Posts tagged ‘typography’

Laying out French articles in HTML takes a long time


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


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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Opera GX wins over Firefox in typography; Über’s still a lemon


I’ve had both Firefox and Opera GX running as replacements for Vivaldi, which still crashes when I click in form fields, though not 100 per cent of the time. It’s running at about 50 per cent, so the fix they employed to deal with this issue is only half-effective.

I see Firefox still doesn’t render type as well. This is a matter of taste, of course, but here’s one thing I really dislike, where I’m sure there’s more agreement among typophiles:


No, not the hyphenation, but the fact the f has been butchered in the process.

The majority of people won’t care about this, but it’s the sort of thing that makes me choose Opera GX over Firefox.
Due to a temporary lapse in good judgement, I attempted to install Über again, this time on my Xiaomi. Here are the Tweets relating to that:

Evidently no one at Über has ever considered what it would be like if someone actually read the terms and conditions and followed through with some of the instructions in the clauses.

After getting through that, this is the welcome screen:

This is all it does. There’s nothing to click on, and you never move past this screen.

This is less than what I was able to achieve on my Meizu M6 Note when I tried Über on that—at least there it was able to tell me that Über is not available in my area (Tawa—and yes, I know Über is lying).

This has nothing to do with not having Google Services as my other half has a non-Google Huawei and is able to get the program working.

For me, it’s three out of three phones over six years where this program does not work—and frankly I’m quite happy taking public transport rather than waste my time with this lemon. Maybe one day they will get it working for all Android phones, but I won’t hold my breath.

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March 2022 gallery


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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Some surprises on day one with the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G


Top: Decent enough specs for the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G. Above: Very respectable download speeds (in the header) as the phone updates 71 apps.

My Xiaomi Redmi Note 9 5G is here, and it’s proved better than the reviews suggested.
   First up, kudos to the seller, YouGeek on Aliexpress, who not only double-checked to see that I wanted the Chinese version, but was considerate enough to send me, without any prompting, a New Zealand power adapter. The wrapping was the most secure I’ve ever seen from any Aliexpress vendor, like a hefty transparent Michelin man.
   DHL did the delivery two days ahead of schedule, which pleased me no end.
   The phone itself surprised me. I imagined 6·53 inches would be too big and 199 g too heavy, but neither has come to pass. It’s marginally taller than the outgoing Meizus but not ridiculously so, and as I have large hands, the width is fine. I haven’t noticed the weight increase, either.
   The blue finish, which isn’t available on the export Note 9T 5G, is probably the best colour of the three on offer, and frankly I don’t care if the back is plastic or metal. As long as it keeps the bits inside, it’s fine.
   What also isn’t on offer for export is precisely these specs: MediaTek Dimensity 800U running at a maximum of 2·4 GHz, 6 Gbyte of RAM, and 128 Gbyte of internal storage. The model code is M2007J22C.
   Other surprises: it’s Android 11 (security update, October 1, 2021) running MIUI 12·5. Now, whether it was straight out of the box, I can’t swear to, since it prompted me to do an update not too long after I switched on and logged in.
   It did try to get me to give a voice print to unlock its features by saying four Chinese words. Naturally I said them, but it seems Xiaomi doesn’t recognize Cantonese! The fingerprint scanner wasn’t that easy to set up—it took numerous attempts before it recognized my finger—but I got there, and now it’s programmed, the home screen does launch quickly.
   The first order of business was to take myself off ad personalization (so easy, they even take you to the screen during set-up), then download Bromite as the browser, to stop using the clumsy default; and replace Sogou keyboard with Microsoft Swiftkey. The rest was getting the apps to mirror the old phones’, which was pretty simple thanks to various APK sites such as APK Pure. The only one that did not function at all (a blank screen after the logo) was Instagram, but you expect Facebook, Inc. products to be buggy. An Uptodown download of a version from June 2021 solved that.
   Despite what other reviewers found, I discovered that the watermark on the photos was switched off by default. I’ve seen the grand total of one advertisement on the default apps, so the notion that Xiaomi is heavily ad-driven doesn’t seem to be the case with mine. There is a possibility that the combination of Chinese spec, English language, and a New Zealand IP address isn’t one that advertisers want to reach. There are far fewer app notifications than I got on the Meizus.
   After updating the OS, there were 71 apps that also needed the same treatment. Those came down at lightning speeds, even on wifi, at over 20 Mbyte/s.
   I’ve synced my messages, call logs and contacts, though surprisingly the phone could not work out that the New Zealand 02 numbers were the same as +64 2, and those had to be manually added. The old Meizu M2 Note had no such trouble back in 2016.
   The default typeface choice in MIUI is much easier on the eyes than the default Android fonts.
   Interestingly, the default music player here also fails to pick up local music on an SD card, rendering it useless, much like Meizu’s (are they copying one another, to have the same bug?). Once again, it was InShot’s Music Player to the rescue, and it works fine here. Sadly, I do have to relink a lot of the album covers.
   Screenshots aren’t as intuitive, as the volume control invariably appears if you do the power–volume switches’ combination, but a screenshot feature in the pull-down menu does the job.
   The battery life is interesting, as I’ve used it for about six hours since it was charged up to 100 per cent, and it fell to 65 per cent in that time. That tells me the 5,000 mAh is good for 18 hours of sustained usage, which included setting up, Bluetooth-linking it to the car and the M2 Note, running apps, using Here Maps for some navigation, and using some mobile data. I haven’t viewed any videos yet, and I don’t play any games. I’ll be interested to see how it fares on a more regular day: earlier reviews had led me to believe it could last over a day. I’m sure it can without the heavy use I’ve put it through in its first six hours.
   I understand that with the pace of change in China, this phone, launched this week one year ago, is already obsolete, but as far as I’m concerned, I hope I’m future-proofed for another six years—that’s how long the M2 lasted before things like its short battery life and inability to receive some calls became an issue. (And this was despite the M6 Note having come into service from 2018 with a short break to get serviced at PB.) It’s been a very pleasing first six hours, without the stress of having to put on a Chinese OS myself, and continuing to be Google-free.

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December 2021 gallery


Here are December 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.


Roger Moore and Ford Fiesta Mk I, via George Cochrane on Twitter.
   More on the Volkswagen Fox in Autocade.
   More on the Ford Consul Corsair at Autocade.
   The Guardian article excerpt, full story here.
   The devil drives Kia? Reposted from Twitter.
   Audi maths on an A3, via Richard Porteous on Twitter.
   Christmas decoration, via Rob Ritchie on Twitter.
   Back to the ’70s: Holden Sandman used for Panhead Sandman craft beer promotions.
   Georgia–Pacific panelling promotions, 1968, via Wendy O’Rourke on Twitter.
   Ford Cortina Mk II US advertisement via the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Bridal fashion by Luna Novias, recently featured in Lucire.
   Deborah Grant in UFO, with the VW–Porsche 914, which would have looked very modern at the time.
   Freeze frame from episode 1 of The Champions (1968), with William Gaunt, Stuart Damon and Alexandra Bastedo.
   Our rejected greeting card design, with a picture shot at Oriental Parade, Wellington.
   Ford Taunus GT brochure spread via the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   My Daddy Is a Giant image and UK measures, reposted from Twitter.
   Richard Nixon attempts to appeal to younger voters, 1972. Simple, modernist design using Futura Bold.
   A 1983 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am advertisement.
   Mazda Savanna brochure via George Cochrane on Twitter.
   More on the Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric in Autocade.
   Lucire issue 44 cover, photographed by Lindsay Adler, layout by me.

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October 2021 gallery


Here are October 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month. Might have to be our Instagram replacement!


Chrysler’s finest? The 300M rates as one of my favourites.
   The original cast of Hustle, one of my favourite 2000s series.
   Boris Johnson ‘wage growth’ quotation—what matters to a eugenicist isn’t human life, after all. Reposted from Twitter.
   For our wonderful niece Esme, a Lego airport set. It is an uncle and aunt’s duty to get decent Lego. My parents got me a great set (Lego 40) when I was six, so getting one at four is a real treat!
   Publicity still of Barbara Bach in The Spy Who Loved Me. Reposted from Twitter.
   Koala reposted from Twitter.
   Photostat of an advertisement in a 1989 issue of the London Review of Books, which my friend Philip’s father lent me. I copied a bunch of pages for some homework. I have since reused a lot of the backs of those pages, but for some reason this 1989 layout intrigued me. It’s very period.
   Fiat brochure for Belgium, 1970, with the 128 taking pride of place, and looking far more modern than lesser models in the range.
   John Lewis Christmas 2016 parody ad still, reposted from Twitter.
   More on the Triumph Mk II at Autocade. Reposted from Car Brochure Addict on Twitter.
   The origins of the Lucire trade mark, as told to Amanda’s cousin in an email.
   More on the Kenmeri Nissan Skyline at Autocade.
   Renault Talisman interior and exterior for the facelifted model.
   The original 1971 Lamborghini Countach LP500 by Bertone show car. Read more in Lucire.
   More on the Audi A2 in Autocade.

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Spacing in French: figuring out how to punctuate professionally


With the French edition of Lucire KSA now out, we’ve been hard at work on the second issue. The first was typeset by our colleagues in Cairo (with the copy subbed by me), but this time it falls on us, and I had to do a lot of research on French composition.
   There are pages all over the web on this, but nothing that seems to gather it all into one location. I guess I’m adding to the din, but at least it’s somewhere where I can find it.
   The issue we had today was spacing punctuation. I always knew the French space out question marks, exclamation marks, colons, and semicolons; as well as their guillemets. But by how much? And what happens to guillemets when you have a speaker who you are quoting for more than one paragraph?
   The following, which will appear in the next issue of Lucire KSA in French, and also online, is demonstrative:

   In online forums, it appears the spaces after opening guillemets and before closing guillemets, question marks, exclamation marks and semicolons are eighth ones. The one before the colon, however, is a full space, but a non-breaking one.
   I should note that the 1938 edition of Hart’s Rules, which was my first one, suggests a full space around the guillemets.
   When quoting a large passage of text, rather than put guillemets at the start of each line (which would be hard to set), the French do something similar to us. However, if a quotation continues on to a new paragraph, it doesn’t start with the usual opening guillemets («), but with the closing ones (»). That 1938 Hart’s disagrees, and doesn’t make this point, other than one should begin the new paragraph with guillemets, which I deduce are opening ones.
   If the full stop is part of the quotation then it appears within the guillemets; the full stop is suppressed if a comma follows in the sentence, e.g. (Hart’s example):

« C’est par le sang et par le fer que les États grandissent », a dit Bismarck.

   Sadly for us, newer Hart’s Rules (e.g. 2010) don’t go into any depth for non-English settings.
   Hart’s in 1938 also says there apparently is no space before the points de suspension (ellipses), which I notice French writers observe.
   Looking at competitors’ magazines gives no clarity. I happened to have two Vogue Paris issues in the office, from 1990 and 1995. The former adopts the same quotation marks as English, while the latter appears to have been typeset by different people who disagree on the house style.
   This is my fourth language so I’m happy to read corrections from more experienced professional compositors.

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September 2021 gallery


Here are September 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month. It sure beats having a Pinterest.

The 2016 Dodge Neon sold in México. More at Autocade.
   IKCO Peugeot 207. More at Autocade.
   Double standards in New Zealand media, reposted from Twitter.
   The cover of the novelization of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Nice work on the use of Americana, which does take me back to the period, but I’m not convinced by this cut of Italian Old Style. I just don’t remember it being used that much.
   Daktari’s Cheryl Miller as the new Dodge model, in her second year, promoting the 1971 Dodge Demon. This was a 1960s idea that was being carried over with minor tweaks into the new decade, and it didn’t work quite as well as the earlier Joan Parker ‘Dodge Fever’ advertisements (also shown here in this gallery).
   House Beautiful cover, January 1970, before all the garishness of the decade really hit. This is still a clean, nicely designed cover. I looked at some from the years that followed on House Beautiful’s website, and they never hit this graphic design high mark again.
   That’s the Car and Driver cover for my birth month? How disappointing, a Colonnade Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
   French typesetting, as posted on the forums.
   Read books, humorous graphic reposted from Twitter.
   My reply in the comments at Business Desk, on why it made more sense for me to have run for mayor in 2010 and 2013 than it would in 2022.
   Seven years before its launch, Marcello Gandini had already styled the Innocenti Mini. This is his 1967 proposal at Bertone.
   JAC Jiayue A5. More at Autocade.
   Phil McCann reporting for the BBC, reposted from Twitter.
   Car and Driver February 1970 cover. As a concept, this could still work.

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Title design in 1970: big geometric type rules


There is something quite elegant about title typography from the turn of the decade as the 1960s become the 1970s.
   There is 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever by Maurice Binder, which apparently is one of Steven Spielberg’s favourites, but I’m thinking of slightly humbler fare from the year before.
   I got thinking about it when watching Kevin Billington’s The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, which has Futura Demi tightly set (it is the 1970s) but arranged in an orderly, modernist fashion, aligned to the left on a grid. Nothing centred here; this is all about a sense of modernity as we entered a new decade.

   Similarly the opening title for Alvin Rakoff’s Hoffman, starring Peter Sellers and Sinéad Cusack. For the most part it’s Kabel Light on our screens, optically aligned either left or right. It’s a shame Matt Monro’s name is spelled wrong, but otherwise it’s nice to see type logically set with a consistent hierarchy and at a size that allows us to appreciate its forms. Monro belts out the lyrics to one of my favourite theme songs, ‘If There Ever Is a Next Time’, by Ron Grainer and Don Black, and the title design fits with them nicely.

   It certainly didn’t stay like this—as the decade wore on I can’t think of type being so prominent in title design on the silver screen. Great title design is also something we seem to lack today in film. I helped out in a minor way on the titles for the documentary Rescued from Hell, also using Futura, though I don’t know how much was retained; given the chance it would be nice to revisit the large geometric type of 1970.

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