Author Archive

Font-y Friday: Tuscans

June 6, 2009

friscoantiquedisplayrendezvousleking
figginstuscanlozamissionary
goldstandardoperahouse-1gringotuscan
de-louisvilleoldviccatacumba

Did you like the giant S from French Vogue Kirsten pointed out a few weeks ago? Us too!

This style of type is called Tuscan and it originated well before printing. Tuscans can be identified by bifurcation of the terminals — some have speculated that the bifurcation in the earliest examples may have been a typographic equivalent of the sign of the fish, an attempt to signify Christian faith in the letters themselves. Tuscans really hit their stride in the 19th century, during the age of handbills (each trying to outdo one another in typographic excess). This is when the form started mutating like crazy: the ends trifurcated, bulges or spikes erupted mid-stem, letters split into two, swashes and flourishes sprouted out.

Tuscans can be extended or condensed, rigid or expressive: some of the newer digital ones are hand-rendered. So versatile a type style, it’s a shame it’s rarely used contemporarily outside of circus- or western- themed work.

Credits & analysis, after the jump. (more…)

it was twenty years ago today

June 5, 2009

Sorry to bring up a bummer, but China is doing all it can to make sure you forget this image. But, it’s pretty important that we remember the things totalitarian states want us to forget. One awesome thing about the internets is that they’ve moved us past the era when technology helped a totalitarian state achieve absolute control over the distribution of information (as it was for much of the twentieth century) to an era when technology actively helps resist totalitarianism.

franklin

The NYT Lens blog has a good expurgation and analysis of this and three other photographers’ images of Tiananmen Square, including how the photographers smuggled the film out of a country already deadset on erasing the memory of the event.

transit map abstraction

June 3, 2009

tokyorail

Tokyo Rail Map Poster and Calendar, zero per zero, 2008. Click for larger version.

I got really excited about this map of Tokyo’s complex rail system by Korean designers zero per zero today. It establishes a new abstraction vocabulary (arcs) for railway maps, which since Harry Beck’s 1933 Tube map (more on which below) have tended to use variations on his circuit-boardy angle system. And it uses chocolate brown, which I hope against hope will never go out of style again. And it has an underlying 12×31 grid and comes packaged with post-it notes sized to the grid squares: that’s right; you can use the thing as a calendar! It’s available straight from Korea hereSan Francisco friends give me a shout if you want something, we’ll combine shipping! along with smaller folding versions with great info backs. And New York, Osaka and Seoul editions.

zpz_ny_rail

A little discussion of some more great rail maps featuring Messrs Beck, Vignelli, Hertz, Jabbour and Good Magazine after the jump.

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Font-y Friday: Wayne White

May 29, 2009

maybenowillgettherespect

Todd Oldham has a book coming out in a few days, entitled Maybe Now I’ll Get the Respect I So Richly Deserve. It’s not about himself; he’s got respect aplenty after all. It’s about Wayne White, and honestly it’s a hilariously appropriate title for the first comprehensive monograph of an artist who’s been making awesome and original art for 30 years.

beautysembarrassin
Beauty’s Embarrassin!

whatditellya
What’d I Tell Ya?

His M.O. for the last decade has been basically painting giant, usually funny typography “realistically” into mass-produced “kitsch” landscape paintings — that is to say, using their perspective and lighting and often reflections and gravity too. This, years before things like Panic Room‘s opening titles made a trend of floating type in physical perspective, or for that matter before indie artists made upcycling/overpainting found art cool.

Oh, and he used to do sets for Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and directed Peter Gabriel’s video for “Big Time” — possibly the best video ever. Several more paintings [PG-13 for language], and the Big Time video (because we both know it’s been too long) after the jump.

(more…)

The ties that bind

May 27, 2009

So, father’s day is coming up and you can’t figure out what to give the guy who has everything? There’s always the safe bet of a tie. (Actually, the hipster ties we’ve rounded up here are probably more suited for your beaux, or yourself, than your dad.)

cyberoptix1cyberoptix2

cyberoptix3cyberoptix4

regenerationjesswitaj

lineologytymbal

rokgeardeezknots

Credits and lots of commentary after the jump.

(more…)

Portland TONIGHT: DDC at Office PCX

May 27, 2009

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In case any of our readership is in Portland, we’re so jealous that you get a chance to see the solo show of DDC/Aaron Draplin. Not just an art show but “Portland’s greatest selection of cool office supplies.”

6-8pm at Office. Read all about it.

FIELDNOTESrecoverygov
hairorg

Draplin’s aesthetic — which you might recognize from Field Notes, the new Recovery.gov logo*, or his lovely hair organizer — is a mix of working-class Americana and 50s – 70s modern graphics, with occasionally an amazing burst of maximalist minimalism. I am so down to get one of the “career spanning” posters for the show (which features pretty much every project DDC has done since its inception and has today’s date in the title) when they go on sale next week (click for gianter version).

DDCshowposter

We are lucky enough to own an earlier iteration of this sort of thing that Draplin did for the Wurst Gallery’s We Heart Gocco show in 2006. It’s all sorts of design-geeky (8: Pantone 123, 42: Futura Bold, 45: CMYK misregistration) and a great introduction to this singular designer.

ThngsWeLove_front

ThingsWeLove_back

*It’s unclear how much of the recovery.gov and TIGER logos was done by Draplin, how much by Mode and how much by Chris Glass but he has both on his poster. In related news, have you seen Chris Glass’ He-Man and the Masters of Univers shirt concept? Can you believe that these are the guys making our federal logos these days? Our new president is so rad.

heman

BLVR RDR: First Issue

May 23, 2009

blvr1

VOL 1, ISSUE 1 March 2003

THIS IS THE FIRST BLVR RDR ISSUE REVIEW, WILL IT REALLY BE THE LAST:
Yes. No. It’s complicated.
Lots more after the jump.

(more…)

Font-y Friday: Upright Scripts

May 22, 2009

Scripts, love ’em or hate ’em? Certainly a lot of them seem stuffy or old-fashioned, but, there are certain styles that still look fabulous after all these years. We’d like to look at one of our favorite subsets of script, the upright. Whether inspired by the Nineteenth-century French model or the mid-century modern craze for brush-written uprights, we can’t resist the charm of this style.

They are enjoying a recent resurgence in popularity, fueled largely by the efforts of superstar typographers Alejandro Paul and House Industries, both of whom have revived mid-century styles and made their own new faces. Here are thirteen of our favorites; credits after the jump.

upright__0001_Studio-Sable
upright__0002_Studio-Swing
upright__0000_Cocktail-Shaker
upright__0003_HouseLeagueNight
upright__0004_EdScript
upright__0005_TyoUpright
upright__0006_Glengary
upright__0007_Cartoleria
upright__0008_Pendulum
upright__0009_Fling

upright__0010_Mousse-Script
upright__0011_Alphaluxe
upright__0012_Peregroy
upright__0013_Uplink

(more…)

Kusho

May 19, 2009

kushodrops

I find these shots by Shinichi Maruyama absolutely stunning. He photographs (extremely fast) midair combinations of water and black ink. Not only is the subject matter a reference to traditional sumi paintings and calligraphy, but formally an exploration of the variety of ways the two – light/dark, opaque/clear – oppose and combine with each other, making them an apt metaphor for just about everything. I love the thoroughness of this exploration almost as much as the beauty of the individual pieces.
kusho1kushodrop

kusho_opposition

kusho_circleshinichi

Lots more, and higher-res, at shinichimaruyama.com.

via graphic-exchange.

Font-y Friday: BKLYN type

May 15, 2009

Brooklyn_newcastle
brooklyn_greenpoint
brooklyn_haitian
brooklyn_momashow

1. Negative space typography remaining on the facade of an old fabric warehouse.

2. Fabulous awning-side metal letters on a Hotel in the Besties’ neighborhood – note that not only does Greenpoint turn around its curve, but Square actually tilts up a bit to fit as well.

3. Handpainted sign for a Haitian Baptist church with both blackletter and sans serif lettering. I love the mix of careful, studied shapes and disregard for details: the wild line weights and spacing letter to letter in “New,” the awkward sans “S.”

4. Subway poster for Mira Schendel show at the MOMA. We saw this poster on our final day in NY, but didn’t end up seeing the show. The poster made us pretty excited though (this is totally in the vein of some of our faves: Martin Venezky and Simon Evans).

We saw a lot of beautiful typography walking around New York, and it made us want to snap more photos around more often, because it’s really just a matter of paying attention: we have urban type this good in San Francisco too after all!

Etsy day: Handmade pixellations

April 24, 2009

64kshirt1pitfallscorpions

happymacpaintbucket

spaceinvadersmysterybox

lifemeterstreetfighter

skulldesert

Credits and commentaries after the jump.

(more…)

Font-y Friday: “Unchanged since 2002. Now completely new.”

April 24, 2009

In case this is the font-iest of blogs you read, let me be the first to break it to you that Typographica is back! Their opening salvo, a return of the “Oscars of type Design,” their Favorite Typefaces of the year feature (see also 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 entries), is terrific and their new layout marvelous.

This is one of a handful of blogs that were in my very first blog bookmarks folder, that inspired me since waaaay back in the day. I know I teased them for not updating (and url vagaries) in my eulogy of SpeakUp and now I feel like crap about it. But as Stephen Coles writes in his very read-worthy note about the relaunch [please note that his links in this passage constitute the A-list of type blogs/forums today! Bookmark’m!]

It wasn’t just that our attention was diverted — other type bloggers took the reins and did it better, more beautifully and comprehensively, with more brains, more fervor, and more expertise. And, of course, there’s really no reason to go anywhere else to discuss type with knowledgeable peers than Typophile.

The new typographica, then, is not trying to compete with its supercharged grandchildren as another type blog, but as a “vehicle for typeface recommendations and reviews.” I couldn’t be more excited. Four of our favorites from this year’s favorites list (other than Archer that we already established is next on our must-have list!) … after the jump.

(more…)

We’re past this now.

April 22, 2009

So the New York Times Magazine this week was The Green Issue. The articles are pretty good, and they’re online with what looks like a lot of other media. I am excited for instance about electric cars that swap batteries rather than refuel. The weekly profile is on Stewart Brand (Whole Earth Catalog, WELL, Clock of the Long Now), who is fascinating and inspiring. But here’s my gripe: Windsor?
avocado

For this issue, the magazine’s feature headlines are all set in this most un-current of types. I know that I am a type geek, but I bet you can see it too this time: these bulbous, deco-a-go-go letters signify the past as surely as tie-dyes with bell-bottoms. Look at the characters “2009”: it looks frickin’ ludicrous to see our current date clothed in this type. It looked old-fashioned the first time Woody Allen used it (he favors the condensed cut) and it’s only gotten more willfully apart-from-the-times in the dozen times he’s kept using it since. (It looked old-fashioned even in the 1970s; like so much of the vernacular type of the day it was stolen from the art movements from half a century ealier.)

The rationale seems to be because it was used for the Whole Earth Catalog, but that doesn’t fly with me. This indicates to me the reader that environmentalism is best thought of as a phase from the 70s. If you’re going to report on the state of the world right now, NYTM, please please don’t use the vernacular type of yesteryear. In fact unless you want to evoke the 70s best to just keep your ITC locked away.

Ok, rant over.

Water water every steer.

April 22, 2009

goodchart1

Happy Earth Day folks (though we hope that by April 2009 you’re thinking of the Earth more than one day a year)! I’ve been thinking a lot about how difficult it is to reframe one’s thinking into ecoefficient decision making. I for one am a fan of infographics for this.

Good Magazine has an infographic comparing the water consumption involved in various things you might do in your day that clearly shows something that few of us consider. While using a low-flow showerhead may save a dozen gallons a day, opting out of a pound of beef saves 1500 gallons.

The experts don’t want to be preachy about it, but jeez. First Michael Pollan showed us how inefficient an example of sunlight-calorie rationing meat was, and now this? Less beef, people. Many more people eating somewhat less beef, please, for the future?

Also, folks at Good? Nice infographic. You had me at 1500 green drops.
Meat is Murder Water.

meat1

via Kottke.

Carson Ellis on TMN

April 20, 2009

I’ve blogged my appreciation for The Morning News‘ galleries before — with their large-scale reproductions and interviews, they are my favorite virtual art gallery — but I’ve not quite gotten around to blogging about my great and abiding love for artist/illustrator Carson Ellis. Today on TMN’s gallery: Carson Ellis.

carson
Moscow, from her new series on TMN, Иркутск

I first discovered her, as many did, as the maker of the terrifically-appropriate visuals for The Decemberists (she was frontman Colin Meloy’s roommate, then girlfriend and now wife.) I can’t get enough of her style and lovely palette, reminding me of three of my very favorites of all-time: Shahn in the angles, Schiele in the ugly-beauty, and Gorey in the meticulous creepiness. And her handmade lettering is awesome and one-of-a-kind. Six older pieces that I love:

carson_sun

carson_russiantown

carson_flowers

carson_decemberists

carson_half

carson_shanty

4 videos that blew my mind last week

April 18, 2009

The best stop motion animation using photos I have seen. I love that it keeps changing up its rules as it goes.

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On the opposite side of the coin from a video made using photos is a video that appears to be still as a photograph. This sort of “bullet time” effect first popularized in The Matrix, is made breathtaking use of here, even telling a [admittedly, action packed] narrative as it pans around its scene.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I am so excited about this. It’s not even that I am a huge fan of the book actually; it’s the Jonze/Eggers/Arcade Fire/natural lighting/handwriting-even-on-the-production-company-logos part that’s an arrow to my heart.

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Aaaaand on the opposite side of that, possibly the worst trailer ever. Which is endlessly fascinating and rewatchable. Does it know that it’s bad (e.g. parody or art)? How can it not?

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Please do watch and enjoy, and if you have any videos to recommend, let me know.

The Substance of Style

April 17, 2009

richie

My favorite movie is The Royal Tenenbaums. In fact I love director Wes Anderson in general; his overarching and meticulous vision and distinct sensibility makes for unique — and to me, near-perfect — films. I was delighted, therefore, to find a five-part, in-depth, thoughtful and well-researched video essay on his influences. I want more things like this in my life, please.

Part 1: Charles Schultz (Peanuts), Orson Welles (The Magnificent Ambersons), François Truffaut (The 400 Blows)

Part 2: Martin Scorsese (GoodFellas), Richard Lester (The Beatles’ Help!), and Mike Nichols (The Graduate)

Part 3: Hal Ashby (Harold and Maude)

Part 4: J.D. Salinger (The Catcher in the Rye)

Part 5: opening of The Royal Tenenbaums my favorite sequence of my favorite movie — annotated Pop-Up Video style with influences and Anderson’s own innovations.

Both where this is housed, the Museum of the Moving Image, and the author’s (Matt Zoller Seitz) blog The House Next Door are intriguing too, especially for people like me who like thinking ad nauseum about films.

via metafilter

Speak up when you say goodbye

April 14, 2009

pic_speakup

Armin Vit & Bryony Gomez-Palacio are closing their incredible blog/discussion forum Speak Up. Between Armin’s and Bryony’s farewells, and the long discussion threads that accompany them, I am not sure what else there is to say. It was the best place for facilitating and provoking graphic design discourse since Emigre magazine, and was in play years before Design Observer. [is it odd that all three of these examples are founded in whole or in part by 2 married designers? I think so!] In terms of a fully open discussion, it surpassed both. It was a landmark, and its time is passing. It will be missed.

The good news:
1) They’re keeping open Brand New, which has an always-lively discussion — it’s where I’ve directed people to see the range of opinion on the Tropicana rebrand takeback debate — and to read Paula Scher’s critical assertion that no matter what you think of Arnell’s design, the decision to take back a redesign sets a bad precedent. It also had the year’s best April Fools.

2)  They’ll keep the full archives open, with closed comments, as a set of documents for the future. In compiling the collected letters of DesignMaven 2002-2009, this will be crucial. Oh I joke now but I know that I will find my way back to these in the coming years.

3) My Marian Bantjes’ “bitchin” Speak Up shirt gets to go into a frame now. This was the first I’d heard of her, in Speak Up, and now look she’s my favorite. It looks like the picture at the top, but the ink is metallic silver.

4) Unlike some projects which fade away (looking at you, typographi-4 posts in the last year-.ca/.com/ca.org) or reach their end unaware that it’s the end (e.g. the final issues of Craft and Domino and pretty much most magazines) it is ending on its own terms: that is to say, characteristically with a set of mini-essays and discussions.

In this way, it makes me think of Dan Rolleri & Martin Venezky’s Speak Magazine (1996 – 2001), with which it almost shares a name. This magazine was without peer in its day — discursive content much like The Believer + with incredibly cutting edge design. I gave my smarter older brother a reader of selected photocopied articles from it back one unemployed Christmas. Like Emigre would in 2005, Speak knew its final issue would be the last. Issue 21 was a round-table retrospective of the staff, one imagines over a few beers, on the long road of the magazine. Though this accounts for nearly the entire issue, I still look back on it as the most important of all and not just for its closure. It’s available to read online: I’d recommend it to anyone who is working on, or considering starting, a magazine.

The last issue’s cover, which I submit as fitting for Speak Up as well, featured a book of matches in an ashtray — and down by the barcode:

speak_barcode

Armin + Bryony: display until forever. And thanks.

Some fall in love; I shatter

April 13, 2009

In case you haven’t already seen this on 100 other blogs (e.g. itsnicethat) it’s a collaboration between designer Craig Ward and photographer Jason Tozer. They both have some pretty amazing stuff in their portfolios, though this one really gets me. Here’s a writeup on the making of it.

ward1

ward2

When I saw You Blow Me Away a few weeks back, I was reminded of another photographer whose frozen explosions are pretty phenomenal: Martin Klimas. I was first introduced to him via the always-fantastic Morning News galleries (which feature several works + an interview with a different visual artist, regularly updated: hundreds of ’em since 2001!)

kilmas2
klimas1

Inspired by looking at these artists’ work, I looked on flickr for high speed photography, to try to collect my thoughts, when I found this lovely lovely shot by Aden Tranter that to this designer’s eye is a few words of type away from being an amazing album cover, say for this single for the Handsome Family.

I had nothing to say on Christmas day when you threw all your clothes in the snow. When you burnt your hair, knocked over chairs, I just tried to stay out of your way.
But when you fell asleep, with blood on your teeth, I got in my car and drove away. Listen to me, Butterfly, there’s only so much wine you can drink in one life, and it will never be enough to save you from the bottom of your glass.

tranor

What is it about these shots that impresses me so? Certainly content has something to do with it: Ward and Tozer’s shattering of that phrase of type, and Klimas’ shattering of kung fu figurines each add layers of delicious meaning… And though Tranter’s shot is of a simple bottle, his choice of reddened water and a dull green backdrop are critical, and if you were to crop the Jim Beam logo out leaving only liquid and glass, some the resonance with drunken abandon is lost.

But content aside, I think the root of the appeal can be found in the design-professor-favorite phrase “happy accidents.” Photography and design both involve impeccable, balanced, beautiful composition/layout — and it is usually achieved through careful planning, staging, grid and so forth. And yet sometimes you have a happy accident — whether it’s mistakenly dropping in the wrong cropping of an image or splashing ink or a light leak — which makes the composition work, usually by virtue of its unpredictable disorderliness.

What these high-speed photographers have done is carefully arranged happy accidents. They can’t be assured how the pane of glass, figurine or bottle will break… but they can capture, and then exercise their judicious cropping and editing on, the compositions that the physics of destruction create. The process must be tiresome, messy to clean up and aggravating at times, but when you can catch something as beautiful as these, it is totally worth it.

klimas21
(Klimas, again)

Font-y Friday: Contemporary Type Abundance

April 10, 2009

There’s been a trend in the last few years dubbed maximalism. We’re particular fans of how it manifests calligraphically and typographically. Here’s some of the finest, and six words about each:

Ray Fenwick
fenwick
Words and pictures both very good.

Marian Bantjes
bantjes
We have one; it’s laser-cut awesomeness.

Jessica Hische
jhirsche
This will be a tshirt soon.

Si Scott
siscott
Pen in hand, makes his mark.

Niels “Shoe” Meulman
shoe
calligraffiti inventor. Yep, how it sounds.

Seb Lester
seb1
Silver on black plike. Pretty rad.

Yulia Brodskaya
yulia
OMG that’s quilling? That’s insane yo.