Archive for the ‘design’ category


Laying out French articles in HTML takes a long time

05.08.2022


Above: Some French text in Lucire.
 
Regular Lucire readers will have seen a number of articles run in English and French (and one in Japanese) on our main website. Typographically, the French ones are tricky, since we have to distinguish between non-breaking spaces and non-breaking thin spaces, and as far as I know, there is no code for the latter in HTML. Indeed, even with a non-breaking space, a browser can treat it as it would a regular space.

So what’s our solution? Manually, and laboriously, putting in <NOBR> tags around the words that cannot be broken. It’s not efficient but typographically, it makes the text look right and, unless we’ve missed one, we don’t have the problem of guillemets being left on a line by themselves without a word to attach to.

The language is set to fr in the meta tags.

Among our French colleagues, I have seen some go Anglo with their quotation marks and ignoring the traditional French guillemets. Others omit any thin spaces and, consequently, adopt the English spacing rules with punctuation. For some reason, I just can’t bring ourselves to do it, and maybe there is an easier way that we haven’t heard of. I hope nos lecteurs français appreciate the extra effort.

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When the oldest looks the freshest

02.08.2022




 
Here are three Elle covers that I uploaded to last month’s gallery, from 1991, 2007 and 2022. Which looks the most modern?

To me, it’s the 1991 US one. The Futura Light type is calm, it all looks rather balanced, and the photograph is well lit and composed. From memory, it was commended by the Society of Publication Designers in New York but I have to check my old annuals.

Go to 2007 and there’s just too much clutter, and the custom type looks uncomfortable, especially the bolder cut. The 2022 cover sits somewhere in between, but it feels like it’s the dawn of desktop publishing with different sizes and weights, and type inside circles.

Granted, I’m not comparing apples with apples, as the 21st-century covers are for the French market, and the 2022 cover isn’t strictly for Elle but the Elle Corps summer special. Makes you wonder what timelessness is, and if such a thing even exists. Many of the old covers for Lucire that I art-directed were meant to be timeless, too, but how they have dated! Is it about calm, a lack of clutter, and a sensible, restrained use of type? Or does that in fact date things, and we’re just at a moment in time when the 1991 cover’s trends have come round again?

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August 2022 gallery

01.08.2022

Here are August 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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July 2022 gallery

02.07.2022

Here are July 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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Lucire’s holding page prior to launch

01.06.2022

Of course I remember there was a holding page prior to Lucire launching on October 20, 1997 at 7 a.m. EST, or midnight NZDT on October 21, 1997. I just didn’t remember what it exactly looked like, till I discovered it at the Internet Archive:
 

 

There was no semicolon in JY&A Media, not even then; this must be some Internet Archive bug since I didn’t use &amp; for the HTML entity in those days. Most browsers interpreted a lone ampersand correctly back then. We also tried to save bytes where we could, with the limited bandwidth we had to play with.

Pity the other captures from the 1990s aren’t as good, with the main images missing. I still have them offline, so one of these days …

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Here’s the latest book I worked on: Panos: My Life, My Odyssey out May 26

17.05.2022


 
[Originally posted in Lucire] Toward the end of next week, Panos Papadopoulos’s autobiography, Panos: My Life, My Odyssey, comes out in London, with an event in Stockholm following. This is an intimate memoir about Panos’s rise, from childhood poverty in Greece to the ‘king of swimwear’ in Scandinavia. Not only do I have an advance copy, I collaborated with Panos on it.

I’m fascinated by autobiographies. When I was a teenager, I read Lee Iacocca’s one, written with William Novak. I presume Novak interviewed Iacocca, or he worked with some additional notes, and ghosted for him. Whatever the case, it remains an engaging read, and I replaced my well worn paperback with a hardcover one a few years ago, when I spotted it at a charity fair. More recently I bought Don Black’s autobiography, The Sanest Guy in the Room, and enjoyed that thoroughly.

Panos and I probably had a similar arrangement to Iacocca and Novak, whereby I interviewed and prompted him for some stories, and I wrote from copious notes that he gave me. There’s an entire chapter in there that’s based on his reflections about the time he bought into a football team in Sweden, that he wrote in great detail himself soon after the events took place. Somehow over 10 months of 2021—though the idea has been floating around for many years before—Panos and I created this eminently readable tale, the sort of autobiography I would like to read.

Of course we start in Greece in 1958, and how a young lad, who begins working at age five alongside his mother as she cleaned an office, finds poverty a torment, and vows to get himself out of it. He also cannot tolerate injustice, and attempts to expose pollution, workplace accidents, and corruption—only to find himself and his parents harassed. By his late teens, after taking an interrail journey to northern Europe, he finds an opportunity to study in Sweden.

It’s not “the rest is history”, as Panos works in kitchens, washing dishes and peeling potatoes. He also finds gigs as a prison guard, a parole officer, a rest home carer, and a substitute teacher.

His first taste of fame is for a postgraduate sociology paper, where he examines the importance of clothing in nighttime disco settings, which captures the imagination of major newspapers and TV networks.

Finding dissatisfaction and frustration working in health care for the city of Göteborg, he seized upon an idea one day when spying just how drab the beaches were in Sweden: beautiful bodies covered in monochrome swimwear.

Injecting colour on to the beaches through his Panos Emporio swimwear label wasn’t an overnight success, and Panos elaborates on his story with the sort of passion you would expect from a Greek native, capturing your attention and leaving you wanting more.

He reveals his secrets about how he lifted himself out of poverty, creating a company given a platinum rating in Sweden, an honour reserved only for the top 450, out of half a million limited-liability companies there.

Read about how he managed his first sales despite doubts from the entire industry, how he secured Jannike Björling—then Sweden’s most sought-after woman, photographed constantly by the paparazzi—as Panos Emporio’s model, and how he followed up with securing Victoria Silvstedt, just as she was about to become world-famous posing for Playboy.

By 1996, 10 years into his label’s journey, and with the release of the Paillot (still offered in the Panos Emporio range today), the press dubbed him ‘the king of swimwear’, but he wasn’t done yet.

More high-profile models followed, and there’s even an encounter with Whitney Houston, revealed for the first time in the book. There are royal encounters, with former King Constantine II, and Sweden’s HM King Carl XVI Gustaf and HM Queen Sofia. HSH Princess Stéphanie almost makes it into the book.

There are touching moments, too, such as his heartfelt recollection of his friendship with Jean-Louis Dumas, the chairman of Hermès, and his wife Rena.

We’ve known each other for over 20 years, and from the start he complimented me on my writing, so I have a feeling he wanted me for this task for some time. We’ve both had to start businesses from scratch, and we did them away from our countries of birth. Additionally, he knew I grew up amongst Greeks so I had more than an average insight into his culture. We’ve talked about it numerous times, maybe as far back as 2016, when Panos Emporio celebrated its 30th anniversary. I’m very grateful for that. There were obviously stories I knew, since I interviewed him about them over the years, but plenty I did not, and they form the bulk of this 320 pp. book, published by LID Publishing of London, and released on May 26. A party in Stockholm follows on May 31.
 
Technically, the process was an easy collaboration as Panos and I shared notes and written manuscripts back and forth, and I had the privilege to lay it out and edit the photos as well. The whole book was typed out on WordPerfect, which gave an almost perfect re-creation of how the copyfitting would go in InDesign, unlike Word—for a while others doubted I could fit the contents into the agreed page length, since they couldn’t see it in the same format that I did. Martin Majoor’s FF Nexus Serif is used for the body text. And, while hardly anyone probably cares about such things, I managed to deliver it so the printer could do the book without wasting paper with the right page impositions. I know what it’s like to have printing bills.

My Life, My Odyssey was the working title, but it seems LID liked it enough to retain it for the final product. I wanted to retitle it Panos: Who Designs Wins, but the experts in charge of sales preferred the working title. ‘Who designs wins’ appears on the back cover, so it’s still getting out there!

Caroline Li, LID’s designer, did the cover, and I followed her lead with the headline typeface choice; and Martin Liu, who I’ve known from Stefan Engeseth’s many books, published and coordinated. I’m grateful to the watchful eye and coordination of Aiyana Curtis, who oversaw the production stage and did the first edit; she also engaged the copy editor and proofreader, who turned my stubborn Hart’s Rules-compliant text into LID’s house style.

I see from her résumé that Aiyana had done some work here in Aotearoa, and Caroline and Martin, like me, have Hong Kong roots, so we all probably had some things in common that made the process easier. It was particularly easy to understand Caroline’s design approach, and as someone who had done mock covers while we were trying out potential photos, I will say hers is infinitely superior to mine. Similarly, I understood Martin’s business approach from day one.

The final manuscript was done in October 2021 and we’ve spent the last few months doing production, shooting the cover, and preparing for the launch, where LID’s Teya Ucherdzhieva has ably been working on a marketing plan. Panos himself, never one to do things by halves, has thrown himself into doing the launch, and it promises to be an excellent event.
 
For those who’d like to get their hands on a copy, Amazon UK and Barnes & Noble are retailing Panos: My Life, My Odyssey, and a US launch is slated for October (Amazon and other retailers will have it in their catalogues).

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Better a Tesla Model 3 than another truck

15.04.2022


 
I know Tesla gets a lot of flak on social media. Some by me. But I still remember the plucky firm in the 2000s, Martin Eberhard and his stated commitment to transparency, and Lucire’s recognition of the firm by calling the Tesla Roadster its Car to Be Seen in. And while the Roadster didn’t have the range in real terms, and looked too much like a Lotus Elise for one to charge 911 money, it kicked things all off for Tesla.

When I see a Model 3 on the street, and there are an awful lot of them, I think, ‘At least it isn’t another SUV.’ It may be the car to move the trend on, away from the behemoths. Bring on small frontal areas and slippery shapes, which is where we should have been heading anyway. Unlike most people, especially those who bought SUVs, trucks, UVs and crossovers and actually didn’t need them—thereby becoming the second biggest contributor to carbon emissions in the last decade—I’ve thought petrol was expensive for a long, long time. Even if you have an electrified SUV, you’re still using more energy because of basic science about how air travels over an object.

In 1974, the Volkswagen Golf represented a new era, looking bold and sensible during the fuel crisis. The Tesla Model 3, especially the better-made Chinese imports, feels, trend-wise, like a modern, far more expensive equivalent.

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Vivaldi 5.2’s bugs: time to go back to Opera GX?

08.04.2022


Above: Vivaldi appears for less than a second; each entry then disappears. One of the bugs from last night.
 
Vivaldi updated last night, and nearly instantly shut down.

Sadly, there’s a bug which shuts the program down the moment you hit a form field (filed with them, and they are working on it), and I found that ZIP archives would not download properly. Getting rid of a Spotify tab somehow got me around the first bug, but I know others have not been so lucky.

In the meantime, I discovered downgrading did not work—Vivaldi wouldn’t even start—while upgrading back to 5.2 didn’t solve that problem. I’d see Vivaldis in the task manager for a second but they’d then vanish.

Removing the sessions from the default folder helped me start the program again, but I lost my tabs; fortunately I was able to restore those, in order to duplicate each and every one on my old browser, Opera GX.

I had duplicated tabs onto other browsers reasonably regularly, and I could have retrieved a fairly recent set from my laptop, but it’s always good to have the latest.

Right now I’m deciding whether to stick with Vivaldi while its techs work on the problems, or return to a stable Opera GX, which I last used as my regular browser briefly in 2020.

The type display is still really good, without my needing to add code to get the browser working with MacType.

However, I like Vivaldi and what they stand for, which is why I stuck with it for so long. According to this blog, I’ve been using it reasonably faithfully since September 2017. And I have become very used to it over any other Chromium-based browser.
 
Some of you may have noticed that this website is finally on https, years after that became the norm. There was one line in the code that wasn’t pointing at the correct stylesheet when this blog loaded using SSL. That was finally remedied yesterday (I hard-coded the stylesheet link into the header PHP file). I’m no expert on such matters but it’s now loading a certificate I got at Let’s Encrypt, and it seems to be working.

One of the changes in the stylesheet that controls the indents and the paragraph spacing does mean some of the line spacing in earlier posts is now off. This happened on the Lucire website, too, but it was one of those things I had to do to make posts going forward look a bit better.

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March 2022 gallery

28.03.2022

Now we are on the new server, here are March 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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The new Autocade is coming soon

17.03.2022

At just past its 14th birthday, Autocade will return on a new server, with a new Mediawiki installation.
   Because Mediawiki got rid of the stats with v. 1.25, sadly they weren’t imported into the new version that we’re running. We’re going to start the count from 0, though of course right before the changeover I’ll take note of where we got to.
   For those sick of me commemorating every millionth page view, you might get your wish, because of the extra arithmetic that’s going to be involved.
   I’d like to thank my friend for doing all this work anonymously behind the scenes. Unlike 2000, websites are far more complex things, and just customizing the look took me a few days. You can imagine how much more complex it was to import a PHP database and hooking up the site to Plesk.
   What we have is an Autocade that looks familiar—like Lucire’s website redesign last year I tried to keep everything as close as possible—but there are minor tweaks that go with the newer software.
   Certain pages did not make the transition, namely the ‘About’ and community portal, so these had to be added manually from the original. But as far as I can tell, all the cars are there, and that’s the reason that almost all of you visit. You can see how it all works very soon.
 
I imagine this blog will be next—and then I will likely get back to updating it at the usual pace. Though as my experience with social media demonstrates, it’s remarkably easy to break a habit!

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