28 October 2010

[type] In Calligraphic Meditiation

Thank you, Chad Welch (http://twitter.com/chadwelch) for the following bit of calligraphic Zen:

(the image links to the video page on vimeo. The URL is http://vimeo.com/12733075. Me and vimeo have ... issues, let's say).

Doing calligraphy ... as I've been called upon to betimes provide ... does create a sort of sacred head-space in which some very positive inner contemplation can happen. You get close by watching Luca do it here. Just watch the letters form.

It's no wonder, to me anyway, that the best calligraphy from the middle ages came from Irish monks. That's the job I'd of gone for.

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[type] The Dying Art Of Handwriting?

Handwriting makes the news again.

According to the story in The Oregonian (at http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2010/10/most_college_students_print_as.html), fewer and fewer students are writing in cursive or cursive-style handwriting, most preferring to "print", or use a manuscript style. Citing a PSU professor, of a recent assignment which 17 essays were turned in, only two were written cursively.

I'm of a certain mind about why it's important to have some sort of handwriting style, or at least be unafraid to do so. The professor mentioned above, Richard Christen, has an interesting slant (so to speak) on it:
What most concerns Christen, who has studied the history of handwriting, is the loss of the aesthetic qualities of handwriting with its descent into cold print. Cursive writing in its flourishes and graceful strokes expresses an artistic beauty that goes beyond its utility and gives artistic experience to those who use it, he says. Students today "are not doing this kind of craftsmanship activity that they used to do on a daily basis," he says.
This is something that puts into words whatever I feel when I do do handwriting, which is something I attempt to do at least once a day in my diaries. I only partly do it to capture my days - I also do it because in these days when drawing inspiration is hard to come by, there's something ineffable about putting pen to paper and drawing letters - writing - that I just crave. It feels good. It's productive creation.

The next graf, if the previous graf did nothing to convince why handwriting is a good thing to do, should break through on practical considerations:
They also may be losing an edge in their learning. Researchers using magnetic resonance imaging to study brain activity say handwriting, whether print or cursive, engages more of the brain in learning and forming ideas.
So if you like having brain, if for no other reason, a good artistic handwriting style will commend itself to you.

All the rest is just aesthetic preference. I adore italic, such as the type promoted by the highly-underappreciated Fred Eager and the similar-but-subtly-different style promoted by Dubay and Getty. I don't much care for the cursive styles such as D'Nealian and Zaner-Bloser (these look very much like the schoolroom-cursive your teacher probably gave up on teaching you by about seventh-grade) but that doesn't mean they can't be made beautifully (and, as I said, it's strictly an aesthetic consideration after a certain point anyway).

But I would advocate that, whoever you are, it's never too late - or unnecessary - to learn cursive writing. It's a kind of art that is open to all, and all you have to do is get out a piece of paper and try it.

And if you do it well enough - trust me on this - people will admire you and compliment you. And when's the last time you got a compliment these days? Especially on art you've produced, hmmm? And you don't have to learn how to even draw stick figures for this, and who knows? Maybe you'll be the next Samuel Pepys.

Although the way they're talking about handwriting "going extinct" makes me feel like I'm one of those aboriginal tribes who have a dying language that only two or three elders speak.

So get out a piece of paper, find a handwriting style you can enjoy (there are many graphics on the intarweb that you can download and print) and just try something! It's good for you.

Though if you get Fred Eager's book, you'll get example and exercise sheets to copy. And that's invaluable.

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27 October 2010

[design] Perils Of Layout - Don't Be That Guy Who Doesn't Embed Fonts Edition

Placing PDFs for illustrations and ads in publications seems a natural solution. PDFs travel fairly well, come in a bunch of standards for almost any application, and - generally speaking - you don't have to worry about things like having fonts available on your system.

Well, generally speaking. If you're a designer or layout artist, you know that not all PDFs are created equal, or even whole (I relearned this lesson in the very last, major-moby-bigass layout project I just did, of which I'll probably regale y'all perforce. But that's for another missive). PDFs for ads, which typically have a typographical component (and some which are quite type-heavy), can provide a nasty, embarrassing pitfall.

What needs to happen is, your pro-design-type-guy-or-gal needs to load the thing into Acrobat and take a look at those fonts, and see if they're embedded or, if not, you have them on your system. And if you can, you do; if not, you try to have fonts as outlines, which are independent of whether or not you have the fonts installed.

And just what can happen if sufficient proofing doesn't occur? Well, via Typophile (http://typophile.com/node/75600) this can happen:

Yes, this apparently was published as is.

On the one hand, someone's butt probably got cooked real good over this onee.

On the other hand, though, it does bring unexpected life and interest to a type-heavy ad with a kind-of-tired-and-overused-display font on.

Though I imaging the advertiser wasn't going for Dada which, at last check, is still dead.

Click the link above for the whole picture. It's a hoot!

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23 October 2010

[teh funnay] I Heart Headlines: So, It's LOSE The Plastic And Glass Studs From The Beef Stick?

I do. I do love headlines. Writing a great one is an art. Somewhere between The Headline Of The Age and the rest, there is this odd twilight zone where dark humor reigns as the headline tries to abstract the content of an article down to a distilled succinctitude, and it winds up seeming to say something unexpected and unintentionally funny.

God knows that Leno's made a career of it.

It's not just in print tho. I found a great, Celine-Dion-based example of it here; and here's another one, from today's OregonLive:

Here you have an example of an exactitude of language being used to describe an accidentitude of product contamination, brought to you by the word studded, which is something crafters and decorators do intentionally. The impression I get is of a beef stick marketed to people who like shiny, decorated food.

"Oh, hey, Bob, big news here - remember that idea they had to sell the beef-sticks to the upscale consumer by decorating them with bits of plastic or glass? Turns out that's illegal. Yeah, who knew?"

Stud you later.

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20 October 2010

[OR liff] Underground Salem? I Hope There'll Be Tours.

Maybe the recently-announced imminent arrival of a Trader Joe's to Oregon's third (or maybe second) city and state capital caused a rent in the fabric of space and time, because, all of a sudden, interesting things are happening in little ol' Snailem.

That's gotta give 'em all vertigo down there. After all, anything more interesting than a Saturday kid's cartoon show must have been outlawed some time in the 60s. Being exciting in Salem was criminalized with a penalty of being forced to live there for the rest of your life.

Salem is not only Oregon's center of government, it's also Oregon's capital of banal. I know. I was born in Silverton and spent my teen growing-up years in Salem. It's imbued me with something of a acceptance of the mediocre and a stunted ambition. I'm not the only one who thinks this, as Brian Hines' ongoing and dead-center commentary about Salem Suckitude reveals (I admire Brian because he has the courage to stick with that beige burg whereas I did not, and left as soon as I could). I may have a mediocre life here in PDX but let me tell you, it's about ten times as interesting as a grand life in Salem could be, even now.

A story at KGW though suggests that Salem might have found something worth attending ... underground tunnels that once stretched from the downtown area to the State Pen? Dug by Chinese who were subsequently hounded out of town for being too exciting for the Salem mind?

In the meantime, Ritter and Maitland continue to trek into underground spaces with flashlights in hand, peering through whatever slight crack a door or wall may have, in the hope of finding more pieces of Salem's underground history.

They've made their way through spider webs and secret catacombs, finding an antique bank vault, an intact gold drop, a 1920s stairwell that goes to nowhere, a 1930s grocery drop with painted grocery aisles and lockers, a 1980s disco, a 1920s mural in what was once an underground cafe and a number of odd architectural finds.

The whole nine yards is at http://www.kgw.com/news/neighborhood-news/salem/Historians-explore-tunnels-beneath-Salem-105349828.html.

You go, Salem! Dare to be interesting!

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18 October 2010

[liff] That Said, La Céline is Apparently Amazing

I am a man of sophistication and chivalry so I must make up for my churl in the missive previous.

It has been argued to me that La Céline is actually amazing, and to bolster this argument, submitted for your approval, is the following video (F-bomb warning-as in F-ing amazing- was deployed multiple times in the viddy. It's an expression of appreciation when none else will do)

Amazing, no?

Why, I'm almost convinced!


Thank you, Vespabelle.

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[liff] It'll Take More Than That To Save Us From La Celine

Best headline of the day, from KGW's website:

If they're trying to save us from future concerts and albums, they'll have to go further than mere hospitalization.

And that's Oh, Snap! news for today.

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17 October 2010

[type] Made In Oregon - The Lower Case, From A to Z

My baby is really taking shape now, peoples. It's coming together as a TrueType font.

We're really cookin' now. Upper-case and numerals should fly by.

That little "X" is lookin' a little weak, but it'll do for now.

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[type] I Can Haz Z Naow - Made In Oregon

The lower case version of that last letter of the alfabet:

Zee. Zed. Omega by any other name. Puts the "Z" in "A to Z", as well as ZehnKatzen. Looks kind of like a "yogh" but isn't; looks like a fruity 3, but definitely is not that.


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16 October 2010

[type] the quick brown fo jump over the la dog - Made In Oregon

Work in progress continuing:

The iconic phrase, nearly in lace. Sounds like pidgin tho.

I love the way the Tweetdeck notifications keep showing up while I do screenshots. This is authentic, people!

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[type] dap! - Made In Oregon

Onomatopoea just is so much more fun when you design the type yourself.


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[tech] USB Typewriter - For That "Max Headroom" Look In Your Home Office

2520.You may or may not remember that wonderful series ABC TV imported back in the 80s, but even if you didn't, you certainly sense the iconic value of the name Max Headroom.

The series depicted a dystopian future in which TV networks ruled the world as an oligarchy, so there were heroes who were occasionally villains, villains who were occasionally heroes, and a world in which this all happened which sometimes didn't notice much.

To achieve the look of a "used, spit-out" future which was still very technologically advanced, sets used a lot of retro technology. Dramas played out on computer screens which were very technologically sexy (at least as we thought in the mid-80s) which seemed to be driven but old-fashioned typewriters and had an overall look which was very grimy and almost proto-steampunk.

Credit Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) for injecting this one into a couple hundred thousand Twitter timelines (including mine), and they're probably getting hammered right now by curiosity-seekers, but there's a story on Etsy - USBTypewriter - that can give you that bizarre hybrid Max Headroom-Network 23 look to your hardware by providing you with a real mechanical typewriter that's been modded so that a USB plug will turn it into your actual computer keyboard. All input is provided for, F-keys apparently enabled through a toggle, and the enter/return key is actuated by ... what else ... returning the typewriter's carriage.

You can not only use this as a computer keyboard, but also - quaintly - the typewriters still type on old-fashioned paper.

This is accomplished through a sensor board and a small circuit board - which you can actually buy yourself so you can DIY it, which makes sense for those of us on a budget. Full mods from the shop can be quite expensive, but you just can't pick up these old typewriters for a couple of bucks at the Goodwill like you used to be able to. And, of course, there's the refurb ...

Anyway, true old-fashioned keyboards for your computer. Go Here:
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[type] U, V, And W - Made In Oregon

Three great letters that look great together.

The U was inspired by the N. The V and W were inspired by the overall feeling of the curves and lines I was working with throughout the font set; you might say they were influenced by the work that's come before.

More letters! More letters!

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[type] Just What Is "Hamburgevons"?

I feel like a magician about to reveal an epochal illusion, but a very slightly-asked question hereabouts is, just what is a hamburgevons anyway?

It is, and I kid you somewhat, a highly-charged typographer's WORD OF POWER.

The implications of hamburgevons cannot be underestimated. But just saying it isn't enough; actually, there's a trick of the tongue in which you make the moves to say hamburgevons but it comes out sounding like you're saying Eric Gill and you can do amazing typographical things, like eliminate Comic Sans and bestow serifs on deserving people. These tricks are taught at a libertine weekend retreat that's the typographers' equivalent of the famous Bohemian Grove and held at a secret place each year (because if I told you, then everyone would go there).

But that's all I can say. If I told you any more, I have it on very good imaginary authority that staff from Extensis would lead an assault on my person with elements from Emigré, ITC, and P22 making up the bulk of the strike team, with a special forces detachment from ATypI if I got a little too uppity.

They might take away my serifs, who knows?

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15 October 2010

[type] "hamburgevon" - Made In Oregon

Hamburgevon. As "made In Oregon" ...

Hamburgevon. It's a typographer thing, You wouldn't understand.

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14 October 2010

[type] Made In Oregon Font ... Filling In The Lower Case

The development of my "Made In Oregon" font, tentatively called "OregonMade", continues apace. Not very much longer, and I'll have a full upper and lower 26 as well as all the numerals.

Here's part of the work in progress:

And the lower case gets filled glyph by glyph.

This my friends is happy work.

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[liff] Tired Of All Those Extra Yellow Pages? Want To Opt Out?

Who isn't tired of them? You hardly need the number of phone books dropped off at your doorstep each year.

Via KGW TV's Live @ 7 Twitter account, @TheSquare (which is always turning up good stuff) we were introduced to what bills itself as an actual opt-out service for the endless stream of yellow pages directories that show up at our doors relentlessly each year. The Yellow Pages Association - a trade group - has a page at http://www.yellowpagesoptout.com and once there, entering your zip code into the box will provide you with a list of YPA members in the area and links to contact them to request an end to each one.

It doesn't do it automatically ... you still have to go to each one and fill out whatever form. That way if you still want, say, the Dex directory, you'll still get it. You are limited to the directory publishers that are members of the Association, but in this case I'd say half a loaf is better than none. And they say they're rolling out a new version of the website in 2011, so this is a work-in-progress sort of thing.

In my ZIP code it looks like I can't turn off the Hispanic yellow pages, as they have no contacts for opting out. But then, I don't recall ever getting one.

I'm somewhat cynical about it all, but I might give this a try - after all, it was only a matter of time before YP publishers realized that burying American neighborhoods under an ever-mounding pile of yellow books just didn't look very good, especially in areas where they take recycling seriously ... like here.

That's http://www.yellowpagesoptout.com, wanderer.

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13 October 2010

[type] OregonMade - Casting The Font

I'm fortunate to own a copy of FontLab Studio, and that's what I'm creating the "Made In Oregon" Font (which I'm calling OregonMade) in.

Yeah, you can draw 'em big.

Development continues apace.

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[artists] Chad Welch's Public Self-Improvement Project

Chad Welch is a Twitter acquaintance (@chadwelch) who's had his ups and downs and, like so many of us trying to carve out some sort of economic niche as an artists, latterly has had more than his share of obstacle.
I successfully quit smoking, balooned in size to a hefty 306 lbs, relationship woes with all its quick turns and unexpected corners, got tired of being big again and worked hard to loose a total of 31 lbs as of my last weigh in (which was a couple weeks ago). I picked up smoking again due to family and relationship stress, and, proudly unprompted, picked a quit date and stuck with it. This is my first week smoke free (again).

On top of all the health stuff, I've been struggling career wise as well. I know I should be somewhere better in my chosen creative fields, but feel like I'm just treading water, waiting for the fast-food shark to bite into me and drag me kicking and gargling into the food service industry just to make ends meet.

Truthfully, it scares the hell out of me. And that's a good thing.
Now, Chad has decided to take the route of many in this age of accessability and not only display his struggle on the web at a blog but also inviting readers to keep him accountable.

I'll be following him because I have a feeling that I'll probably learn something valuable here. At least, about motivation.

You can follow along too at Accountable Chad: http://accountablechad.blogspot.com/.

He also has a website, http://chadwelchart.com/. He's a way better artist than me. Well, at least for now ... until I get that practice in.

Let's root for the guy, yes?

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[liff] Watch Out, Rachael Ray ... Mahtab's On Your Tail!

Her name is Mahtab Zargari, and she's passionate about food.

She's cuter than Rachael, she doesn't go on about E.V.O.O. as though she invented it, and she loves what she does.

You will watch Mahtab's Big Kid Cooking Show and follow her - because she's going places, wanderers.

You cannot resist her charm! I know! I tried! Kittens got nothing on this young lady!
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[pdx] Portland ... Where Your Library Card Is The New Black

Portlanders are remarkable fans of the public libe: we have over 430,000 cardholders and, it's said, one of - if not the - busiest library systems in the nation.

So maybe it stands to reason that in PDX, the humble library card has become not just an essential, but a fashion accessory. What a happy thing!

We are so thrilled with our library, that we think nothing of representin' with our card for all the world to see, and anyone can, at http://www.cardholderpride.smugmug.com/.

They call it Cardholder Pride. And it's making its way around the town.

You might still be able to participate, even: http://www.libraryfoundation.org/content.cfm/News/Tell-us?SID=80&PID=1052.

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12 October 2010

[pdx] Mount Hood Sunrise, Courtesy KPTV's Air 12

Mornings in Portland are particularly inspiring. There is nothing, so far as I know, on Earth to compare with a Mt. Hood sunrise, as this video from KPTV's Air 12 news helicopter will plainly explain.

You just don't get this anywhere else ...

Click on the image to see it: if that not work, click here, wanderer: http://www.kptv.com/local-video/index.html?grabnetworks_video_id=4370850

I'm not surprised when people visiting Portland entertain dreams of living here after seeing things like this. And, hey, I'm a native Oregonian - I've gotten to see this every day of my life ... weather permitting, don'tcha'know.

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[net] URLus Shortenerus Interruptus, Brought To You By Libya

It's convenient to think that TLDs - Top Level Domains, the last two or three (or, four, even) letters if your FQD (fully qualified domain) name, such as .com, .net, .org, .biz, .tv, &c, &c, are just collections of letters anymore with little intrinsic meaning or value. There was a time when .org was reserved for non-profits and suchlike. Now, via open-for-business internet registrars, anyone can be a .org.

But, as it occurs, TLDs may indeed have intrinsic value and authority, as the author Violet Blue has just - and rather abruptly - discovered.

URL shorteners have entered the handy-toolkit of the Twitterer and the web surfer, for reasons which should be self-evident. And the TLD ".ly" makes for nifty URLs: bit.ly, the go-to for Twitter, ow.ly, the go-to for Hootsuite, good.ly, the charitably-slanted URL shortener.

The obstacle begins to suggest itself when one remembers that the .ly domain is the TLD of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya ... Although you're more likely to say Libya.

Yeah, the one with Gadaffi in charge. That Libya. They got sharia there and all that.

However, when Violet Blue and her business partner decided to debut a "sex-positive" URL shortener, the .ly domain seemed to make sense. It was fashionable, after all, and resellers from the ccTLD NIC.ly, Libya's internet registration authority, seemed to market to Western tastes. And it worked well for a year. The second year, however, things got all brown and chunky for 'em:

It’s official: the Libyan government has seized vb.ly. This was done with no warning. Despite the fact that vb.ly was a one-page link-shortening service, Nic.ly (the registry for .ly domain reseller registrar Libyan Spider) informed us that the content of our website was offensive, obscene and illegal according to Libyan Islamic Sharia Law. Not the domain, but the content of the website – no matter where the domain was hosted.

The  photograph of me with my bare arms, holding a bottle, and the words “sex-positive” were cited as obscene, offensive and illegal. We were also told that we were “promoting an illegal activity” with our link shortener.

Violet and her business partner appear to hold that this has perhaps a little more to do with a Libyan effort to prevent non-Libyans from owning domain names shorter than four characters than it does actual implementation of Sharia with respect to who they do business with. If so, appeal to Sharia is a mere tool to an end ... but, man, what a tool. You can't resist it. And, since the word came down via the reseller from the ccTLD registrar, then what they say, goes.

And with that, went all the links that were shortened through vb.ly, for now irretrevably borken.

Which makes this something to keep in mind: when procuring services through an extranational concern, they may well be marketing with your aims in mind. But in the end, they might have to comply with laws that most certainly do not.

It's a tough internet out there, campers. Go in with eyes wide open if you can.

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11 October 2010

[logo] The Gap Is Back

2508.The old Gap logo, that is. Confirming rumor I've heard on Twitter ever since the entire visual arts community did an amazing Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and the Gap acknowledged that the new logo was not intended as some sort of bizarre social marketing joint, cool heads prevailed (they do that sometimes) and restored the classic Gap logo:
Marka Hansen, Gap North America president, informed the company's marketing department this afternoon of the change, acknowledging that the switch was a mistake and that the company would be tabling any changes for the foreseeable future.
One New Coke moment for the record books.

Read all about it at AdvertisingAge: http://adage.com/article?article_id=146417

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08 October 2010

[liff] The Bicycle Diaries: Accessories

My last missive about two-wheeling was a while back. Partially the muse left me, a bit; partially I was just getting into the groove.

The attitude of a non-car commuter takes some time to re-establish, even if you're no real stranger to the thing. Memories of using Salem's Cherriots to get to high-school every day across town came back, and I kind of got lost in them.

But ... accouterments. I needs them. The bike I had has a gel cover for the saddle which was old when I got it, and it was coming apart seriously. Target to the rescue. It's a good place for mass-market, value-priced accessories, and in this case, I got a Schwinn-branded "gel-contoured seat cover". About $20. There's a picture of it right. One may notice a contoured "pocket" right there in the middle of it.

It is for what you think it is. It cradles the junk. And it's easy to snicker and feel kind of embarrassed about writing it, but everyone has some ... well, unless you've had a very unfortunate accident or major recreational surgery, in which case bicycle riding may or may not be on your agenda at all ... and the saddle, as I've observed elsewhere, is called a saddle  and not a seat for a reason; a seat provides comfort, a saddle prevents what's underneath from introducing itself to you colon.

High colonics are bad enough. When done with a seat tube they can be life-changing.

Anyway, it's astounding, really, how much a little support can do for you. This one seat cover has given me a better perch, therefore more power. I'm quicker now because I interface with my bike in a much more better, logical and designed way. And yes, the amusingly-named contoured center relief zone makes a great deal of difference.

Although biometric design can get a little uncomfortable at times. I was looking at a picture of a saddle that was, as the ad copy said, specifically designed for the female anatomy and, to be honest, it looked like something I shouldn't be getting a look at. So you have to be a little brave with this stuff sometimes.

The other accessory of which I'm thrilled with is the rear rack. They've come a long way. I got a Schwinn-branded bit of gear that simply mounted on the seat tube. A few shims for the tube, tighten down the clamp and it's good; holds small loads, which is great ... comes with a bungee ... and, most important, forms a shield from the fantail that the rear wheel will kick up when I ride in the wet, of which we're going to have some this weekend, the weather gods say, and I'll have to sally forth regardless.

Holds about 20 lbs, but that's all I need for now, really. And everything's Schwinn-branded, so it makes me look like some sort of connoisseur, or at least a brand loyalist.

Will have to Schwinn out of here pretty soon.

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07 October 2010

[logo] Mind The Gap Logo

Today was the day that far-flung clothing retailer Gap pulled themselves a Tropicana.

Some time ago I commented on a brand redesign that Tropicana - the OJ people - tried. It was a strong effort, thought out and executed well (see: http://zehnkatzen.blogspot.com/2009/03/tropicana-oj-redesign-fail-brand.html) but it had the fatal flaw that nobody really could have seen: Tropicana's customers were so fond of the straw-in-orange, which had become iconic without being noticed, you'd of thought that Tropicana had killed a family member in cold blood.

Well, today (or perhaps yesterday) Gap rolled out its own brand redesign with no apparent fanfare, having the new logo up on its website with little or no announcement. For review, here's the "old" Gap:

... and here's the new one:

Okay, by now (and especially if you've found the discussion on Twitter) you know that this got a lot of feedback, most of it negative, and a good portion of that snarky. And, in moves that have already gotten tiresome, two anonymous Twitterers have debuted accounts (@GapLogo and @OldGapLogo) that spoof the whole thing by personifying the each logos reaction to comments made about them.

I'm not a customer of Gap; I have no emotional capital invested in them. but it's said that two years time has been invested in refreshing the logo, and honestly, I can't see why they bothered. The new Gap logo isn't a bad one, it actually does the job a logo ought to, but when I look at it, I don't see the mature brand Gap is ... I see a new clothing store just starting out.

At the very least, I didn't see the Gap's old logo as an identity in need of that much of a refresh. Gap's old logo was a very classic design, and by this I mean classic in the good way, the way Wayfarers never go out of style or the little black dress is a staple of every woman's wardrobe.

And saying that Gap "pulled a Tropicana" is actually a little unfair on Tropicana, in as much as they tried to transition to a strong, designed and fresh update. The new Gap logo looks kind of like it's Microsoft Word WordArt. About the biggest emotion I can summon for it is a "meh".

When I think of a company that has resisted the urge to change its logo for a very long time because it makes sense, I think actually of JCPenney. Before 1971, "Penney's" had a kind of a spacey, jet-age, logo. In 1971, however, it changed to a simple, extremely minimal, light Helvetica treatment of the name in a simple red square (see right).  It's stayed that way ever since, 40 years almost, and despite that age it doesn't seem as dated as the pre-71 logo did when they changed. it has a timeless quality that kind of puts it beyond century-and-decade. They'd be foolish to change it.

Of course, when the company's reaction to the reaction is to tip its cap to its many critics and then open a page on Facebook to act as a crowdsourcing for a hoped-for even better version of a new logo ... well, you've just got to wonder what's going on. But, no matter how you feel about it, you can go to a site like http://craplogo.me and generate your own Gapified logo.

Or, if you have Photoshop or Illustrator (or Gimp or Inkscape ... or MSWord) just lay down a few letters of bold Helvetica or Arial, stick a gradated square behind, and there ya are.

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06 October 2010

[font_design] Made In Oregon Font: Sketchbook Scratchings

For those who detected a bit of opinionation in the last missive there, allow me to demonstrate the depth of my conviction. On the way to that drawing there, was, in part, these explorations on the pages of my sketchbook:

There is a kinesthesic part of designing that is absolutely essential. The biggest benefit of a sketchbook is a sandbox in which to play. The making of marks not only is a physical and kinetic way to learn how to feel the marks you're making, you're teaching your hand how to make the marks you need to make on a consistent basis. Your body remembers these things. Eventually, knowing how to curve a line is as much a thing of visual perception as it is motor memory - and when you're trying to create a font, which has to be consistent within itself, you have to acquire some consistency of style amongst the glyphs.

As can be seen, the rough ink scratchings up top have acquired some small bit of polish by the time you get to the bottom. Also, I'm working out the x-height and whas sort of slant works best. This information was fed back into the system by the kinetic sense as well as the visual sense and fed into the more finished drawing in the last chapter.

All that said, I'm still not too sure on that miniscule "f", there. But these things get worked out like you wouldn't believe.

Art is as much physical as it is mental. Maybe, in its way, even more.

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[font_design] Work In Progress: Bringing the Made In Oregon Font To Life

By special request of a couple of people who need a favor and who think delicious things. You know who you are.

And here's a sample of the midpoint of a font-design process:

Despite the astounding availability of digital design tools, this designer's favorite tools are still the simple ones: paper, pen, pencil, ruler. Also, a vintage pair of actual Naval navigation dividers (of which I'll highlight subsequently).

You can't go wrong with the classics. Also, the rougher and less-sophisticated the design tool, the more punch and satisfaction the act has. Don't get me wrong here - the digital suites have delivered unprecedented power into the hands of the individual designer, but as far as I'm concerned, if you can draw with at least a pencil on paper, and you don't, you ain't got nothin'.

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05 October 2010

[Address Nerd] Street Blades? They're Always Clear In Philadelphia

I haven't had a good story about a street blade to tell in a while, but while digesting the information delivered to me in the last missive, I've stumbled on a really cool blade design, and couldn't wait to share it.

I'm surprised I haven't heard about the design of the blades in Philadelphia before. They're quite nifty. One of the classics of big-city American street blade style, I've found in my informal, note-free surveys, is the address index going on a little tab along the top of the blade. That way, the full street name - the specific (actual street name), generic (st/ave/ct/whatever), and directional (N, S, SW, etc) are the star. The address block is important, but most often, you're probably just interested in what street you happen to be on at the moment.

Most towns, in order to simplify street blade construction have, over time, incorporated the block index into the main blade, resulting in a design that uses a standard, simple rectangular blade shape, whose benefits in creation and production ought to be self-evident. But the classic tab on the top goes away.

Philadelphia's design actually creates the blade outline with the tab, effectively, built-in ... and including a lot of pedestrian-and-motorist location information either directly or indirectly. Here's one for the end of the 2100 block of West Kater Street, in Philly:

Intersection of Kater and 21st in Philadelphia
CC2.0 BY-SA licensed by creator Edu-Tourist

The sign is clear and beautiful, and is particularly notable for for including the directional not as a part of the street name (on the sign, at least) and as a data point in the block number display, which also gives you a clear idea of which way it is to the baseline - important in cities like Philadelphia, where the central business district is usually also the location of the local address grid origin.

Knowing this sign and getting a look at the sign on the other corner of 21st, you'd know at a glace how far away from the downtown core you are, and even be able to infer which way north actually is (remembering to account for the tilt of the local street grid).

The incorporation of the tab into the design of the sign makes for a non-standard shape, but presumably, Philly has gotten this obstacle circumvented. Notable as well is the practice of spelling the generic (STREET, in this case) out rather than abbreviating it, but removing the block number and directional from the main part of the sign makes this possible. Presumably if the specific were a particularly long word, that'd call for an abbreviation.

About the only drawback is that any geegaw personalizing the blade for the the district would have to go below, as in this photo: http://msnbcmedia3.msn.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photos/070730/070730_philly_hmed_4p.h2.jpg (referenced in this discussion board thread at PhiladelphiaSpeaks.com), which is a little bit of a break from tradition - it's also customary to put such identifying plaques in the pride-of-place spot, along the top, as we do here in PDX.

But withal, it's a grand design, and we deem it nifty.

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[Address_Nerd] Clearview Takes Manhattan

The next chapter in the slow invasion of Clearview onto street blades and directional signs everywhere unfolds in New York City, where word has been placed into the universe of discourse that they are preparing to spend $27.6 million to replace all city street blades, working out to about $110 per blade.

Sadly, reporting on the issue seems to harp on the cost. While it's not unremarkable, that's only half the story. Since introducing Clearview and making it the FHWA-approved standard for signs all over, in this lean budgetary climate naturally states and appropriate jurisdictions have complained about the extra cost.

Street blades don't come for free, of course.

Sadly, most reporting on it is a more coarse version of this article at The Consumerist, which does a disservice by not devoting just a few extra lines for some needed clarity. The New York Post, a news organ that I've learned to take with a huge grain of salt, does unexpected justice at this article by providing that clarity.

While it's true that $27.6 million is, perhaps tautologically put, a hell of a lot of money to spend on anything, it's not outlandish when it's pointed out that the signs will be replaced over an eight-year period at a rate (11,000/year) not unreasonably more than that of normal wear and tear anyway (8,000/year). The evolution seems most wise.

What I will take issue with is the sign formatting. While the traditional NYC street blade format - with the specific spanning the sign's height and the generic baseline-shifted up to align with the top of the big letters - works well with the old letterforms, it seems sort of awkward with Clearview letterforms.

I'd suggest a redesign, and humbly offer my services to the city of New York City.

(thanks to fellow Address Nerd Ben Lukoff for pointing this out)

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02 October 2010

[logo] Screen Gems: The S From Hell

This little documentary/horror flick (you see, there's something in it for everyone) claims to document "the scariest logo in history" ... The Screen Gems logo, a/k/a The S From Hell, and its reputedly-creepy 8-note Moog-synthesized theme.

As a short film, it's a tour de force.

I never thought it creepy. I always liked it myself. I had no idea that my fellow members of the TV tribe were so ... delicate.

But then I thought the costume designs on Star Trek:The Motion Picture were groovy, so that's me for you.

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