Typo letters by Hansje van Haarlem

Typo Berlin 2018 was a celebration of the building blocks of communication: letters.

More specifically, how letters are designed to communicate ideas.

There were a wide variety of speakers and subjects, but I think their main message was clear.

We should apply creativity to letters and businesses with style.

The smallest punctuation mark, and the biggest multinational organisation, need smart thinking and wonderful craft if they’re going to succeed in the world.

Typo Berlin is organised by Monotype, a company based on craft and communication, and they found a few standout speakers who share their belief from very different fields of interest.

The first example came from a highly unlikely source of creativity which is why it’s interesting: Europe’s biggest private healthcare group, Helios.

On the surface Natalie Erdmann and her colleagues presented a case study for a website re-design, but their story really showed how building something like a website can be the catalyst for more far reaching customer experience improvements.

They’re unifying nearly 150 hospitals, including over 100,000 colleagues in the process, and updating their brand strategy because “those are the steps required” to make a modern, efficient and effective customer web experience.

Solving an organisational issue by building a communication tool is definitely creative thinking.

Bahlsen Group is a biscuit maker who went back to their roots to find a story they believed in, and then made the products to make it a reality.

If a biscuit maker can produce better biscuits that get them better results because they want to tell a story that makes them proud, there’s hope for all kinds of industries.

Alex Mecklenburg & Erica Wolfe-Murray

In her Friday keynote speech, Alex Mecklenburg passionately made the point that innovation can be done better if more people in organisations can contribute to the innovation story.

She proclaimed we should get rid of the innovation labs, the silos, the jargon, special labels and separate budgets.

Rather, innovation leaders should tell stories that people can actually understand and clear the interference out of their way to participate.

From personal experience I can say that this approach works brilliantly even in tech companies.

The snacks were very good

Hansje can Haarlem and Timothy Goodman are two very different and very prolific designers who love to fill blank spaces with ideas.

I enjoyed their talks, but mostly enjoyed their passion, and I realised we all need to be more vocal supporters of people like them because it’s easy to kill it.

We have a special responsibility as the viewer of creativity, especially when it doesn’t fit our personal taste or agenda, to protect it because that’s how all businesses began and how they’ll survive.

As a wise woman has said to me many times, “Don’t be an asshole.”

Finally, there was a collaboration between Erica Wolfe-Murray from Lola Media, and Alex Mecklenburg from Truth & Spectacle, who both believe that companies need to apply creative thinking across everything they do.

Erica Wolfe-Murray, shared unique creative views on the way we do business itself: contracts, revenue models, and intellectual property.

She’s taken a tough subject most of us would usually avoid, and showed us how contracts can unlock “works of the mind” just as well as a beautiful typeface.

No mean feat in a room full of designers.

From master typographers to master storytellers, Typo Berlin and its generous speakers gave me a few wonderful insights to bring home.

The trick now is to use them in a creative way.


Full Disclosure: Alex Mecklenburg is my co-founder at Truth & Spectacle.