We asked 40 ATypI members (or past members) questions and compiled their answers here. The answers are (and remain) anonymous and mixed but they do give a good impression what ATypI needs to do.

Do you think ATypI have a use/fonction?

I think ATypI still has a use/function. It is an annual gathering of type people (designers, users, educators, distributors) and it is good that every year people get together. It brings together the type-making and the type-using communities. And it is properly international.

Yes, mostly information/education/networking and general good-practice dissemination

Persons like you make ATypI alive, thank you! Yes, its role is to put together people who share same cultural and professional interest.

I think ATypI is a wonderful salon for everyone involved in the type industry. It’s always been a great place to see your colleagues (you and I have only met at ATypI, haven’t we?)—and if we can find a way to improve the organization’s membership, it may still be a terrific venue for newcomers and enthusiasts to learn more about typography.

I think ATypI has a use and a function. It is the only organization I know of for type designers, and, to a limited scope, practicing typographers, that truly has an international character. It brings together people interested in type design and typography from all over the world. It has nearly 50 years of tradition. It has a somewhat functioning network of country delegates, especially important in countries that nearly have no other typographic structures (i.e., I think for USA or Germany country delegates are less important than for Poland, Russia, or Norway).

Socially yes. I look forward to it each year. I enjoy the lectures, the atmosphere. I learn some things too. I find the technology bits useful and also the opportunity to put names to faces.

It’s the only international organization (and almost the only organization at all) representing the typography industry.

Definitely there is a function. A better questions would be: What are the current goals and are they still valid? Do they have a value to the member? In my correspondence, discussions and presentations I always have the impression that education is not always at the level where it could be. There are strong areas (NL, D, US) and weak areas (I, ES, Latin America, Africa, Middle East) and even blank areas. I always here the question – where can I get information on … and then the simplest things. (The questions are from the professors as well as the students and professionals)

I am not a designer, so my main interest is not in the design aspects of the organisation. Nevertheless it would be beneficial if ATypI would have the energy and resources to define standards and guidelines for design, legal issues and technology as a framework. This is what we call “dirty work”, but goes along with the basic idea of a Typographic Association. With this the organisation would have influence on education by providing the information. A simple guideline (officially released by ATypI) on licensing issues would be a start. A network of designers and technology developers to put together standards and guidelines that become official.

The other side of the medal is the social function. I would value this just as high as the other.

It is the only long standing, consistent and reliable international forum available. It favors no one group, and is available for all interested in type and typography. It is well supported year round with Web presence which continues to improve.

It had a function in the past. These days some of the things that ATypI did have been taken over by other organisations and conventions. Any of the goals listed by the statutes – protection, arbitration are completely unreachable. In a sense that answers your next question – the organisation doesn’t do what it says it does on paper.

Perhaps “education”, in the sense that people go to a conference and they “learn” something. But plenty of other people are doing the same thing, so…

One positive thing I suppose is that it is “travelling”, so a new city/country gets exposed to it each time.

Yes, it should return to its function as a trade organization whose function is to advocate for the rights and mutual respect of type designers. It should also publish a journal and lobby for copyright protection.

As an organization, maybe. As a conference, yes, absolutely.

Every year around this time we have an internal discussion regarding ATypI and it’s usefulness, and we always come down on the side that the font world is a better place with ATypI existing and that the annual conference takes place.

We do feel that ATypI is useful as an annual get-together of the industry, and perhaps as a mediator in industry disputes. However other activities, publishing and competitions for example, seem to not be particularly useful (unless they generate revenue to keep the organization afloat – which I don’t think they do).

It has: the annual conference and the web forum anything else is questionable; book projects like Bukvaraz can be pulled off by a publisher or other interested people,does not need an organisation like ATypI, same goes for educational initiatives.

It functions as a typographic society now – bringing people together at different locations every year. That’s nice, but not sufficient in my opinion. It should act more as a platform for the people in the type design industry – give guidance to young designers for instance – and makes itself more known in order to establish itself as an authority. It’s a toothless tiger now, threatened by extinction.

At present, only as a social club. That’s it.

Sure. It serves to provide a gathering place for people who design type once a year. Beyond that, I do not see it serving any purpose right now.

No sure anymore? despite all efforts, seems the association has really too much difficulties to do more than just a annual conference.

It could have a use as: an international club, a forum for discussion (emails and conference) and not more than this.

I’m not so sure. With so many other ORGs and GROUPs, not to mention “type” conferences, ATypI could very well be at its end.

What doesn’t work at all in ATypI?

Kicking out members and companies that misbehave. You know who I mean. ATypI cowers in the face of lawsuits. There is no “association”, it doesn’t act on behalf of its members in any proactive way.

There is a veil of secrecy about the organization and those who run it. It has a mystery about it, an air of aristocracy. Also, the conferences are way too expensive to run so they depend upon sponsorships. Yet the sponsors get no real benefit from this, other than a feeling of supporting ATypI (it is hard for them to justify this economically, they only do it emotionally).

Membership: prices are too high unless you go to the conferences, and the benefits for members are not good. Seems to rely on the same small group of volunteers. Hard to recruit new members. Anti piracy, lobbying, combining industry strength

No regulatory function. No leadership function. No represenation of members in politics, economics, legal issues. No awareness outside of the group of ATypI members (except students) and definately no influence on the “industry”

The board seems totally unfocused. a conference is good once a year. but it has become more of a social event. I cannot say, there is something that doesn’t work at all. I would say, like in every loss organisation it is not easy to define a direction.

The never-ending discussions about the Code Morale, piracy, anti-piracy initiatives (copyrights, trademarks, patents, software countermeasures, digital rights management, etc.), the perennial discussion about setting up some sort of registry for new typefaces, and any attempt to use the organization as some sort of arbitrator to settle our countless disagreements.

The Code Morale’s failure to have any impact on Book Antiqua was very discouraging. Zapf’s resignation was always a tragic low point.

The inflated aspirations of it being a serious organisation with powers of arbitration

The president has shown little activity for many years. The statutes are out-of date and the current management policy is basically illegal. The Executive Director does some work but it is only a side-activity. For a person who receives roughly US$4000 plus expenses, this should ideally be a full-time job, not a part-time job. Financial reports should be regularly submitted to the board. Financial problems should be openly discussed with the members.

The ethical and legal matters. Why people like the {removed} can be member for instance. 1. The management. 2. The true capabilities vs. the claims to be: – a trade organization, – a organization to improve the legal protection of type, – a arbitrator. 3. The obsolete, false and unnecessary code morale.

Had to say, by asking the question you must have an idea of what’s broken. To answer this I’d have to know what the aims of ATypI are, why it exists etc, Which I don’t.

The Code Morale. Font thieves & font pirates should be expelled and not be readmitted.

ATypI is an an advocate group for a specific industry. Therefore their mission should be to act on behalf of its members on issues that affect them. For example, perhaps ATypI should have a program that educates type consumers on font licensing. This is something that would benefit all members.

The organisation is not transparent—because we depend too much on volunteers who have their own agenda.

The committee structure – at least as far as I can tell. I don’t see that committees are actively promoted, used as training grounds for ATypI officers or as a resource for the organization to accomplish its goals.

Because it is a volunteer organization the quality is as good as the volunteers. Sometimes people are more motivated, sometimes less. As an international organization ATypI is not in a position to put on many local events. Local organizations are in a better position to consolidate franchise because they are more accessible more often. 

Transparency of its organisation, dealings (esp financial, not even for Board members – unless things have changed in the past 18 months).

Many things doesn’t work at ATypI. The lack of transparency is the biggest issue to me. ATypI represent anything anymore in the typographic scene. There is a too big gap between necessary effort and money needed compared to the return of it. The internet provide in many case a better and free option to exchange informations on subject of concerns for people involved in type.

I don’t really like the present style of management of the association seems to be trying for more than it can really deliver too pretentious.

It seems without real focus as a group. It is too expensive to attend every year. There are so many conferences, it is a difficult thing to decide which one’s to attend. Price always is factored in to the decision making.

Could you live without it?

What, without ATypI? Not as a part of the World of Typography, Type, Fonts, Font Technology. But at the moment I am not convinced that it is more than a social event. So actually I am living without my version of an ATypI.

I think it is essential to the industry. Don’t want to live without the conference.

I would prefer not to. It remains a useful forum and sounding board for our world, and I get value from this.

I suppose so, but it would be sad. I don’t really know what the alternative would be: certainly the AIGA conferences are fun and exciting, but only peripherally about type. “TypeCon” is becoming more serious every year, and I look forward to attending in New York next summer, but any type organization with a de facto North American bias is just less interesting to me than one which attracts attendees from Europe. I once again went to TypoBerlin this year, which was a really great event, though I wonder sometimes whether the type industry overall has the energy and resources necessary to mount a production like this.

No, I think it is important to have an “official” type community. When things go wrong we all need friends to communicate with.

Yes, but prefer life with it

Yes. Unfortunately. A professional organisation would be good. A standards organisation might be useful. Technical conferences are useful. Meeting collegues and fellow educators is necessary. But ATypI is no longer the only occasion or organisation offering opportunities for these things.

Today, easily. Ten years ago, it was a good meeting place – but I met everyone. :-)

Could I live without, yes now that TypeCon and SOTA have established a solid presence her in the USA. I think FontShop’s event would take over in Germany, not sure about attracting the rest of Europe.

Of course. But my life would be not quite so rich.

Very good.


I could not live without love, but of course without the ATypI

The organization – yes. The conference – no. ATypI conferences are easily better than TypeCon when it comes to choice of cities. So far at least. I like international travel and any chance to use my German or Dutch.

ATypI is nice-to-have but not essential.

I’m not a member anyway, so I guess I can live without it.

Yes. I could easily live without it. Inarguably, ATypI has lost its focus to protect typefaces.

I guess so, but then there would be no conference. I like the ‘stature’ (if that is the right word) of ATypI conference, a good mix of old and new, serious and fun. I haven’t been to the other conferences but always had the impression they were more aimed at students. Fuse etc.

Sadly, I can live without it. We need to be realist and what make ATypI is just the annual conference. Nothing more.
I could live without it. But I would regret losing what seems good – the international contact.

I’m going to have to this year. The last two years (Rome and Vancouver) were excellent (content specifically). But ATypI isn’t the only kid on the block that can get good content.

If not, what are you able to help keeping it alive?

I do some stuff. I don’t want to do more, but I am happy to do something if it continues.

Over time I have given at least 2,000 hours to ATypI issues, and continue to give time across a spectrum of projects for ATypI.

Volunteer where needed. Let me know.

I tried to help in the way I am best at, and failed. Other than that, I can only help promote the conference on our websites.

We contribute boatloads of money and try to help out whenever asked.

We have already done everything: financial support, loyalty of the members…

A yearly magazine, book, or something posted to members.

As with many things – people that are convinced that something is good, right, useful, will talk about it. I have evangelized many things in the past.

Even if yes, I am trying to give my input as country delegate.

Contribute to rewriting the Code Morale to make it stricter and more punitive.

A bit of thinking, and a bit of voluntary work.

I think I will contribute some work, for example at the website. However, generally speaking, I think ATypI on the web should be a place like Typophile, but isn’t.

I think it should die and be reborn into something that fits this time. The organisation was started by big companies giving an air of legality to their kartel talks. I think that people who end up doing ATypI’s work have enough on their mind than to also deal with archaic, swiss, monopolistic rules. There’s too much balast. Unless all this was changed without me knowing about it.

It bothers me that the ideas Petr (and others) worked out in TypeLab stranded in superficial window dressing. Mark Barratt does his best printing a newsletter, and it looks nice to have lots of busy computers and people somewhere in the conference, but it is a far cry from the smaller-scale, improvised, to-the-point conference that it was.

Didn’t you quote Erik Spiekermann that you don’t have to invite 500 people if you only need to talk to 10? I understand that attendees from Adobe and Microsoft need some sort of official program to be able to justify coming, but Typotechnica and Typecon seem to manage just fine.

If it becomes an organisation that acts for its members’ interests, then I’ll do my best to help it do that.

If it is doing it “right”, then I’d become a member and I’d consider membership fees of GBP:200-250.00 a reasonable amount.

That’s my secret.

I’m not sure. I’ve worked with organizations like the TDC and SPD to help promote their events using my studio’s marketing muscle, by sending out flyers in outbound envelopes, and including links from my web site. It’s something that I’d be happy to do for ATypI, but only if ATypI decides whether it’s even interested in attracting visitors. Do we want to remain an industrial concern? Or evolve into a design conference? These aren’t rhetorical questions, but they’re ones that really need to be addressed by the organization itself.

Not being a member, I wasn’t aware it’s in danger. Did Vancouver not go well? Is Prague in trouble?

I don’t know. I don’t think I am able to work on the Board with Mark & Cynthia at the leading positions. I think that ATypI needs a different President and different Executive Director. If such a change occurs, I will stand for the Board.

Again, depends on its aims etc. Maybe it should just aim to be the best conference, the main place to discuss type etc.

This is the part where I feel bad, because I am unable to commit the time toward the organization. I simply have too many responsibilities in my business and personal life now.

Not very much; i meet the people i want to meet anyway. But i’ll take part in discussions and i travel if it’s fun to do.

Not anymore right now. I failed on some aspect, and on others it was a small success. Like in UN, anything, any ideas takes ages to be done, and you really can lost all your energy and dedication. Its what happen to me.

I could give a hand in some way (writing?), if there is a movement to change it towards being just a club.

I’ve volunteered for certain things before and I would do it again … but I can’t afford it this year.

If not, do you think there is a need to create a similar international organisation ?

I think, the ATypI could be enough.

I really think it comes down to whether we need an international organization as an industrial guild, or whether we want something for our own amusement. These are both noble goals, and I’d support either of them, but I don’t know that the same organization can do both things. Guilds get their strength from exclusivity, where unions’ strength comes from inclusivity. Perhaps we need two international organizations to do each of these things!

The name and the history is there. It just needs to reinvent itself into something that deals with the current issues that face people who work in the type business. It also needs to make sure it does not become mired in the silly mercurial aspects of the type business, like running discussion groups.

It makes sense to use what we have, particularly as it carries prestige.

I know how much work it is to run an international organisation. These days this means volunteer work, which should be spend wisely.

Is there a need for a similar intl org? No, as I said I think SOTA already is there for the USA (that means competition for sponsorship money)

There are already a lot of organisations in this area. SOTA, Icograda, etc etc.

If it goes, something existing or new will take its place: the points in the first question are valid needs that somehow must be covered, not luxuries.

Already plenty of those, see note below.

SoTA already exists in North America and has helped to sponsor other events from other organizations.

Not smilar, please.

No, just improve the one we have. If this is not possible with the current members how would it work in another organisation? Who is not a member of ATypI that should be? Why not?

No ATypI already has all the members, and a certain level of organisation. Why not build on that. Maybe time for a new president! or someone who is going to take this as a proper job/business!

If not, do you think there is a need to create an similar international organisation?

There needs to be some organization which preserves the value of type – SoTA, TypeRight, TDC, the people who do the Thessaloniki or RIDT conferences – something.

I don’t know. If a good international organization with a healthy management structure were created, I would join it.

No. But a trade organization for type professionals would be necessary and helpful.

SoTA is doing far more to create a climate for condemning font theft. See the latest issue of Interrobang for proof. It has an essay on Designers’ Rights, written by John Downer

Again, what would be/are the aims? Are the aims to full fill

There are enough places to meet: TypeCon, TypoBerlin (we could start an annual forum there for the usual ATypI crowd)... and all the conferences like Thessaloniki

If it has different purposes, yes. I am here for Typecon and the disadvantage of this conference is that it is – and presumable will remain-an American conference. ATypI’s conference is good in that you have conferences in Europe, too.

No real need anymore that way. The only useful thing can a be a real trade organisation but this seems unrealistic.

yes, there is a need for such an international club.

No. With TypoBERLIN and Thessaloniki (and others) in Europe, and TypeCon (which did have very good attendance from all over the world) in the states perhaps ATypI has become outdated.

Could you live without an international annual type conference?

I like ATypI as a venue and look forward to attending. Along the way I have had to go to many other conferences or conventions such as Seybold or the Frankfurt Book Fair, which for the most part I do not enjoy.

But I think other organizations would rise in its ashes and evolve to take over. In Europe this is especially important (that some kind of group take over in trying to get the European type community fresh and in synch). From a type development perspective, Linotype’s TypoTechnica is a good event (every 2 years) that gets type designers and technologists together. So if there is no more ATypI, I think something else would step in to take it’s place.

No. But that doesn’t seem to be a risk. Typotechnica, Typo Berlin, Typecon. There’s terrific competition.

Thessaloniki, TypeCon, TypoBerlin… others, how many do we need? Only if it is truly a trade association, not a conference organiser.

Actually, I would not attend an international conference if it was just about type.

Of course, but I enjoy it immensely

Sure, but why?

We are doing our own conference (TYPO). There is TypeCon, Forum Typography (Germany), and various others.

I personally would have to travel more to meet certain people and would miss the interesting discussions, but life goes on.

Yes. But is worth keeping for the reason that we all need friends in this business. I also believe a conference is good for educational reasons, technology reasons, design reasons, and business reasons. I always come away feeling a bit inspired!

There are a lot of them, i love them all, i cannot be present to each one.

Once every two years would be o.k.

No! If ATypI ceases to be, I hope TypeCon or something else starts branching out overseas.

No. I definitely feel the need to go to annual international type conferences.

Yes, but this is not the issue, there are several good conferences, not only ATypI

No, I would sincerely miss the annual conferences. But whether they would be organized by ATypI or a similar organisation is arbitrary.

Yes. I could easily live without it. At present, ATypI is a social club.

I enjoy it. It ATypI didn’t have one, I’d go to another I guess.

Sure I could. But I think the conference does provide a valuable and unique opportunity for members to exchange ideas and provide a forum that would not normally exist. The conference is now the best part of the organization and the one thing that works…if you want to save ATypI, wouldn’t it be silly to get rid of it?

no, but there are plenty (see above; i run one myself)

No. What with “Fortress America” making it ever more difficult for anybody to come to meetings in the USA it is necessary that some organization put on an international conference for the typography industry.

No really.

Having said that if the organization folds I think that TypeCon, one off events (Linotype or Fontshop sponsored), and maybe Klimis’ fiesta of type every four years, would hopefully fill the void.

Not at all, but there is no need of an association like ATypI is today.

No. But ATypI isn’t the only international conference. The name may contain “international” but it is fairly Euro-centric.

Any other comments ?

Beyond the points made above, ATypI can help by providing a forum for discussions that may contribute to clarifying and extending definitions of what we—in the broadest sense—do, how we add value to projects, and how much our work is worth.

I understand very little about ATypI and its financial problems – only that they are in debt and have legal issues. It would be a shame if it were to cease, or if the conference were not held.

I have only attended 3 ATypI conferences in my 15 years in the type industry (San Francisco, Rome and Vancouver). I enjoyed each one tremendously. I also attended TypeCon last year and plan on going to San Francisco in July for this year’s TypeCon. I find TypeCon to be very similar to ATypI – like an “ATypI Light” because it does not have as many sophisticated topics or historical/educational topics, or multilingual topics. Otherwise many of the same people attend, although mostly American and not enough from Europe (thus my comments above about how important it would be for a European gathering of type professionals).

In the UK there is TypoCircle, STD, ATypI.

In Germany there is ATypI, Forum Typographie, TGM etc.

There are 3 mayor type groups in the US: TDC, ATypI, and SOTA. Maybe at least two of them should merge…

At least 7 “typographic-centric” groups with various functions,

many with overseas members…should ATypI become the ICOGRADA of type organizations???

I think SoTAs strength is in organizing a conference. It has weakness in its membership and designer advocate issues. If AtypI could concentrate on the business of servicing its professional membership and producing publications and SoTA could concentrate on organizing an annual conference, the two might be able to work together and not “compete”

ATYPI is dead, since 1990.

Yes, I am convinced that it is about as dificult as running a zoo without fences :-) I am glad that there are a number of people on the board that I know for a long time and I value very much (yes, there are others that I have a personal opinion about). It is taking a very, very long time for things to change. I really would like to see the Association take Leadership in some issues and become stronger.

I would be very curious to hear your own answers to these questions. Part of my difficulty with ATypI is that I’m not really a “joiner”—I’ve never especially wanted to be involved in organizations. But part of it is also that I’m not sure what ATypI wants to be as an organization.


Also, for an organization that includes “type education” as one of its charter goals, it’s ridiculous to schedule a conference that takes place in the first week of the North American academic calendar. Some never goes to ATypI because they are busy at their schools every year; how many other type designers teach? Nearly all of them, no?

There has been a lot of criticism by Europeans of Mark Batty and the way he runs A.Typ.I. Personally I think Mark makes the best of a lousy job. We have a website now, run by volunteers – another splendid job. But we could get much more out of the website. When I was still a member of the board I have proposed that the A.Typ.I. website should provide a service similar to what Identifont does. And there are more good services to the type community A.Typ.I. would be able to provide. My personal reason for leaving the board was the sense of powerlesness I felt, as well as the terribly slow pace at which things develop. A possibility is to turn A.Typ.I. into a body which only organises a conference every year or two years. Nothing much would change, as that is what A.Typ.I. already is. Otherwise we should forget about old ideals, as living up to these is not realistic.

Known outlaws like {removed}, et al., should be denied membership in ATypI and their names should be publicized by ATypI for their crimes. In short, ATypI should keep official records to build an archive of criminal activity committed by members or individuals who have wanted or tried to join ATypI. There was a time in history when membership in ATypI was contingent on the applicant receiving two recommendations from members-in-good-standing. I believe that Character References should be reinstated, so that nobody can join without endorsements.

The only way to get rid of all that old shit is to close down the ATypI and then see if there is a need for a new organisation. Why do we have a chairman who knows nothing about type and who has cheated many designers by selling the ITC library without asking them? It’ll be much more effective to use the online connections like typophile or the atypi forum and let this thing organise itself. Who needs a secretariat? If we want a conference, we find someone who wants to do one, and they do it on their own. You did Lyon on your own! Which is exactly what happens anyway, except now we have to pay for Batty to fly over to check things. We have been having annual Forum Typografie meetings in germany for 25 years now, each time in a different town, and there is no central organisation. When people meet at the conference, they ask who wants to do the one for next year.

It doesn’t particularly bother us that ATypI takes place in Europe three years out of four. However the expensive venues are problematic – we send more people to affordable events (Vancouver) than expensive venues (Rome, Prague, Copenhagen). My suggestion re keeping the organization alive would be to take a leaf out of TypeCon’s book and focus on affordability, general education and try to better leverage volunteerism. TypeCon is successful and attracts substantial volunteer effort because it is seen as being a grass-roots, almost hobbyist event, rather than an elitist, industry-focused, expensive, unfriendly event (as some see ATypI). Perhaps holding the event in less-expensive, even boring locations might be the way to go – reducing overheads, and fees, giving sponsors more bang for their buck – allowing in-kind sponsorship to attract the support of the smaller vendors, leveraging volunteer and student help.

Let me know what your plans are, if you have any…

ATypI need to die and reborn from scratch after a good discussion with all existing organisations in same area. More important, before a reborn, objectives need to be discussed with potential members, volunteers, sponsors, etc. Rather than trying to kept alive an old association, we should ask first, as here on that exchange of view on that question, if an association is really needed and what need the main focus of it of there is. We should try to find a point of convergence first, not the reverse.

I joined for the history of the organization and for the content of the conferences. While I do not feel it is an exclusive club, I do know people who feel that it is. In most instances it comes down to price of attendance.