Posts tagged ‘typography’


The IBM Selectric version of Univers revived

12.03.2023

This is one of the more fascinating type design stories I’ve come across in ages. Jens Kutilek has revived a very unlikely typeface: the IBM Selectric version of Univers in 11 pt.
 

 

A lot of us will have seen things set on a Selectric in the 1970s, especially in New Zealand. I’ve even seen professional advertisements set on a Selectric here. And because of all that exposure, it was pretty obvious to those of us with an interest in type that all the glyphs were designed to set widths regardless of family, and the only one that looked vaguely right was the Selectric version of Times.

Jens goes into a lot more detail but, sure enough, my hunch (from the 1980s and 1990s) was right: Times was indeed the starting-point, and the engineers refused to budge even when Adrian Frutiger worked out average widths and presented them.

It’s why this version of Univers, or Selectric UN, was so compromised.

What I didn’t know was that Frutiger was indeed hired for the gig, to adapt his designs to the machine. I had always believed, because of the compromised design, that IBM did it themselves or contracted it to a specialist, but not the man himself.

There’s plenty of maths involved, but the sort I actually would enjoy (having done one job many years ago to have numerous type families meet the New Zealand Standard for signage, and having to purposefully botch the original, superior kerning pairs in order to achieve it).

I think I kept our IBM golfballs, which carried the type designs on them, and hopefully one day they’ll resurface as they’re a great, nostalgic souvenir of these times.

What is really bizarre reading Jens’s recollection of his digital revival is that it’s set in Selectric UN 11 Medium (an excerpt is shown above). Here is type that was set on to paper, now re-created faithfully, with all of its compromises, for the screen. He’s done an amazing job and it was like reading a schoolbook from the 1970s (but with far more interesting subject-matter). Those Selectric types might not have been the best around, but the typographic world is richer for having them revived.
 
The hits per post here have fallen off a cliff. I imagine we can blame Google. Seven hundred was a typical average, but now I’m looking at dozens. I thought they’d be happy with my obsession over Bing being so crappy during 2022, but then, if they’re following Bing and not innovating, maybe they weren’t. Or that post about their advertising business being a negligence lawsuit waiting to happen (which, incidentally, was one of the most hit pieces over the last few months) might not have gone down well—it was a month after that when the incoming hits to this blog dropped like a stone. Maybe that confirms the veracity of my post.

I’m not terribly surprised. And before you think, ‘Why would Google care?’, ‘Would they bother targeting you?’ or ‘You are so paranoid,’ remember that Google suspended Vivaldi’s advertising account after its CEO criticized them, and in the days of Google Plus, they censored posts that I made that were critical of them. Are they after me? No, but you can bet there are algorithms that work to minimize or censor sites that expose Google’s misbehaviour, regardless of who makes the allegations, just as posts were censored on Google Plus.


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Nostalgic thoughts: what sparked my interest in fashion magazines, and Nike’s 10 rules for business

01.03.2023


 
I have told this story many times: I became interested in fashion magazines with a 1989 issue of Studio Collections. In fact, it was its fifth anniversary issue. I really liked the typesetting, photography and print quality. I was probably one of the few people disappointed when they went to desktop publishing and the typesetting quality deteriorated in the 1990s.

No such problem at Brogue (well, British Vogue) in 1991, which was still put together the old way. Coincidentally, my first issue of this venerable title was also an anniversary one, namely its 75th. Linda, Christy and Cindy were known to everyone, even young straight boys like me (actually, especially young straight boys like me). Here the visuals and the article quality were influential, and I had grown up reading largely British car magazines, such as Car and Autocar (though I began with Temple Press’s Motor in 1978). The British way of writing resonated with me and it was familiar territory.

My journey in this world, therefore, began eight years before I started Lucire, and the ideas had brewed for some time.

Yesterday we uploaded three articles from 1998 and they were quite terrible. I might have known what the benchmark was from the late 1980s and early 1990s, but we sure didn’t hit it in our writing a year after we started. I like to hope that we have since got there.
 
 

 
Someone shared Phil Knight’s 10 steps in business for Nike, when it was a fledgling enterprise back in the 1970s. I had seen this a long time ago, in the late 1980s, and even used to share it with my students in 1999–2000. I hadn’t seen it since.

They are aggressive and macho, which probably ties quite well in with Nike and its early days (John McEnroe was more than a suitable ambassador). They probably lend themselves quite well to sportswear. But a few of these are universal in business.

I like (7): ‘Your job isn’t done until the job is done,’ and the third of the eight ‘Dangers’: ‘Energy takers vs. energy givers’. Bureaucracy, naturally, heads that list of dangers, and rightly so.

You should ‘Assume nothing’ (5).

I don’t know if they still follow these tenets, but some definitely remain relevant.


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Free 2023 wall planner

27.02.2023


 
I needed a 2023 wall planner today, but none of the downloadable ones really suited—so I made my own. Rather than keep it to myself, I thought I’d offer it as a free download, in case anyone else wants it. They’re two A4s, six months on each, but as the file’s a PDF, you can scale it to A3 without any loss in quality.

The PDF is here (89,747 bytes)—help yourself. And yes, I know it’s nearly March.

When I was around five going on six, I found great joy making little calendars. The Massimo Vignelli Stendig calendar was still very influential in the mid- to late 1970s, and many designers followed that lead. They fascinated me, and I got used to the patterns (how April and July start on the same weekday, as do September and December; in non-leap years, so do February and March, and January and October). I remember drawing (on A4s) calendars out from 1978 to 1980 to study these patterns. Of course, 1980 was a leap year, which threw up different patterns.

Ever the perfectionist, there was one month where I missed some days. Upon realizing my mistake, I became frustrated, and stopped. If I had Twink or Liquid Paper I might not have stopped!

When I had to design some calendars for work in the 2010s, the Stendig calendar still came to mind, but certain practical considerations meant I couldn’t ape it completely. Still, there was plenty of big Helvetica on it.


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Tesla to a typeface designer, and a big missed target

03.12.2022

Now that the quartet has been launched, it’s evident that Tesla’s naming strategy is all wrong. This is what they should be called.
 

 
On a related note:
 

 

Since I haven’t seen the March 15 video now circulating on OnlyKlans, I mean, Twitter, I can’t use the DIA reporting form. But those who have, should.

If it were a New Zealand website doing the distribution, a warning would have been issued at the least; and I bet it would have been blocked by now. The person running the site would probably have been charged. Basically what our government is signalling is that a foreign fascist sympathizer has greater freedoms than the rest of us. And what the opposition parties are signalling is that that’s OK, too, because here’s a real thing that they can sink their teeth into, but they prefer to gaslight over other stuff.

The Christchurch Call website has not been updated since September.

Anyone in politics who actually has some bollocks?


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About me (according to libraries)

28.10.2022

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that I have a US Library of Congress entry, as a published author, though if I am reading it correctly, it relates to my 2010 mayoral campaign.

Following the links there, I arrived at a Virtual International Authority File but the data there seem to relate to my Wikipedia entries. Disappointing.

Keep going, and there’s an entry at OCLC, a non-profit library collective, also linking to Wikipedia.

But from there I have a WorldCat identity that OCLC manages, and this is where things get a little more interesting.

There’s some 2010 mayoral campaign stuff, five references to academic papers I wrote (nice to see they are ‘held by 2 WorldCat member libraries worldwide’), an early book I wrote, Typography & Branding (though I don’t recall having written it in 2002 as they claim), and a book I didn’t author but am credited in the colophon as the body typeface family’s designer, Mainland Island from Wai-te-ata Press.

I’m flattered that Typography & Branding is held at two Australian locations, the University of Newcastle Auchmuty Library and the Curtin University Library. I hope their students are getting a lot out of this early book of mine.

I admit I like this tag cloud:
 

 
Commiserations to my namesake, Jack Yan, on not winning the Toronto mayoral election. I was getting a lot of news hits from Toronto and Ontario, far more than our media here managed back in the day. I also thought he did rather well in the televised debates. We only had one episode of Back Benches in 2010 that wasn’t really a debate. But there was a fun quiz, which I won—some of us know more about this city than others.

In a very crowded field, Jack managed seventh out of 31, with incumbent John Tory holding on to his gig with 62 per cent of the vote.

I hope he has another crack at it if he feels he has something to offer. I found him a really great guy to deal with.


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Type coverage—in 2012

11.10.2022

I’m not sure why I didn’t spot these back in 2012. This was very high praise from Cre8d Design, on ‘What is New Zealand’s iconic font?’ So nice to see JY Décennie in there.

Still on type, the fifth Congreso Internacional de Tipografía in Valencia cites yours truly.

Como consecuencia de todos estos cambios, surgen numerosas cuestiones sobre cómo afrontar el uso y la creación de la tipografía en un nuevo contexto, sometido a constantes transformaciones tecnológicas. Para muchos, los modos tradicionales de concebir la tipografía ya no funcionan en el mundo de la pantalla. Así, para el diseñador Jack Yan, la tecnología está cambiando tan rápidamente que la idea de que la tipografía se crea para imprimir está llegando prácticamente a su fin. Los nuevos dispositivos electrónicos empiezan a demandar tipografías específicas y no sólo meras adaptaciones de las ya existentes. Esto implica igualmente un adiestramiento por parte del usuario final, el lector, que no sólo debe familiarizarse con los nuevos dispositivos sino con los nuevos procedimientos asociados a la lectura dinámica.

This is pretty mainstream thinking now (and I would have thought in 2012, too) but also nice to be credited for saying it—I guess I would have first publicly pushed this idea in Desktop in 1996. But designers like Matthew Carter and Vincent Connare were already there …

Amazing what you can find in a Mojeek ego search, as opposed to a Google one.


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Windows 11 22H2 arrives; now for the usual post-upgrade tweaks

02.10.2022

Windows 11 22H2 arrived for me yesterday, and the first order of business, as always, was to sort out the typography. This earlier post is roughly right: make the registry hacks, then change the properties of the fonts in C:\Windows\WinSXS (namely by giving them administrator access) before deleting them. However, I needed one extra step to get them out of C:\Windows\Fonts, and that was to boot up in safe mode and delete them from 7Zip. Only then could I change the properties and say farewell to the dreaded Arial.

You still can’t type most characters above ASCII 128 in Notepad—a crazy state of affairs introduced during Windows 11’s time—though I managed to get the pound sterling sign to work (even though there might be less need to type it now thanks to the UK government). I guess no one uses the euro symbol at Redmond, or goes to a café (forget about any accented characters).

We’ll see if Explorer still rotates photos by itself—but as I’ve replaced it with One Commander for most of my file management, it will be a while before I will find out.

The new icons look good, and the new Maps seems to work reasonably well. Mostly I just care that my usual programs are fine and Windows’ font substitutes don’t do anything silly.
 


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

17.05.2022

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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