Over instant messaging at our office, the typographic obsessions of our typeface designers, graphic designers, web developers and businesspeople have lately coalesced into a game of photographic oneupsmanship. We thought it time to share with the rest of the world, so pop over to Instagram and you’ll find the goods. Included are some typographic artifacts that have escaped scholarship, a few excerpts from our studio library, and some typographic moments that we’ve encountered in our travels from Havana to The Hague. Later this week we’ll be posting a peculiar bit of Americana that I’ve been holding on to for years, just in time for Independence Day. —JH
Some new features at discover.typography make it easier than ever to spot fonts in the wild.
Among the contributors to discover.typography are a couple of serious campers, a few people who enjoy a good hike, and at least one fledgling birdwatcher. At least one of us may have been involved in scouting as a kid, where the pursuit of such outdoorsy merit badges as Indian Lore, Basketry and Leatherwork pointed damningly to a future as the proprietor of a type foundry. But even for an indoorsy designer-to-be, there was much to love about camping: compact kits where things cleverly nested together, secret codes involving flashing lights or colored flags, the iconography of uniform badges, and multi-functional Swiss Army knives that prepared gutsy woodsmen for fixing eyeglasses or opening bottles of wine on the frontier. There was also the night sky, the joy of telling a chestnut tree by its leaves or a cottontail rabbit by its tracks, and the discovered pleasures of both camaraderie and solitude. It was with all this reverie in mind that we set to work on Trail Mix, a meditation on the outdoor life, in type.
The new controller.
Trail Mix includes a couple of unexpected type treatments for the web, from type wrapping a three-dimensional object, to letters rendered in embroidery. But the most significant change is to the controller, which identifies which fonts are used in each piece of art. Now you’ll see more detailed information about the fonts that go into our work — for example, not just that we used “Gotham,” but which specific styles we chose from the Gotham Narrow 1 package. We’ve also made the controller and the artwork mutually interactive, so you can select a font’s name to see where it appears in the art, and vice versa. And as always, there are a couple of easter eggs in store for the eagle-eyed, Eagle Scouts among you. Be prepared. —JH
This weekend, I replaced a DVD player that finally conked out after eleven years. Whatever delight I once took in acquiring a new piece of electronics has long been eclipsed by the responsibilities of dealing with its byproducts: its packaging, thankfully limited to recyclable cardboard and biodegradable packing peanuts, and also the carcass of the old device itself, which this year a local equipment recycler will be disassembling and recycling as responsibly as possible. Even the best process is not a perfect one, as industrial designers and packaging designers will be the first to admit, but every little bit helps.
The supplied accessories came in this cardboard box, which made me smile. Rather than print the cardboard before it’s cut and folded, whoever was responsible for this piece of packaging realized that the die-cutting step offered a no-cost opportunity to mark the sheet at the same time, by shaping the strikeline into letters that partially perforate the box. That I’m charmed by this solution probably comes as no surprise, since I have an admitted love of perforated letterforms, but I admire any effort that makes design more honest, easier to produce, and less wasteful to consume.
Because cutting dies can’t be curled too tightly, the medium demands big letters and brief messages, which I especially appreciate. Missing from this box is all the bumf to which we’ve become accustomed, but never needed in the first place: a reprise of the manufacturer’s name and motto from the outer box, a fuzzy rendering of the product that by now is on the coffee table, a wordy title like ETS1041E-ACC Supplied Accessory Parts Kit (US/120V), a list of serial numbers for other compatible components that you didn’t choose to buy, and finally a numbing set of bullet points that patiently explains in eight languages what you already know, which is that the box contains the power cord, a remote, and two AA batteries. “Accessories” says it all, and is a welcome relief to anyone now facing an evening of plugging it all in. —JH
I am not wistful for the days of carbon paper and Ko-Rec-Type, and the era of the typewriter ended before I ever figured out what to do with those wheely-eraser-brush-things that populated my parents’ offices. But a truly grand leftover from the vanished world of the typewriter is the ribbon tin; my friend Tal sent me this collection of product packaging shots on Flickr, which are resplendent with lovely lettering. Some are sweet and others serious, some are frank, and some are simply fantastic. —JH