A series of unsuccessful (and unrelated) searches led to the happy result of finding this book (and the site it’s on). The Public Domain Review is a fascinating collection of articles about (and a collection of) out-of-copyright texts, images and films, and somehow I’d never seen it before.
I’d seen a page from the book and thought it to be something quite modern, something produced by some later follower of De Stijl or Bauhaus (something the Public Domain Review also comments on), but it is in fact from 1847. Not something you’d associate with early Victorian publishing at all. It’s a remarkable book, and thinking back to when I first learned geometry I wondered if something like this would have helped. In all honesty (and of course entirely my opinion) I can’t say it would. The pages are a visual delight but they compel the learner not only to learn the concepts and mathematical language but a whole new graphical one too. From my memories of Euclid you need a good guiding commentary (or a good teacher, or both) rather than a new translation to help you make the necessary connections and learn the principles well.
Saturday 10th Mar 2012
Kelly from Design Crush linked to this last week, a project by designer and Chicagoan Steve Shanabruch to create a logo for each of the Chicago neighbourhoods. Some, he says, are based on personal experience, and others on research. He’s created a lovely set of graphics so far, all of them remind me of old movie title cards (or end cards, like these), some look like they could actually be names of movies set in the neighbourhood.
There’s something particularly compelling about design projects like these, they trigger a sort of completist tendency in me, an appreciation of the collection as object. I like sets of things, and interpretations (and reinterpretations) of things particularly so. Thinking of this, I was reminded of the Branding 10,000 Lakes project by Nicole Meyer, to design an identity for each of the lakes in Minnesota (which is indeed known as The Land of 10,000 Lakes). There are some lovely ones in the collection. Some recent ones here:
Jason Kottke linked to this incredible photoset by Timothy Allen of the Buzludzha Monument in Bulgaria. It was opened in 1981 to celebrate the beginnings of organised socialism in the country 90 years earlier, and it is everything you’d expect from a thumping great monument to communism. From some angles it looks like a World War Ⅱ defence post, from above it resembles part of an Olympic venue, complete with oversized torch for the ceremonial flame, and to many people it’s as if a flying saucer landed on the hillside. A concrete flying saucer. To anyone who’s ever seen a Bond movie, well, that’s clearly a SPECTRE hangout, right there. Taking a closer look, the outside is decorated with a glorious relief of socialist slogans set in gigantic concrete Cyrillic lettering, a lot of which seems to be missing now.
Inside there were mosaics celebrating the usual themes and noteworthy characters of international socialism, and in the ceiling above the debating chamber, a geometric hammer and sickle, surrounded with the call for the proletariat of the world to unite. Again, a lot of the interior has been stripped out by trophy hunters, vandals, or simply ruined by the weather. Needless to say, the monument isn’t being maintained by the Bulgarian government, and in 2011 they ‘gifted’ the entire structure to the Bulgarian Socialist Party, who hope to restore it someday.
Monday 9th Jan 2012
This is something I’ve had open in a browser tab for months, and I’m sure it’s officially ‘old’ in internet parlance, but I’m still drawing inspiration from the images. Christian Annyas has isolated (and traced?) these old department store logos and made quite a collection of them. He makes the point that very few stores today use similar lettered styles to these, and that they go for a logo style that “won’t offend” — I wonder though, if all these logos were created with a similar sentiment in mind? After all, brands in a sector do tend to cluster, so as fashions change, they all change together.
A bit of a campaigning post, this one. The International Printing Museum is running a Kickstarter campaign to expand their collection of matrices for the Ludlow Typograph. It’s a worthy project, to keep an example of fairly democratic technology in use and in people’s awareness, to keep rare typefaces in use and to let people around the world use them – and, well, just because. The Ludlow is similar to the Linotype, but excels at producing slugs for very large type - over 200pt. In the words of British Letterpress:
The principles behind the Ludlow are simple — the operator collects a small brass mould for each character needed in the line. These are assembled into a ‘stick’, a small frame, and the moulds are clamped together to form a line of moulds. This stick and moulds are then clamped in to a machine which injects hot metal into the moulds. A line of type is cast and ejected from the front of the machine. The moulds have to be distributed back into the relevant cases by hand. Unusually, the Ludlow can cast between 6pt and 228pt type on slugs without changes to the machine. Other systems have to be modified with each size change. British Letterpress
If you’re interested in helping keep some printing technology alive and not just a piece of history, you can back the project here (there are some nice rewards on offer too).
I was taken by this collection of Chevy speedometer designs brought together by Christian Annyas. As I’m always a passenger (I don’t drive) I’ve had plenty of time to study the details of the dashboard and to note the little typographic touches there. Purely graphically I much prefer the horizontal kind of indicator, but in terms of function the dial has an advantage in that the numbers are spaced evenly. The horizontal kind means it’s harder to differentiate at a glance between speeds in the centre of the speedometer, simply because they’re bunched together. It’s also just the range where most speed limits are. Just in writing this article I’ve wondered whether a logarithmic scale might work better for speedos – giving you greater read accuracy at lower speeds, and less at higher ones. The odds of killing someone in an accident change dramatically between 10 and 40 miles an hour, but don’t change much at all above that (i.e. it’s pure chance whether they die or not), so if you’re going fast the only practical awareness of your speed is whether you’re near the limit or not. I’m not entirely convinced by my own argument, but I’m not exactly a fan of going fast in cars and generally grumpily mutter about people going too fast on the roads anyway. Anyway, go and take a look at the full collection, here.
I’ve never seen one of these before, and I’ve never even heard of such a thing. A typewriter for music! I must admit it does seem like an obvious idea, but I’d had in mind the scene of a composer in some drafty garret, gripped by an urgent muse, scratching out notes on parchment with a tattered quill by feeble candlelight. Or is that just poets? The Etsy description for this is pretty interesting, and there’s a link to a PDF with more information on the device, and of course if you’ve got six grand spare you can actually buy it. No more feeble candlelight for you.
OK, nothing to do with type or lettering, but I do like to post a bit of illustration from time to time. This caught my eye yesterday on this isn’t happiness, an illustration by Liam Brazier. He’s done a load of other geometric illustrations (including this rather nice Superman one), but the colours and balance of this one appeals to me the most. Lovely stuff. I should mention that you can buy prints of his work from his site, and there’s a short Q&A with him here, on My Modern Met.
Another thing I marked as “to look at later”, merely because of the big beautiful lettering. I was wondering what on earth it was all about and only managed to find a few pictures of it from this year’s Macworld and a reference to an iTunes plugin, which may or may not be this (the site doesn’t feature anything with this lettering on it, sadly). Whatever it’s for, it’s lovely. If you know more, let me know. I found it here.
Update: Thanks everyone. Seems Tune Up Media actually blogged about it here.
Thursday 16th Jun 2011
I’ve been buried in bezier-land for the past few weeks these chairs by Suzy Lelièvre, though they’re not type, illustration or lettering, appeal to my appreciation of curves; a physical world instance of beziers. They look like what you get when you try and drag a point in Illustrator and miss, dragging the line itself into some crazed loopy explosion. So yes, noted here for their appeal to all vector designers, and of course their wit.
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