Illustration

Portsmouth By Its Slang

Found this on the CR Blog: “Do you speak Pompey?” - a map of Portsmouth with the streets relabelled with examples of apparently local slang. I wouldn’t say very much of this slang is unique to Portsmouth - I hear much of the same phrases and accents in Brighton, and around Sussex and Surrey too - but the map is pretty interesting nonetheless. As CR Blog points out, it’s similar in execution to the NB Studio map of London. It’d be interesting to do a map of a larger region (or country!) showing accents in a similar fashion. It’d be of aesthetic interest more than scientific, but I’d be tempted to buy one.

The Unfinished Swan

A beautiful name, and a beautiful concept for a game. The idea feels rather illustrative - finding your way across a blank white world with a load of black ink to delineate edges and discover hidden objects, it’s like creating the world of a graphic novel on the fly. To add to the effect, the game seems to have some reversed areas too, and the white paint on black really reminds me of Sin City.

Our Friend The Atom

Found on ffffound a little while ago, this beautiful book cover. It reminds me of some books I used to have from the same era - I had a National Geographic book about all the massive engineering works being done in America in the early/mid 20th Century, from straightening and deepening the Mississippi to the building of the Hoover Dam. It was a bronze-coloured hardback with a big cross-section of the dam in white, and a plan of a canal cut across a loop of a river, in black, both embossed into the surface. I wish I still had it. Still, I’d only trace it as a vector like Our Friend The Atom, here:

Studies in Pen Art

Drawn linked to this fantastic PDF, “Studies in Pen Art”, a scan of a 1914 pamphlet by William Dennis. It has loads of examples of penmanship and advice on techniques and equipment which is pretty much all relevant today - although not perhaps the emphasis on speed; even a commercial letterer today wouldn’t have to produce work as quickly - producing this kind of lettering by hand would be a project in itself these days and so more time would be devoted to it. Still, we all have deadlines and knowing how to work quickly is never a bad idea. The PDF is available for download from the Drawn page - worth a look.

Inspirational Posters

Fazai38 posted a couple of articles showing some examples of inspirational posters. I’ve a few favourites but at the same time (and coincidentally) Computerlove posted about Negro Nouveau’s new typefaces with a graphic that was happily similar to the Deerhoof poster. I rather enjoy the similarity of the basic motif, and the different effect each of the two implementations give.

I like the little bubbling flask motif on the “We Are Scientists” one, and of course I’m going to like the one that resembles guilloches.

Triskaidecagon

This print by Steed Griffin caught my eye on NOTCOT. I could quite full my flat with prints like this, and yes, you can buy them from his Etsy store. Mmm. Black and red:

Ridiculous Design Rules

I came across this site the other day - Ridiculous Design Rules. I’m not quite sure what the basic premise of the site is - whether it’s to collect ridiculous rules together and collectively point and laugh at them by giving them stars, or to collect rules together and rate them as ridiculously good or relevant. It’s very odd. I thought of the ridiculous design rules I’ve encountered before but they tend to be about the audience, or users, for example the truly ridiculous and unproven (and unprovable) “99.9% of people set their browser to the correct language” to the too-many-caveats-to-say-one-way-or-another, “text on screen is unreadable compared to print”.

Whatever you think of the rules or how they’re presented, the site does have some beautiful illustrations by Niels Shoe Meulman - only four for now, but hopefully a lot more soon. I’m particularly taken with the cat picture, it’s a nice Latin script variety of the kind of illustrative Arabic writing I’ve posted about before. Very nice indeed. You can see them larger on the site, or on this Flickr set.

Iconic Birds

I saw this nice wine bottle design on The Dieline, and had to draw the little bird illustrations on them for myself. Just, because, you know. The bottle designs were done by the design director of Zeus Jones, Brad Surcey, and there’s more good stuff on the agency’s site.

Travel Posters of Other Times

Again, some other things that have been doing the rounds but got stuck in my pile of ‘things to look at’. These travel posters by Steve Thomas, Amy Martin and Adam Levermore-Rich promote travel to exotic eras and destinations, such as the Crimson Canyons of Mars, Tranquil Miranda, or the Winter Wonderland of the Ice Age.

I like the ones for destinations in the solar system by Steve Thomas. Aside from their obvious fantasy, I find them a little poignant though. They evoke the ideas of the early 20th Century when we were going to colonise space pretty soon and it was going to be amazing. Except we didn’t, and space is pretty expensive and we’re only just starting to get space tourism, and even that barely above our atmosphere. Still, perhaps looking at these posters we can live in hope! Well, not for Uranus, what with it not having a solid surface and all, oh, and Venus needing some hefty terraforming… but Mars is about right! Oh, except it’s brown, not red. Ho hum:

Then the Amy Martin ones, which are simply beautiful. The colours are lovely, and these are the ones that to me more closely resemble travel posters:

Lastly, the ones that are from the universe of Firefly and Serenity. I have to admit I’ve not watched either so I can’t really comment other than to say they’re rather attractive. You can buy them here though.

Found via Blue Tea, and via the visits to 826LA I made for the Robot Milk post.

Guilloches

Banknote patterns fascinate me. I can get lost for hours in all the details, seeing how the patterns fit together, how the lettering works, the tiny security ‘flaws’ - they’re amazing. Central to banknote designs are Guilloche patterns, which can be created mechanically with a geometric lathe, or more likely these days, mathematically. The mathematical process attracted me immediately as I don’t have a geometric lathe and nor do I have anywhere to put one. I do, however, have a computer, and at the point I first started playing with the designs (mid-2004) Illustrator and Photoshop had gained the ability to be scripted. So off I went, using the hypotrochoid equations on Mathworld to create rather rough and ready patterns - scripting at this point didn’t have a very usable set of functions for creating beziers, so I had to use crummy line segments. The process took ages and served just to prove to me that I could do it, but the results were too poor to go much further.

Then, a couple of years later I discovered Grapher on the Mac. Aha! Now here was a program that could create the patterns I was after and export to EPS. Well, kind of. It could create the patterns, most of the time, and export to EPS, though not always. I got a couple of patterns out of it and had a look round for other options. Again, not much - not much that I could afford, that is.


The basic hypertrochoid equation. This makes a nice rosette.

Then we get to now. I give Grapher another go, and at last, I can create and export patterns:


There are still some extremely frustrating limitations though. First of these is the resolution of drawing the graph. I’m sure for most graphs the default resolution is fine, but when creating these patterns you need tiny increments. Tiny tiny ones. If the line is going from one side of the graph to the other and back again a thousand times in a couple of radians, you don’t want the graph program to start dropping line segments, or corners, or anything really. Grapher does allow you to increase the resolution, but it’s not sticky - change anything in the equation and it pops right back to the default. Every. Single. Time. The same thing seems to happen with the line thickness too - I wanted all the designs to be at 0.1, but it kept changing it back to 1.0. Frustrating! There are a couple of other UI things I’d change, like having an option to keep axes at 1:1 ratio to each other, even when you resize the window.

Another, deeply irritating frustration with the whole process is to do with Illustrator. Try and open an exported EPS in it, and you get “An unknown error occurred”. Photoshop can accept the EPSs as placed objects, and InkScape can (eventually) open them, so Grapher seems to be outputting valid EPS files. I suspect that the number of lines in the graph is causing the premier vector editing app in the industry to fall over. Oh dear.

Still, after all this, I can still get the patterns made, and get them into an image editing program, which is quite something. Now I just need to find the magic numbers to create just the right patterns I want.


This beast creates the pattern above. The m is not strictly necessary for this one, but varying it is good for experimentation.

Note: I know there are programs devoted to creating these patterns - Excentro being apparently one of the most popular, but I’d rather use the software tools I already own first. I played a bit with Excentro and it certainly makes some things a hell of a lot easier - but I’ll hold off buying it for now until I’ve got an actual project I can use it for.

Note 2 (27th August 2010): I have since bought Excentro and have used it on several projects, including this one for Wired, and I can confirm it is an excellent tool. The UI is a little palette-heavy (it can feel a bit crowded) but is perfectly usable and extraordinarily powerful.