We plan to put five questions to each of the WXG (www.wxg.co.uk) conference’s speakers to give you a look into their talks, histories and what inspires them to do what they do. Introducing the seventh speaker, Jon Tan. Why did you agree to speak at WXG?
The Kyan folks seem lovely, and I do most of my talks in the States, so the chance of speaking at home is a real treat.
What do you think delegates will get out of your talk?
I hope people get some solid knowledge of the current science behind how humans perceive and interpret typography. I hope that helps them talk with more authority about type with colleagues and clients to get a better result for the people using their work.
How did you get into typography?
I started with plate and press in the very early 90s. At the time, I DJ'd and ran club nights, and wanted our flyers to have a specific typographic aesthetic. I didn't even have the vocabulary to describe what I wanted to do, but I wanted to try. My partner was studying graphic design but the courses seemed totally focussed on advertising, and not for me, so I taught myself. Digital design was in its infancy, but setting type by hand led me on a journey into graphic design that still continues. When I found web design I felt like I’d found a home. It was information design. Text (therefore type) based. Technical and creative. I loved it, and jumped in with two feet.
Who is your inspiration in the industry?
There are so many these days, but Reid Miles and Peter Saville blew me away with their graphic design work early on. On the web, Doug Bowman’s work with the Wired team for their standards-based redesign in 2002 was a seminal moment. I’m still inspired by durable informational work and simple immersive design rather than the bells and whistles of impact, advertising design. Most of all though, the humanity and generosity of many people is an inspiration, whether they’re in the industry or not.
What advice would you give to someone new to the industry?
No matter what your learning style, the web has a route for you to start learning, keep learning, and earn a living. Techniques change fast, but the principle of universality remains constant. Learn principles to evaluate techniques, but most of all, listen to everyone and speak to everyone. The best people I know in the industry love to help if they can, and never, ever feel you have nothing to give back or contribute—everyone has, especially when they’re just starting out.
If you want to find out more or reserve tickets to the WXG event visit: http://wxg.co.uk/