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Posts Tagged ‘typefaces’

Still in the Grip of Kitsch, and Other News

December 17, 2014 | by

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Photo: Jean-Noël Lafargue

  • The origins of Times New Roman, the trustiest typeface of the PC era: “Times New Roman began as a challenge, when esteemed type designer Stanley Morison criticized London’s newspaper The Times for being out-of-touch with modern typographical trends. So The Times asked him to create something better. Morison enlisted the help of draftsman Victor Lardent and began conceptualizing a new typeface with two goals in mind: efficiency—maximizing the amount of type that would fit on a line and thus on a page—and readability.”
  • A history of kitsch and its enduring power: “Kitsch is not about the thing observed but about the observer. It does not invite you to feel moved by the doll you are dressing so tenderly, but by yourself dressing the doll. All sentimentality is like this—it redirects emotion from the object to the subject, so as to create a fantasy of emotion without the real cost of feeling it. The kitsch object encourages you to think, ‘Look at me feeling this—how nice I am and how lovable.’ ”
  • Great moments in swearing: an utterance in John Carpenter’s The Thing helped define our sense of a treasured obscenity. “The fuckin’ in ‘You gotta be fuckin’ kidding’ is surplus to compositional meaning but crucial to the moment and the encounter. Its trochee supplies essential force to the line’s measured disbelief, extending Palmer’s (and by extension the group’s) appalled bewilderment at the boggling form of their alien enemy.”
  • A new book purports to bust the stereotypes behind archaeology: “the work is often poorly paid, physically demanding, and prone to controversy … the unemployment rate in the field [is] at about fifty per cent.” (This piece, to its great credit, mentions Indiana Jones zero times.)
  • The best defense for research: “It’s in the archive where one forms a scholarly self—a self that, when all goes well, is intolerant of weak arguments and loose citation and all other forms of shoddy craftsmanship; a self that doesn’t accept a thesis without asking what assumptions and evidence it rests on; a self that doesn’t have a lot of patience with simpleminded formulas and knows an observation from an opinion and an opinion from an argument.”

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Typographic Sanity

October 1, 2014 | by

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“The Blue Streak Comet,” a Linotype machine.

There’s a post over at Print Magazine about Frank Romano’s new book, History of the Linotype Company, which chronicles the rise and decline of the Linotype, a “glorious contraption” that was not so very long ago the industry standard for printing newspapers, magazines, catalogs, you name it. I’d be lying if I said I knew how it worked—to look at it is to imagine it taking your hand off—but fortunately there’s Wikipedia, which explains:

The linotype machine operator enters text on a ninety-character keyboard. The machine assembles matrices, which are molds for the letter forms, in a line. The assembled line is then cast as a single piece, called a slug, of type metal in a process known as “hot metal” typesetting. The matrices are then returned to the type magazine from which they came, to be reused later. This allows much faster typesetting and composition than original hand composition in which operators place down one pre-cast metal letter, punctuation mark or space at a time.

The machine was invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler, a German immigrant who set up shop in Brooklyn. At the height of its powers, it was used in eighty-six countries and in 850 languages. And the public domain is teeming with miscellany from the Mergenthaler Company, which produced an endless succession of handbooks, manuals, brochures, and pamphlets, among them Linotype’s Shining Lines, a sort of trade magazine with impeccably designed cover art:

linotype00121Read More »

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Ray Bradbury on Your Wall, and Other News

September 26, 2014 | by

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In Ray Bradbury‘s art collection: Ray Bradbury. Photo via io9

  • Ray Bradbury’s art collection is at auction, and it’s full of science-fictional wonders: moonscapes, fabulist spacecraft, fire-belching dragons, robot dinosaurs eating robot men, and Bradbury himself, inter alia.
  • Karl Miller, the founding editor of The London Review of Books, has died at eighty-three. His former colleague Andrew O’Hagan called him “perhaps the last of the great Bloomsbury men … Of course, there are brilliant writers and editors now, but they live in a world where the squeeze on literary values and on books programs, on high culture and carefulness, is fearsome and degrading. Karl Miller worked in spite of the market, and he enriched the intellectual life of the country in a thousand ways.”
  • Rediscovering Alain Robbe-Grillet’s first six films, which are now easier to stream than ever: They’re “psychosexually nutty meta-movies that eat their own tails so lustily they make Godard’s contemporaneous work look orthodox … [They’re] tasteful affairs, gorgeously shot and structured, like his fiction, around narrative ellipses and absences, mysteries that can never be solved, enigmas that defy time and reason. They’re also jam-packed with nude actresses and erotic posturing … ”
  • A salute to Futura, the typeface that’s been to the moon (and in every Wes Anderson film): “Futura represents the rational utopia of progress, where everything not only works well, but looks good doing it … Futura was the future we dreamt of in the past, and, in part, the future we achieved.”
  • On the celebrity of the Mitford sisters: Were these “beautiful, wayward young women”—the youngest of whom died yesterday—the Kardashians of their day? “Although it’s a stretch to imagine any of the Mitford sisters making a sex tape or promoting an ice cream called Va-Va-Va-Nilla, the nature of their fame is similar. Born from a fascination with the rich and beautiful, and the ability we are granted through newspapers or internet to live vicariously through these people, to share their adventures, and be scandalized by their mistakes, the fascination with which we view the Mitfords and Kardashians is one and the same.”

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What Silence Looks Like, and Other News

July 11, 2014 | by

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From 1916’s The Good Bad Man; image via The Atlantic.

  • Allan Ahlberg, a British author who’s written more than 150 children’s books, declined a lifetime-achievement award (and a nice cash prize) because Amazon sponsors it.
  • In the silent-film era, a movie’s typeface was a crucial part of its identity. Now, a type designer in Minneapolis has tried to re-create the font from The Good Bad Man, a Douglas Fairbanks vehicle from 1916. “In 1916 the titles would have been painted or drawn on a smooth surface and then photographed with the motion-picture camera. There were no optical printers in those days, so the titles would literally have been shot by someone hand cranking a motion-picture camera.”
  • In Athens, the Caryatid statues (five maidens “among the great divas of ancient Greece”) have emerged from a three-year cleaning with “their original ivory glow.”
  • “Movies, if they’re very good, aren’t a conversation; they’re an exaltation, a shuddering of one’s being, something deeply personal yet awesomely vast. That’s what criticism exists to capture. And it’s exactly what’s hard to talk about, what’s embarrassingly rhapsodic, what runs the risk of seeming odd, pretentious, or gaseous at a time of exacting intellectual discourse.”
  • A friendly reminder: your brain is on the brink of chaos.

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The Circus Is Brighter in Poland, and Other News

April 1, 2014 | by

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“Cyrk” poster, designed by Lech Majewski, Poland, 1973.

  • D. H. Lawrence’s hometown has opened a new pub called the Lady Chatterley.
  • An enterprising fourteen-year-old has an urgent message for the government: change your official typeface to Garamond and you’ll save millions.
  • Shakespeare plays illustrated in three easy panels. (“Three witches tell Macbeth he will be king. Macbeth kills lots of people in order to be king. Macbeth is killed.”)
  • Taking stock of Monocle, which is now seven years old: “a magazine that is in general focused on a particular brand of well-heeled global urbanism … Monocle doesn’t have bureaus, it has bureaux what Monocle and its advertisers clearly understand, even if the point is seldom made explicit, is that living in a first-tier city is a luxury good, like a Prada bag or a pair of Hermès boots.”
  • Don’t merely go to the circus. Go to the circus in Communist-era Poland. “The visual style of the Polish School of Posters, funded and sponsored by state commissions, was characterized by vibrant colors, playful humor, hand-lettering, and a bold surrealism that rivaled anything similar artists in the West were doing at the time.”

 

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