Peter Bilak: When type isn’t just type
Listening to a speaker after many years is like reading a book again after a long long time. The author and the content may be the same, but the meaning changes with all the experiences one has had between the two readings. I realised this at Neville Brody‘s talk Kyoorius Design Yatra ’07 (he was a speaker at the Design Yatra in ’06 as well). His talk had more impact on me the second time round; although when I told him that, he informed me that ‘It was the same talk!’.
Peter Bilak was also one of the speakers at the Design Yatra in 2006 . It was my second year in design school, and my first as a graphic design student. Now, four years later, I do not recall much from then, except that it was one of those talks which blew my mind away. A few days ago, Bilak was in Bangalore for a talk organised by Raffles Millenium International- I could not, of course, pass up the chance to go.
While type design is always easier to explain, typography as a concept tends to sound very dull when one-line definitions are attempted ( ‘the organisation of information’ takes the cake). Not only was Bilak’s choice of words for explaining typography different from the usual things that one hears, but the work that followed right after showed how much a definition can be pushed- type stopped being just type. “Typography is the use of pre-fabricated letters” was followed by The Dancewriter. “…arranging things in space and time” was followed by the sets for Eroica (I have never heard ‘time’ being used to describe type, until now). Type continued to play performer in one of the print projects too (something that is still work in progress)- a set of book covers, created using Drawbot.
The rest of the talk saw type design being discussed too- the Indian Type Foundry, the challenges in designing type in India and why it is important to turn our attention to non-Latin writing systems.
If you get a chance to listen to Peter Bilak talk about his work, do go, even more so if it’s your second time.