Monday, March 30, 2009

Type Tips – Ligatures

From FontShop founder Erik Spiekermann

A ligature is defined as the visual or formal combination of two or three letters into a single character. They consist of letter combinations such as ff, fi, fl, ffi. Ligatures keep letters from overlapping and improve legibility. For example: affluence, configure, deflate, affinity.

For more info on ligatures, kerning and tracking the Design Center has a pretty good article posted.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Yesterday, I posted about CHAOS so it only seems fitting that today should be about CONTROL.
Wired's Clive Thompson has a very informative article about moderating discussion boards in the April issue. The article covers troll control or how to effectively moderate open discussion boards. He starts out with “Obama sucks” and it’s all uphill from there with information on automated moderation like crowdsourcing and disemvoweling and selective invisibility. Take note that banning the offensive “miscreants” only “nurtures their curdled sense of being an oppressed truth-speaker.”

Slashdot uses crowdsourcing to keep thier boards civil. A very basic explanation is that it is a rating system derived from comments about particular posts. The comments come from randomly selected readers who have the this commenting ability only for a short time before others are selected to comment. Disemvowelling is Thompson’s favorite and I would have to agree. Vicious attacks are almost rendered useless by removing all vowels from an offensive post. Teresa Neilsen Hayden, a moderator at Boing Boing uses this method. Selective Invisibility is the most diabolical of them all. The software by Disqus (the company moderates 90,000 blog threads worldwide) is also a ratings based method. The difference here is that a troll with a lot of negative ratings is rendered invisible by everyone but himself.

This is what you get when you open your discussion boards to everyone. You can either hire an army to moderate your boards, eliminate those boards or employ some method to contain the damage. All of these methods walk a very fine line. One one side is a world where the very nasty troll reigns supreme. On the other is Oceania and Big Brother.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Type Tips – Figuring It Out

From FontShop founder Erik Spiekermann

Good text typefaces have “old style”, “text”, or “lowercase” figures – 1234567890 – instead of “lining” ones – 1234567890. Lining figures were originally designed to be used with setting of all capital letters. Lowercase figures blend in better with the text settings, as the figures behave like lowercase letters with ascenders (6 and 8) and descenders (3, 4, 5, 7, 9) and x-height-only characters (1, 2, 0). While they fit in text very nicely, the good looks have one disadvantage: each of the figures have individual widths, meaning they won’t sit directly underneath each other in columns. Their descenders may also clash with ascenders when the columns sit closely on top of one another, as happens quite often in tabular settings. Lining figures are, however, all the same width, making for a somewhat uneven appearance, as the 1 takes up the same space as the 8, but in tables, they are much easier to add up. Some fonts offer “tabular oldstyle figures”, which will allow table setting.

Read more about figure styles.

Friday, March 20, 2009


I guess I have been on somewhat of a superhero kick recently and last week's IF prompt Legenday fits the bill so I did a quick sketch of the Man of Steel. I had lunch with a friend last week and he told me about a story about Richie Havens. Havens. The story he related shared a number of life lessons that Richie Havens learned and how they revealed themselves at strange and unexpected times throughout his life.

One of those awakenings was in the 1950s and tales of playing stickball growing up in Brooklyn, inspiring his mother’s wrath (“If your mother doesn’t believe you, no one will…”) and explaining his admiration for Superman as being driven by the fact that he “did what the cops couldn’t do”. HIs father told him that there were no heroes like the ones in the comic books, but I would imagine that somewhere inside he held on to the belief that somewhere this were such being. The George Reeves "Superman" television show changed it all for him and even at a young age got him thinking about the world we live in. This incarnation of the man from Krypton added a little something to the Superman mythology and in so doing revealed a little something about this great country in which we live. “Truth, justice AND the American way.” Four words added to the tagline opened his eyes. It also made him think. We always thought truth and justice WAS the American way. “You see how they fool us."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Type Tips – Smart Quotes

From FontShop founder Erik Spiekermann

A dead giveaway for unprofessional “desktop typography” are wrong quotes and apostrophes. Quotes can have different shapes. They generally look like “this”, and can be remembered as beginning and ending quotes by thinking of “66” and “99”. Beginning quotes are found on the Mac by pressing option-[; closing quotes, option-shift-[. The apostrophe is simply a raised comma, the shape of a ’9 in most typefaces. It is identical to the closing single quote, while the open single quote looks like a ‘6. Beginning single quotes are found on the Mac by pressing option-]; the apostrophe and closing single quote, option-shift-].

And don't get me started on the use of apostrophes. I can't tell you how many times I have tried to fill out a form online only to be told that I need to use a “correct name”. If you are a programmer, please include the apostrophe character. I really want to be correct. U&lc also covers this quite well.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Type Tips – Connections

From FontShop founder Erik Spiekermann

There are three different ways to connect or separate words: the hyphen -, the en dash –, a little wider than the hyphen, and the em dash —, wider still. The regular hyphen is easily accessible on any Mac or PC keyboard, whereas the en dash needs the combination option-hyphen on the Mac. The em dash is accessed by pressing option-shift-hyphen on the Mac. The use of these dashes depends on house styles and tradition. The em dash with no space around it is traditionally used to separate thoughts—like this one—but I think its length is a distraction in running text. Try using the en dash to separate thoughts – like this one – with a character space on either side. En dashes without space on either side are also used between numbers and compound words as in: the shop is open 10–7, while you can take the New York–Kansas City train or the New York–Baltimore train only 8am–3pm.

This is a good, if overly-simple, description of usage from Washington State University. And if that wasn't simple enough for you keep this in mind “Dashes tend to separate elements and hyphens to link them.”

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Illustration Friday - Intricate

Intricate plots…
Intricate plans…
Physician's friend…
Harmful to man?

I have to admit… this is an old painting. I used to sit for hours in front of the television with my watercolors and get lost. Now it seems I spend more time on Lost than I do painting… much more time spent on family and the never-ending home renovations… This is one of a series of paintings in a very different style that was inspired by my wife when we first started dating… not that a snake or Adam and Eve really have much to do with us… it was just a new path in life…

This one is called Physician's Friend. Water Worries can be seen here. More Than A Mouthful here.

Spring Forward

Daylight Savings Time - STARTS 3/8/09
Before you go to bed tonight, set clocks ahead 1 hour.

As if we don't get too little sleep already.

Monday, March 02, 2009

We Have a Winner!

I just received word that two recent logo designs will be included in the in the forthcoming book Initials & Crests, the first volume in the LogoLounge Master Library series. The selected indentities were developed for the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville and Hercules.

The Avant Garde logo was designed while working in-house and was only used for about a year before the new agency redesigned it. This is the second time this logo has been selected for inclusion in a logo design book. The Dimension logo was designed for internal use at Hercules, a leading a provider of paper and water technologies.

LogoLounge is currently building its Master Logo books. These books will showcase thousands of logos for specific, common logo types (the same categories found in the LogoLounge books), and will be a treasure of reference for logo designers around the world. LogoLounge has become an indispensable tool for logo research, logo inspiration, logo reference and an online portfolio for the international who's who in the corporate identity design community.

Type Tips – The Capital Mistake

From FontShop founder Erik Spiekermann.

NEVER use CAPITAL letters to accentuate words in running copy. They STICK OUT far too much spoiling the LOOK of the column or page. Use italics instead. If you have to set words in capitals, use proper small caps with or without initial capitals.

For more from FontShop about setting type in all caps, read this post.