As the main TypeCon2016 program kicked off Friday morning, members of the Society of Typographic Aficionados board presented the SOTA “State of the Union” … a review of recent events, plans, challenges, and successes. The following is a transcript of that presentation.

Welcome.

We made it. It’s here. Finally. TypeCon2016 Seattle.

The board thought we’d try something new this year to kick things off. We gave it a codename … nothing elaborate or very original, mind you, but we call it our State of the Union. We thought it would be nice to reach out at the onset and share with you a little bit about what’s going on, where we are, what we’re planning, and so on. We’re going to keep it brief while trying to hit on a few topics we feel are relevant.

SOTA Board Members on stage at TypeCon

I’m Neil Summerour, SOTA’s 2016 Chair. I draw type. I have an affinity for old black & white b-monster movies, I’m consistently nervous in crowds, I like long walks on the beach … well, ok … not really on the last one.

I say this, because despite the random things you see on social media that I post and the few of you that have spent time with me, you really don’t know me. You really don’t know all of us on the board that well … this isn’t anyone’s fault but we feel it needs to change… the make up of our board is comprised of a group of fascinating people, donating their time and expertise, without compensation… we’re not really looking to be very public, just put on a good conference. As a non-profit the decision for an all-volunteer board was in order to keep the overhead costs of TypeCon as low as possible in order to make our conference as financially accessible as possible to everyone. The compensation we receive really is the satisfaction of knowing that our efforts have made everyone’s experiences at TypeCon as rich and fulfilling as possible. We love this industry and want it to thrive. That said, instead of waiting until the close of the conference to thank everyone, I’d like to thank the board now:

Sharon Oiga, Vice Chair
Delve Withrington, Secretary
Mary Catherine Pflug, Treasurer
Grant Hutchinson
Theresa Dela Cruz
Corey Holms

and

Sara Spector Brown

And by the way, there’s one more board member in Frank Martinez; he’s a silent board member that provides us legal advice and guidance when we need it.

Seriously, TypeCon would not happen without all of you … thank you.

Look for us, we’re in the white t-shirts. If you have a problem, seek us out. And if you’re enjoying yourself, we want to know that too. Your input, your voice matters.

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Diversity.

Hi, I’m Sharon Oiga, the Vice Chair of SOTA.

When you speak, we listen.

Thank you to the Diversity Committee, its chair (Erin McLaughlin), and Friends of SOTA for all of their ideas. As a result, we found (and continue to investigate) new ways to make SOTA stronger, more open, and more inclusive. We can’t express the level of gratitude that we have for those
that are willing to give of themselves to make our community better.

For a complete overview of the improvements we’ve facilitated, see the post we made on Facebook earlier this year as well as future posts as we move forward. We believe in the practice of transparency — then, now, and in the future. We are committed to SOTA’s continued success and evolution. For example:

  • Last year, we reported that we had only a 22% proposal submission rate by women to the conference. This year, that rate more than doubled.
  • In fact, we had an unprecedented number of total submissions — the most we’ve ever had!
  • We used a blind scoring policy for main program submissions. Proposals were judged by its merits, not the names ascribed to them.
  • We cut multiple 40-min speaking slots to yield more 20-min slots in order to give more people the opportunity to present.
  • This year, we’re also offering an unprecedented number of workshops.
  • Now the program is lead by almost an equal number of men and women.
  • Additionally, we’ve added a networking event that promises to be fun.

So we, on the board, are very excited about all of these changes, and we hope you are too!

A curious thing happened as result of the changes we employed: we ended up with a more diverse, energetic, and entertaining program than we could have ever imagined.

And that, ultimately, is because of you and your efforts and we could not be happier. Thank you.

Our next goal, with this, is to further build on our advancements this year by cultivating an even more inclusive environment, in which everyone is encouraged to embrace change — not through bellyaching and social media attacks (as Nadine brought up two nights ago) but through positivity and action.

Without everyone pitching in, our community may stagnate. All of us are responsible for never letting this happen.

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Volunteers.

My name is Mary Catherine, and I am the treasurer of the board. Probably more importantly, I am the volunteer coordinator. Every year, we have volunteers dedicate their time and energy to the conference, coming from all over to help. In exchange for their help, they receive free conference admission. This year, we have a total of 40 volunteers — 70% are female and 30% are male. 7 volunteers are returning volunteers, coming back for their second or even third year. We try to make volunteering a great experience, so it seems like we are doing something right since they keep coming back! This year we have two volunteers that have come with special visas from China and Egypt, plus many volunteers who are from the states and the Seattle area.

If you need something, ask a volunteer. If you see something going right, thank a volunteer … these selfless people represent the lifeblood of the conference.

Please give our volunteers a round of applause.

Community.

Nadine said something that struck a chord: Family is the one that supports you, nourishes you, and believes in your abilities. Whether we realize it or not. Our growing community of independent foundries, the passionate creatives using our work, the educators that develop new talent, and the corporations that drive and mold the landscape of how type will be used … all of us, we are family. A family of very passionate, very human people.

However, individually, we are characterized by the brief descriptions in social media profiles and the opinions we are willing to share. As family, we should take this to heart. We should listen, have productive discourse, find common ground, improve our community, and champion our fellow colleagues. Period. Anything less is doing a disservice to the community we operate in, the family we are part of.

We all attend TypeCon. We all are part of this community, which we should all champion and the people that comprise it. This year, this TypeCon is a return to a city that we love, and it’s a time to recharge and renew passions for the year to come. Let’s enjoy this time together and make Seattle a resounding success.