July 6, 2009

Please, Mister Postman

Posted in advice, humor, Rants, typography at 2:26 pm by India

post office

Oh, I think I need to make a field trip to the 11215 post office . . .

Dear Postmaster Potter:

I am writing to ask if you would please consider redecorating my local post office. Maybe you have heard of it: 11215. It’s the Park Slope Station in Brooklyn, New York, and I believe that a great many novelists spend time there, waiting to mail their manuscripts and galleys and quarterly estimated tax payments and whatnot, so perhaps it is the source of a great many written complaints. Or perhaps not. Anyway, may I elaborate on the nature of the problem?

The nature of the problem is choice of font.

Rudolph Delson, “An Open Letter to John E. Potter, Postmaster General” (PDF, 127 KB), February 12, 2007

Oh, but that is not the only problem, as it turns out. And these issues have been observed not only at the 11215 post office, as I’m sure many can attest. I particularly recommend the 10009 (Tompkins Square) location for psychotic signage (not to mention patrons).

I think I also need to get a copy of Mr. Delson’s novel, Maynard and Jennica.

(Via Manhattan Users Guide)


June 11, 2009


Posted in books, Design, indexing, production, Tools, Typesetting at 4:45 am by India

talk to your kids about indexing

Via e-mail, Lars R. asks, “Would you consider doing a write-up on your blog on the production of indices and how indexing relates to the design process as a whole?”

Some topics I’m interested in include

– The usefulness of InDesign’s indexing feature (as opposed to third party programmes if they exist, or simply manually typing in numbers)
– The practicalities of the designer being involved with the nitty gritty versus any sort of indexing specialist working independently)
– At which stage in the production process indexing begins and ends
– Differences between independent/inhouse publishers and large commercial affairs
– Does the designer generally have any input to level of detail, extent etc, or is it exclusively a case of matter having priority over form? How does the index influence castoff?

Read the rest of this entry »

June 10, 2009

“artistic standard designs, fit for a palace”

Posted in books, Design, Typesetting, typography at 4:49 pm by India

Greybean Ulysses page spreads

Jonathan McNicol clearly does not have enough to do. To stay out of trouble, he’s started typesetting a free Greybean edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, pages of which he expects to be posting daily until some time in October.

This kind of fits in with something Margaret, Shelby, and I were talking about doing last year. Maybe we should get off our butts and do that . . .

Font Consultant to the Stars Star Trek

Posted in typography at 4:22 pm by India

Enterprise by House Industries

My former colleague Lawrence Levi, of Looker and The Breadline, reports that “the new Star Trek movie‘s final credit . . . is for FONT CONSULTANT. Yup. He’s Richard Massey, . . . who was part of the initial design team of Cabinet magazine.” Lawrence then directs our attention to “an outraged design blogger, the only person who seems to have noticed this quirky credit”: Blogging via Typewriter.

I know nothing whatsoever about the man, but it’s funny if it’s true.

June 9, 2009

Nextbook’s swank new pad

Posted in art direction, Design, web development, Work at 6:50 pm by India

Tablet Magazine home page, June 9, 2009

My erstwhile coworkers have been toiling their little hearts out for months, rethinking and rebuilding Nextbook’s online magazine, the former Nextbook.org. The shiny new publication, which launched today, is called Tablet, and it was designed by Prem Krishnamurthy and Rob Giampietro. Tablet‘s Liel Leibovitz has posted a little slideshow in which the designers talk about what they did: Our New Look.

The new site has a WordPress backend (the old one ran on some weird Perl CMS), which the firm Hard Candy Shell set up and filled with all the previous magazine’s content.

Go visit, and tell them what you think of the new digs. If you don’t know what the old site looked like, you can find some screenshots in my Flickr collection.

(I made no contribution to the redesign myself, having [mostly] resigned from my post in January so that I could concentrate on school. The fabulous Abigail Miller, assistant art director, held the fort on her own all spring, while Alana Newhouse, editor in chief, dealt with the designers and developers directly. Nextbook’s new art director, as of about three weeks ago, is the mighty Len Small.)

March 27, 2009

The future of publishing is here today!

Posted in books, Design, hardware, humor, production, technology, Tools at 9:43 pm by India

wire-sewing machine

The oddest thing about the newly announced winner of Bookseller magazine’s annual Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year is not its title, The 2009–2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais, but rather that its author, Professor Philip M Parker of the French business school Insead, has produced more than 200,000 books,

thanks to his invention – and patenting – of a machine which writes books, creating them from internet and database searches in order to eliminate or substantially reduce “the costs associated with human labour, such as authors, editors, graphic artists, data analysts, translators, distributors and marketing personnel”.

I think the graphic artist–eliminating part of the machine may need a bit of work, since if the competition had been based on covers rather than titles, I feel certain that Fromage Frais, for all its charm, would have lost out to either Techniques for Corrosion Monitoring or Curbside Consultation of the Colon, which were merely shortlisted.

The 2009–2014 World Outlook for 60-Milligram Containers of Fromage Frais Techniques for Corrosion Monitoring Curbside Consultation of the Colon

More: “Oddest Book Title prize goes to treatise on fromage frais” by Alison Flood, Guardian, March 27, 2009

March 26, 2009

Big Is Beautiful

Posted in Accessibility, advice, books, Design, indexing, Typesetting, typography at 11:11 pm by India


I like getting to play Dear Abby! Though lately my responses read less like sage advice and more like columns by The Non-Expert—only not funny. Yesterday Sarah wrote with some questions:

Since 2002, I have been editor for our local historical society’s 20-page quarterly. When I first started, I did it in an old version of WordPerfect and (you’ll laugh) actually cut and pasted together the booklet and took it to our local printer.

Then I got slightly more high tech and started producing PDFs from the WordPerfect files.

The next thing was a switch to the Atlantis program, which produces .rtf files, from which I made PDFs to send to our local printer.

So, I still have all the old .wpd and .rtf files.

The historical society is now interested in taking the old issues, indexing them, and publishing the old issues in books (putting several together per volume) or perhaps just putting the old issues online.

However, there is not much of a budget for new software. The new software would need to do indexing and be able to handle endnotes and read the old files.

I am looking at Serif Page Plus and SoftMaker’s TextMaker. Have you heard anything pro or con or about these programs?

As a side issue — I am also looking into producing Large Print versions of documents. It seems that there are all sorts of standards that different organizations have for producing large print books. Do you have any advice for what standard to use, and how to handle graphics for large print books (obviously the graphics need to be bigger, but I don’t know how much).

Read the rest of this entry »

March 20, 2009

Attn.: InDesign Salvage Operations Team

Posted in advice, Lazyweb, Tools at 2:37 pm by India

Relief workers inspect smashed carriages after railway accident at Camp Mountain, Queensland

Justin asks,

do you have any tips for recovering “damaged” files?

when i try to open a layout i was just working on, it prompts me to fix the file from recovered data, then notifies me that the file may be damaged; it starts to recover, but then the program quits altogether.

[. . .] if there’s no easy solution, this means a ton of work lost … are you familiar with this quandary? any suggestions?

Anyone? Anyone? I haven’t experienced this in a long time, so my response was vague:

. . . the first thing to try would probably be moving your preferences folder to the desktop and forcing InDesign to rebuild it. That’ll get the program to launch properly, at least, and then maybe you can recover the file from there. Details:
InDesign Secrets: Rebuilding InDesign Preferences.

The second option would be trying to get someone at Adobe to look at it, by posting a query on the forums. Sometimes they respond pretty quickly.

Finally, if the time you’d lose redoing everything would be worth $99,
you could send the document to Markzware for their voodoo file rescue
service: Markzware blog: Fix your Bad Adobe InDesign Files!

Other suggestions? If the file could be opened, I’d say export to .inx; that cures a lot of ills. When you can’t open it, though, I dunno.

I should also mention here that perhaps one reason this hasn’t happened to me in a long time is that I regularly create new save-as versions while I work—foo(1).indd → foo(2). indd → foo(2b).indd (a variant I’m not sure about) → etc. Doing a “save as” compresses the file, and I feel in my heart that it removes a lot of potentially corrupting gunk and thereby keeps my files more stable. Having snapshots of all those previous stages also makes it easier to roll back parts of a file, selectively.

An aside: Does anybody out there use Version Cue? I’ve never bothered. Does it help with this kind of stuff at all?

March 18, 2009

In like a lion, out like a lamb

Posted in advice, Tools, Typesetting at 10:06 pm by India

lion and lamb

I spent a ridiculous amount of time yesterday converting two files: one Quark XPress 6 document to InDesign CS4, and one WordPerfect document to MS Word 2004. Part of the time-suck was because my apartment is disorganized and I couldn’t, um, find one of my laptops. Most of it, though, was because I’ve forgotten a lot of my old file-conversion juju.

I used to have to jump through these kinds of hoops all the time, salvaging manuscript files that had been prepared in weird old programs on MS-DOS or whatever. But since I drifted out of the exciting world of typesetting, I haven’t had to convert a lot of texty documents. Video, audio, and image files, yes, but not so much with the text.

So, in case anybody else has forgotten or never knew how to do this stuff, here’s what I had to relearn yesterday.
Read the rest of this entry »

February 9, 2009

Pinch on pages

Posted in books, Design, typography at 1:12 am by India

Hawthorne page spreads

Pinch, a design office in Portland, Oregon, have* shared a summary of their typographic standards for Hawthorne Books, a literary press also in Portland. And while I very much like the house design they’ve come up with, I have a few quibbles with their write-up of same.

Pages are expensive, and here is where working with smaller press runs is helpful. Random House, for example, would have a big problem with running this little content on a two-page spread, because they are budgeting their books to the fraction of a penny—a meaningful amount when you’re printing a half-million copies. At 5,000 copies? Not so much, and frankly, this material—dedication, acknowledgements, epigrams—is important to the writer. To isolate it, to give it the weight it deserves, is again a function of respect to both writer and reader.

Now, I’ve never worked for Random House, but we had some pretty big print runs on some of the things I worked on at St. Martin’s. And I can tell you that the default front-matter pagination was just as airy and light as what’s shown in the Hawthorne spreads. Read the rest of this entry »

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