Kris Sowersby speaking at TypeCon 2018

26 July 2018

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Ten Thousand Original Copies

Update: here is a transcription of the talk.

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European concepts of originality and authorship form our current understanding of typeface design. Typographic history is written as a series of “originals” created by “authors” in a discrete sequence. But can “copies” be equally as important?

For example, we know Claude Garamont well because of the relentless copying of his fonts, collectively named “Garamond”. If we accept that copies keep the original alive, perhaps we can see type design through another lens.

“The Chinese idea of the original is determined not by a unique act of creation, but by unending process, not by definitive identity but by constant change.” — “Shanzhai: Deconstruction in Chinese”. Byung-Chul Han, 2017

What if we considered Garamond not as an instance of individual creation, but as a way of shaping letters to be continually practiced and updated as necessary? If we accept that his fonts don’t exist as an isolated genius but as a single point on a continuum, we might re-frame contemporary practice and consider that “originals” are only as important as their revivals, remixes and copies.

Kris Sowersby TypeCon 2018 talk: Friday 3 August, 4:10pm.