meaning.

Growing Up Underground with Steve Heller and Jon Sueda

Mar 16, 2023 — Steve Heller honed his typographic and design skills while contributing to art staffs and art directing underground newspapers in the 1960s and early ’70s. In his recent memoir, Growing Up Underground: A Memoir of Counterculture New York, he recounts his journey from a radical novice and ad hoc designer to eventually working on the esteemed Op-Ed page of The New York Times. Discover more about Mr. Heller's formative years and gain insights into what it was like to navigate the graphic design landscape during the tumultuous counterculture era in this virtual interview with Jon Sueda.

Letters from Buenos Aires with Muk Monsalve

Mar 28, 2023 — Since 2018, Muk Monsalve, along with her art and business partner Lucía Soto, has been hosting and curating type walks around Buenos Aires. During the pandemic, when their typographic walks came to a pause, they conceived a typographic scarf that reimagined their journey. The process was so enjoyable that it evolved into a complete collection of accessories that are not only aesthetically pleasing, they narrate stories through their design, typography, and phrases.

Recovering the Forgotten Women of Metal Type Design with Bethany Qualls

Mar 30, 2023 — In this Salon, Bethany Qualls provides a comprehensive exploration of often-overlooked women and their significant contributions to the history of type. Qualls offers an insider's perspective on her role as a Mellon Public Scholar, featuring type specimens from the Archive collection, aspects omitted from many English language resources, practical advice on researching languages you don’t speak and alphabets you can’t read, as well as insights into the project’s future phases.

Designer as Protestor with Design is Play: Mark Fox and Angie Wang, Heather Snyder Quinn, Adam DelMarcelle

Apr 6, 2023 — How can designers seamlessly incorporate issues of justice, equity, and human rights into their professional practices? Creative people whose hearts are in advocacy often make their living in the commercial world. Our panelists for this Salon have lent their creative expertise to a diverse array of organizations, from nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies — and their work is featured in the Archive’s Strikehtrough exhibition.

Inventing the Alphabet: Origin Stories to Forensic Evidence with Johanna Drucker

Apr 20, 2023 — Exploring the origins of the alphabet adds a significant chapter to the expansive history of ideas. Numerous vibrant intellectual traditions have thrived over time, with some relegated to the sidelines, dismissed by the “modern” methodologies of archaeology and forensic science. Johanna Drucker’s research into diverse lineages not only uncovers the story of the alphabet but also reveals distinct modes of knowledge production and transmission.

Hidden Diversity: Lessons from Four Centuries of Javanese Script Heritage with Aditya Bayu Perdana

Jun 20, 2023 — In this presentation, Aditya Bayu Perdana demonstrates his utilization of archival Javanese materials to enhance the typography of Javanese in contemporary contexts. Explore a selection of materials he has amassed over the years and observe how they have been incorporated into various typographic projects. Gain insights into Bayu's personal journey working with Javanese and other Indonesian scripts, and learn about his continuous endeavors to both master and advocate for design excellence in traditional scripts.

Unexpected Baskerville: The Story of LoveFrom Serif with Antonio Cavedoni, Chris Wilson

Jun 27, 2023 — Founded by Sir Jony Ive, Marc Newson, and Peter Saville, LoveFrom is a collective of creatives dedicated to exploring the convergence of design, art, and technology. Their inaugural project involved LoveFrom, Serif, a font family inspired by the distinctive type of John Baskerville. This presentation delves into the intricacies of developing a fresh interpretation of these well-trod lettershapes, examining surviving punches, printed books, and writing manuals.

Working With CSS Doesn’t Have To Make You Cry
with Chen Hui Jing

Jul 11, 2023 — A somewhat common scenario in web design is that of a designer handing over their painstakingly pixel-perfect mockups to a developer and experiencing the five stages of grief when they see the end result. This lecture will try to reconcile the two worlds by presenting a developer’s side of the story.

Mexican Rótulos: An Endangered Species?
with Romina Hernández

Jul 25, 2023 — Embark on a captivating exploration with Romina Hernández as she showcases a collection of remarkable and often overlooked Rótulos (signs) from Mexico City and beyond. Delve into the dual nature of sign painting in Mexico as both an endangered craft and a vital everyday practice.

Academy Meets the Street: Radical Journal Design and The Black Scholar with Amy Papaelias, Jessica Barness

Aug 8, 2023 — Established in 1969 and initially printed by Graphic Arts of Marin, The Black Scholar: Journal of Black Studies and Research positioned itself as a radical academic journal committed to “uniting the academy and the street” within the emerging field of Black Studies. In this lecture Amy Papaelias and Jessica Barness explore the visual and printed history of the journal, offering a comprehensive analysis of the term “radical scholarship” and its connection to the publishing and design of contemporary academic journals.

SF Handstyles: Word of Mouth with Kate Dole

Kate Dole headshot

Aug 31, 2023 — This hybrid onsite/online Salon led by Kate Dole sheds light on the crucial role of oral traditions in preserving the fundamental elements of San Francisco’s graffiti culture across generations. As part of the Subscription to Mischief exhibition, Dole provides an overview of the city’s graffiti scene history and emphasizes the significance of cultivating a distinctive handstyle.

Trust Your Struggle with Robert Liu-Trujillo, Nisha Sethi, Miguel Bounce Perez

Sep 7, 2023 — Trust Your Struggle is a multi-generational collective based in Oakland, comprised of artists, educators, and cultural workers committed to mobilizing communities in areas such as social justice, environmental sustainability, and community organizing through public art. We were delighted to have three members of Trust Your Struggle share their perspectives on graffiti and its profound influence on their experiences as working artists in the Bay Area.

Modular: Claiming Typographic Trancestors in the Archive
with sair goetz

portait of a nonbiary person with glasses, sideburns, and a tie

Oct 5, 2023 — Modular type systems stand as the cult classic in the realms of typography and lettering. This lecture aims to acquaint you with a letter-forming approach that may be an unexpected yet delightful discovery. Collections Programming Manager and time-based artist, sair goetz, takes us on a playful exploration of metal modular typefaces, an overview of modern approaches to modularity, the unique challenges posed by modular systems in the digital media landscape, and offers a metaphor for transgender, non-binary gender diversity.

Breton Fishing Figures with Yoann De Roeck

Oct 17, 2023 — According to French fishermen of yore, the invention of a “barbed” alphabet style was purportedly intended to render the figures “favorable for fishing” and bring about good fortune. However, opposing perspectives dismissed this as a superstitious notion and proposed motives rooted purely in aesthetics. Rather than being mutually exclusive, these viewpoints offer insights into the intricate thought processes of that era and our varied interpretations of the individuals involved.

From the Source: A Conversation with Chino BYI
with David Villorente (Chino BYI), Kel Troughton

Oct 26, 2023 — As part of Subscription to Mischief, this salon features exhibition co-curator Chino BYI / David Villorente, a graffiti writer, historian, and author in conversation with the Archive’s Curatorial Consultant and co-curator Kel Troughton. Villorente recounts his experiences at The Source magazine during a pivotal era for hip hop and graffiti, offering his perspective on the dynamic relationship between the two cultures.

The Mysterious Case of the Shapeshifting Poblano Blackletter
with Jesús Barrientos Mora

Oct 31, 2023 — There is an unspoken tradition of letter-making in the streets of Puebla and other Mexican cities. It emanates from multi-generational sign painters who invented styles that cross traditional categorization, combining the shapes that appear in lettering manuals, vice royal documents, and a free interpretation of blackletter in an unapologetic need for self-expression. In this lecture, Jesús Barrientos Mora will explore some details of what he calls the “post-modern Mexican blackletter hand” in a colorful collection of Poblano blackletter.

Everything is Drag with Kyle Letendre

Nov 14, 2023 — Kyle Letendres’s frames drag as the perfect community-focused, anti-capitalist tool for navigating the world. After all, a transcendent performance and a striking piece of design share much in common: a respect for tradition tempered with the need to poke fun; the delight of a well-timed reveal or surprise; and the license to pour glitter on our blemishes and relish in taboo.

Die Fläche: Design and Lettering of the Vienna Secession with Diane V. Silverthorne, Dan Reynolds, Megan Brandow-Faller

Nov 16, 2023 — Embark on a journey into the world of Vienna 1900 graphic design in a roundtable discussion with the contributors to our latest book, Die Fläche: Design and Lettering of the Vienna Secession, 1902–1911. Join Diane V. Silverthorne, Dan Reynolds, and Megan Brandow-Faller as they share insights from their essays, delving into the realm of innovative “surface art” that emerged from the Secessionist movement, the Wiener Werkstätte arts and crafts co-op, and groundbreaking design courses at the Vienna Applied Arts School.

Letterform Archive Goes Global: A Virtual Tour with 2023 Docent Cohort

Enthusiastic about Letterform Archive but reside far from San Francisco? Interested in our virtual tours but want a demo before booking one? View a recording of our international group of docents as they navigate our collections, providing unique perspectives on lettering, typography, and visual language. Our international team of docents have expertise in dozens of topics and can host tours in 15 different languages. See their profiles to learn more.

THE OHNO LIVESTREAM with James Edmondson

In this final Letterform Lecture of the year, James Edmondson, founder of OH no Type Company, peels back the curtain into the contemporary type designers process, from sketch to digitization and vector wrangling in Robofont. Watch along as we ask questions about how he makes decisions while he makes fonts.