Symposium 2019

In three thematic blocks – Type and Techniques, Using and Misusing Tools and Professional (R)evolutions – the guests of the symposium discussed the festival theme Tools & Rules. The international designers and design theorists presented current tendencies and new technologies and provided insights into their own work.

Six national and six international designers and design studios gave insights into their work and their use of a wide variety of tools – from traditional techniques and accepted design rules to the employment of artificial intelligence and specially developed software – and critically reflected on the latest technical developments. 

The latest developments in the field of type design were presented at the Type and Techniques panel. While Dinamo highlighted the diverse ways variable fonts can be applied showing a range of examples, Massimiliano Audretsch presented his font Ciao. Ciao is an attempt to use type design to visually represent the intonation, timbre and emphasis of individual words. Selina Bernet is inspired less by technical possibilities than by historical references and showed how, for example, a typeface is created inspired by three-dimensional concrete letters. Jungmyung Lee's Jung-Lee Type Foundry develops fonts that tell stories and thus provoke emotions in readers.

The panel Using and Misusing Tools highlighted the work with specially developed design tools, but also design concepts and rules that graphic artists follow. Jürg Lehni and Ted Davis both make use of the latest technologies – albeit in different ways. While Lehni's software-controlled robot Otto draws designs on a blackboard using chalk, Davis developed basil.js, an open source scripting library that allows designers to automate certain work processes. Ines Cox, on the other hand, is critical of the latest developments and the interdependence of design and technology. Unlike Lehni and Davis, graphic designer Anja Kaiser experiments less with digital tools than with activist value systems. Kaiser is guided by her attitude towards feminism, gender roles and asymmetrical power structures.

The panel Professional (R)evolutions was dedicated to the constant changes that design has always been confronted with. Be it technical innovations – which Sofia Crespo, for example, takes advantage of by designing with the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning – or changing working conditions, which Petr van Blokland addresses. He provides his students and visitors to the symposium with tools that help them to demonstrate the value of their work even in times of automated processes and generic designs. He says, for example, that jobs that are poorly paid and not fun to do should simply not be taken on. While Johanna Siebein primarily reflects the new, constantly changing viewing habits of users, Johnson/Kingston let their work be partly controlled by specially coded software and thus raise questions about copyright and authorship.

In the panel discussions that followed, hosted by Jonas Berthod and Miriam Koban, it became clear that ­– despite different approaches and divergent opinions – the potential of changing circumstances and the latest (digital) developments clearly exceeds the threats and uncertainties that accompany them.


Luis Hartl, Lucerne