June 27, 2008

And attendance is the other 50 percent of your grade.

Posted in letterpress, Reading, technology, typography at 12:39 am by India

Free Hand Penmanship Series Writing Charts

Fonts can shape reality in intangible ways, as Phil Renaud, a graphic designer from Phoenix, discovered when he studied the relationship between his grades and the fonts he used for his college papers. Papers set in Georgia, a less common font with serifs, generally received A’s while those rendered in Times Roman averaged B’s.

—Peter Wayner, “Down With Helvetica: Design Your Own Font,” New York Times, June 26, 2008

Man, that’s why I got those B’s in college: Georgia hadn’t yet been designed.

(Thanks, Rose!)

. . .

In other news, I just registered for TypeCon again. Anybody else going?

May 22, 2008

A-lines are always in style

Posted in Design, illustration, Inspiration, Reading at 8:01 am by India

five A-frame designs from Print magazine's Flickr slideshow

Brainiac Josh Glenn takes issue with Steven Heller’s facile assertion that although “The human leg has evolved continually over many eons, adapting from an underwater propeller to its current form . . . on book covers and on film and theater posters, the leg has evolved very little.”

I hate to quibble with the master, since I’m a fan of Heller’s books. But this time he hasn’t put his best leg forward. Even a cursory glance at the leg-scenarios on display in Heller’s Print essay — and at Print Magazine’s A-Frame photoset at Flickr — indicate that the A-Frame is forever evolving.

The Flickr set is not entirely work-safe, but do check it out if nobody’s looking over your shoulder. Much excellence therein.

Now I just have to think of some excuse to put an A-frame illustration on the front of Nextbook.org . . .

May 3, 2008

So I guess there’s no Klingon italic, either

Posted in Reading, typography at 10:25 pm by India


The term “Roman” is customarily used to describe serif typefaces of the early Italian Renaissance period. More recently, the term has also come to denote the upright style of typefaces, as opposed to the word “Italic”, which refers to cursive typefaces inspired by the handwriting of Italian humanists. Thus Linotype offers fonts called Sabon Greek Roman and Sabon Greek Italic, (designed by Jan Tchichold), based on 16th century models. But by using terminology which is typically associated with Latin type and evokes the history of Italian typography, Linotype makes a careless statement. “Greek Roman” and “Greek Italic” are contradictions in terms, mixing two very different histories.

—Peter Biľak, “A View of Latin Typography in Relationship to the World,” Het Wereld Boek (Amsterdam, 2008), reprinted at Typotheque

Huh. Now that you mention it, yes, that sounds stupid.

Photo: Mandragoras by sp!ros; some rights reserved.

April 18, 2008

For anyone else who ever wondered

Posted in books, Editing, Reading, Tools at 9:41 pm by India

The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition. Nerd!

So I was trying to find an example of a paragraph-styled bibliography in the Chicago Manual when I had one of those irrelevant thoughts that so often interrupt my work: “I wonder if, using the magic of the internet, I could find out what books these sample pages are from?”

Languagehat: Fun with the Chicago Manual.

(Via Margaret‘s del.icio.usness)

Photo: my favorite corner by limonada / Emilie Eagan; some rights reserved.

March 13, 2008

Meet me at the Pilcrow & Capitulum

Posted in Reading, typography at 5:48 pm by India


Like most punctuation, the paragraph mark (or pilcrow) has an exotic history. It’s tempting to recognize the symbol as a “P for paragraph,” though the resemblance is incidental: in its original form, the mark was an open C crossed by a vertical line or two, a scribal abbreviation for capitulum, the Latin word for “chapter.” . . .

In any case, Pilcrow & Capitulum would make a fine name for a pub . . .

—Jonathan Hoefler at Typography.com. I like the way this man thinks.

¶ I enjoy using pilcrows (HTML entity ¶, in case you want one of your own); perhaps we need to find some new uses for this character.

¶ I mean, besides the obvious—T-shirts!

March 5, 2008

The Charles Montgomery Burns Award for Blogging

Posted in community, Reading at 3:21 pm by India

Last week Stephen Tiano was so kind as to select this blog as one of ten he rated “Excellent,” as part of a pay-it-forward linky thing. Thanks, Steve!

I’m not sure I like the Enron-style logo for the project—

Excellent blog logo

—but I certainly appreciate the kind notice.

Some of the relevant sites that I follow have already been flagged for this thing:

I Love Typography
words / myth / ampers & virgule
Publishing Careers
The Penguin Blog

and I’ve discovered a few new ones by clicking back through the previous honorees. Yay! That’s the point.

But here are ten that I don’t think are duplicates:

  • Cozy Lummox — Eric Skillman’s design process blog. Eric is becoming, like, totally famous.
  • Zina Saunders @ Drawger — Not only beautiful artwork, but also interesting interviews with artists and art directors
  • Right-reading — Tom Christensen’s eclectic mix of mostly book-related stuff
  • Smashing Magazine — Is it a blog? Is it a magazine? I don’t know, but it’s been really useful.
  • Bittbox — Strangely impersonal—posts are written in the first person, but I can’t figure out who that “I” refers to—but, again, who cares? Lots of useful stuff.
  • Copyranter — Possibly the only upside to the world’s being plastered with advertising is that it fuels a constant stream of criticism from Copyranter, much of which amuses me. (As a bonus, his office is somewhere within a block of mine—maybe in the same building—so I’ve winced firsthand at many of the ads he skewers.)
  • Coudal Partners — “If browsing around here while at work has had a negative effect on your productivity we’re sorry but imagine what it’s done to ours.” No kidding. I find it hard to believe that they’re actually a functioning design firm, with all the blogging they do.
  • Chris Glass — I don’t know how Chris gets any work done, either, but he’s got a great del.icio.us feed, and now also a glass tumblr.
  • Elisabethsblog — Okay, so it’s in Norwegian (how peculiar!); but most of the sites she highlights are in English, so just click each link and see where you end up.
  • Throwing Music — Totally off-topic, but as I mentioned over at Clusterflock, I am really in love with the writing of Kristin Hersh (of the bands Throwing Muses and 50FootWave, as well as a distinguished solo career). She sends out gorgeous letters to her e-mail list, too. Today’s was brilliant.
  • Clusterflock — Which it’s “a group blog dedicated to pretty much everything; by people you would like to meet at a party; . . . dedicated to culture: art, design, music, food, architecture, science, travel, movies, books, typography, politics, etc.; inclusive of geezers!; a delightful mixture of orange words and pictures of well, the insides of a stuffed animal—delightful all the same.” Something for everyone, though perhaps not all on the same day.

Um, okay, that was eleven. But this kind of thing is extremely difficult for a scatterbrain who has more than 400 feeds in her RSS reader. Ask me again tomorrow; I’ll have a different list.

February 18, 2008

Interview with Peter Mendelsund

Posted in books, Design, Inspiration, Reading at 5:05 pm by India

book covers by Peter Mendelsund

A lot of great stuff in this interview with Peter Mendelsund by Christopher Tobias at design:related:

I definitely gravitate towards using illustration, in general, more than photography in book jackets; and the more abstract the better. I think this approach leaves more to the reader’s imagination. It’s easier to be evocative without being literal. Though, upon reflection, those geometric jackets were to some extent influenced by the fact that they were all designed in Quark, which, really because of the limitations of the software, one finds oneself designing with the most accessible tools—boxes, circles, in flat colors or simple blends on top of art. It’s more tempting in that environment to simply place a shape on top of art. In PhotoShop, or InDesign, of course, because of the ease of blending layers, compositions tend to be denser, shapes more amorphous, and the final result, well, more photographic. We need software updates here at Knopf.

Cant. Stick. To. Just. One. Quote. . . .
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I say! A subterranean semicolon!

Posted in Editing, Reading, typography at 4:12 pm by India

laser semicolon

[W]hatever one’s personal feelings about semicolons, some people don’t use them because they never learned how.

In fact, when Mr. Neches was informed by a supervisor that a reporter was inquiring about who was responsible for the semicolon, he was concerned.

“I thought at first somebody was complaining,” he said.

From “Celebrating the Semicolon in a Most Unlikely Location” by Sam Roberts, New York Times, 2/18/08.

I am a big fan of the semicolon, myself; it’s an extremely useful punctuation mark.

(Thanks, Rob!)

Photo: laserColon laserSemiColon by Andrew Plumb / ClothBot; some rights reserved.

February 15, 2008

My friend, the Wizard

Posted in art direction, Design, illustration, Reading at 9:53 pm by India

DVD covers art directed by Eric Skillman

My friend and fellow club member Eric Skillman, an associate art director at the Criterion Collection, has been interviewed over at WizardUniverse.com. They’re rather in need of a proofreader, but Eric’s intelligence and charm nevertheless come through.

For example I’m looking over the DVD’s on my desk —[Aikira Kurosawa’s] “Drunken Angel”, which is one we did with Jock (The Losers, Green Arrow: Year One, Faker). There’s a scene towards the end of the film where the characters are wresting around and the Matsunaga character knocks over into some cans of paint, and the paint spills in an artful kind of way and what was his black suit gets covered in white paint, so its a sort of a transformative moment where he’s rebelling against the Yakuza influence, which is represented by the snazzy black suit that he’s been wearing and he becomes purified in that scene. We took that and said that sort of scene and idea is what we want to riff off of. We took that to Jock, along with this idea that there’s this sump thing in the middle of the town that’s full of mud and its like this sucking hole that the center of town is being sucked down by the Yakuza influence, so we said maybe give us a backdrop of this muddy, crappy, sumpy grossness then a slosh of white paint with the character sort of crawling through it, and then he took that and abstracted it one step further and did his thing and then that became the cover.

Do freelance artists usually get notes like that?


The Wizard Q&A: Eric Skillman, by David Paggi, posted 2/11/2008.

To see more of Eric’s work (other than at your local video store) and to read a lot more about his design process, see his fine, upstanding blog: Cozy Lummox.

January 17, 2008

A window into our world

Posted in art direction, Editing, Reading, Work at 4:46 pm by India

Women at Work

On Monday my bossfriend, Joanna Smith-Rakoff, explained to Bookslut what it is that we do all day at the mysterious place where we work.

What would you say a normal day at Nextbook is like?

Our days vary somewhat greatly and they’re different for different members of the staff. Let’s see: In the morning, we generally spend some time making sure that the day’s feature is ready to go, which means coordinating with our art director, India Amos, to see if art is ready. Having someone give the story a final proofread. Perhaps asking one of our assistants to add links into the story. Sometimes we’re running behind and desperately trying to come up with a hed and dek (or heds and deks, if we’re doing a package, or running more than one story); so we’ll email a few choices around, or gather at someone’s desk to brainstorm. At the same time, our assistants will be surfing the Web, choosing stories for that day’s Filter, then checking in with Sara Ivry, the senior editor who oversees it, about those stories. They’ll then write up the Filter and sit down with Sara to edit it.

On Tuesdays, we have our story meetings at lunchtime—we order lunch in, which is nice—during which we check in about various pieces in the works, bat around new ideas, suggest new writers, present pitches from writers, and sometimes discuss larger plans and initiatives. Often these meetings are long—two hours, sometimes more—because we really help each other shape story ideas (which is necessary, being that we never just say, “Okay, let’s do a review of the new Philip Roth novel”).

Hey! That’s me!
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