Bianca Berning interviewed — are we entering a typographic revolution?
Ampersand, the web typography conference, is back with a brand new line up of fascinating speakers, not least of whom is Bianca Berning, Dalton Maag’s Head of Skills and Process. We ask her the burning typographic questions of the moment…
It’s been 3 years since the last Ampersand conference — how have typography trends changed during that time?
Especially web typography is still very much in its infancy but in the last few years browser support for webfonts has improved and I think that was possible because designers, implementers, and users are collaborating more and more efficiently than they did before. As a result we are now able to choose from a wider and much more diverse range of typefaces for the web, this is especially notable in areas of the world that use writing systems with far fewer usable typefaces available.
What developments in typography are you most excited about right now?
I’m cautiously excited about variable fonts. I can see a great potential there for both web performance and more sophisticated, user-centred digital typography. There’s still a long way to go but for now it’s quite amazing to watch people take your fonts to levels you didn’t even consider when you designed them.
What change, if any, would you like to see in our industry in the next 3 years?
A continuation of what we’ve seen in the last few years, I suppose. More awareness of typographic possibilities; more diversity in all areas: more typefaces to choose from, more exposure of and designs by members of underrepresented groups, more exchange and collaboration between designers and developers.
In Richard Rutter’s book Web Typography, he says that we are all typographers. Why do you think typography is so important?
Typography is one of the most essential tools of written communication. Images, videos, gifs, graphics or illustrations can support a text visually but typography provides a voice, it can set the atmosphere. It’s much more subtle but, in my admittedly biased opinion, immensely powerful.
What advice would you give practitioners who are just starting out in their careers?
Stay curious; stay humble; ask questions; give other people a legs up if you can, it will always come back to you tenfold. But most importantly: Never stop looking at things. Try to understand why things have been designed and developed in a certain way, figure out why some things work and others fail. You will learn more valuable lessons from looking than you will from doing.
What challenges are you facing at the moment and what are you doing to overcome them?
My day job is a niche within a niche within a niche. I’m heading a small team concerned with the development of software to support the designers at type foundry Dalton Maag. The challenges we are facing and trying to overcome are mostly related to making our fonts functionally reliable and typeface systems consistent.
Beyond that I’m a member of Alphabettes, a network to support and promote the work of women in the type industry and related fields. We share concerns about diversity and inclusion in type and the load of community work we have done over the last three years, while notably successful, has clearly taken its toll on some of us. I don’t think I’ve found a good way to balance this better yet but I’m working on regaining a private life without completely giving up on this important community work.
What’s your proudest achievement?
I’m uncomfortable tooting my own horn about professional achievements but the closest I come to feeling proud is when I see people close to me create beautiful products or content or generally watch them achieve goals they set for themselves. Something about playing a small part in their success by supporting them in smaller or bigger ways is just extremely satisfying.
Also, last summer my team and I defended our title as British Beach Handball Champions and will attempt to make it a hat-trick this year.