15 July, 2008
Four Shortage Strikes Nation
The New York Times reports on crippling shortfalls in the nation’s strategic four reserve:
‘With regular gas in New York City at a near-record $4.40 a gallon, station managers are rummaging through their storage closets in search of extra 4s to display on their pumps. Many are coming up short... “Typically, we have a lot of 9s and 1s, and we had a shortage of 3s before we got a lot of 3s in,” Mr. Nair said.’
Welcome to the world of frequency distribution. The popularity of different letters is familiar to anyone who’s ever watched Wheel of Fortune, as well as anyone who’s ever seen a Linotype keyboard (where the confounding QWERTY is replaced by the ranked-by-popularity ETAOIN SHRDLU.) But numbers, counterinituitively, have their own frequencies as well: a simple example of this is to write out the numbers from one to twenty, and notice that while most digits are used twice, the two appears thrice, and the one appears twelve times.
Different applications have their own unique frequency fingerprints. North American area codes traditionally favor zeroes and ones, retail prices favor fours and nines ($49.99); Golan Levin and Jonathan Feinberg explored the topic beautifully in their Java applet The Secret Lives of Numbers. There’s also a lot of occult numerology in the background of our Numbers collection, in which everything from cash register receipts to monuments reveals something about the culture of numbers. Of course, gas pumps are in there too, fours and all. And fives. And sixes... —JH
2 April, 2008
Type Tour II
If you missed Tobias's Typographic Walking Tour last September, and weren't one of the 22 lucky callers to register for his 2008 encore performance, you've one more chance. Come to the 2008 FUSE conference, April 13-16 at the Chelsea Piers, where Tobias joins Malcolm Gladwell, Stefan Sagmeister, Debbie Millman, Chip Kidd and other sharp tacks for a three-day exploration of design and culture. The Type Tour begins April 13 at 11:00, and places are limited! —JH
8 October, 2007
The Guerilla Anagrammer
Photo: Jack Szwergold
One of Andy's photographs features his friend Albert walking before a giant FU on a Williamsburg sidewalk. "The letters used to spell out You Are Beautiful," Andy explained, "before someone started moving them around the neighborhood..." It reminded me of a similar bit of guerilla anagramming in my neighborhood: a few years ago, our local movie theater finally gave up the ghost after 93 years. During the brief interregnum between tenants, someone had a few weeks of nighttime fun with the marquee.
For a while, I got most of my news from this sign, whether it was the looming SARS epidemic or the equally ominous appointment of Chief Justice Roberts. Jack Szwergold has collected them all on Flickr; the ones that make the least sense are among the most entertaining. — JH
2 October, 2007
Until the Next Type Tour...
Observing the rare Square-Sided Warbler (Chaetornis Quadratis) in its natural habitat.
After taking a moment to recover, I wanted to say thanks to everyone who came out for the AIGA/NY "Alphabet/City" type tour this past weekend. Being a native New Yorker, I've come to think of the city's lettering as a kind of home to me. So it was a real pleasure to see so many people ready to walk the streets for hours and look at letters, reaching for their cameras to capture an old carving, or some weatherbeaten shopfronts...Continues...