Beautifully Briefed 24.3: Bloomin’ Breadth

The end of March here in Middle Georgia means flowers aplenty, and usually with that, some photography — but I’ve not yet had a chance. (Stay tuned.) I have, however, been saving up links o’ interest: fonts, books, photography, and new(ish) car logos. Let’s go!

Kottke Meets 2024

Starting with one of the very few places that is still around from Foreword’s old days, the always-interesting Jason Kottke:

2024 marks Kottke.org’s 26th year on the ’net.

Great new looks for great content, with better Quick Links — the previews are ace — and incredibly-appreciated gift links to places like The New York Times and The Atlantic. If you haven’t been in a while, click and enjoy.

Fab Spring Type

With “a plethora of captivating new typefaces,” CreativeBoom celebrates spring with 11 new faces to tempt, inspire, and bring joy:

Arillatype.Studio brings us a thousand glyphs of greatness.

Zanco, with its bell-bottom style; Seabirds, inspired by 1930s book covers; Module, a “fluke side hustle;” and Graffeur, improvised from gaffer tape and glimpsed in this post’s header image, are all great. My far-and-away favorite, though, is At Briega, “inspired by the concept of hybridisation” and shown above.

See ’em all here.

Literary Three-Fer
M.C. Escher’s Lesser-Known Works
“The Drowned Cathedral,” a 1929 woodcut.

“Unique perspective” never does justice to someone whose name defines the term. See some never-before-seen images alongside old favorites in a new Escher book highlighted at Hyperallergic.

Multidimensional Libri

“Experimental books are flourishing, [a]nd the evidence is seen” in this Daily Heller from PRINT: a traveling exhibition on three-dimensional books, all published titles.

Oh, those Italians. Read on.

Book Design Snobbery
Hoover vs. Atwood — no joke.

“Don’t get held back from the simple pleasures of reading,” argues Natalie Fear at CreativeBloq, “not everything needs to be minimalist.” Justification for commercialism or a common-sense explanation for the bookshelves’ current look? You decide.

Photography Three-Fer
Winners of Monochromatic Minimalism
“Black Pearl” by Sascha Kohne. An honorable mention for the magazine, but a winner for me.

Some incredibly good stuff here — but perhaps more importantly, did you know of Black & White Minimalism Magazine? There’s no end to today’s continued diversification, methinks.

“Traveling through Costa da Morte, Galicia. 600m above sea level where the mountains separate the Cantabria sea from the Atlantic Ocean,” explains third-place winner Alexandre Caetano.
Aging Facades of France

“Shuttered blinds, peeling paint, and aging doors don’t usually indicate an invitation, but for French photographer Thibaut Derien, the fading facades of long-closed shops are well worth a stop,” This is Colossal says.

Sony Photography Awards: Architecture
The Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) in Valencia, Spain: “Hemispheric,” by Eng Tong Tan, Malaysia.

ArchDaily‘s coverage of the annual Sony awards shortlist announcement was an insta-click.

New Bull: Now Flat. (And a BMW.)

Lamborghini practically defines flamboyant. So it’s worth a link when their logo gets less interesting:

Old logo, left, new, right.

Late at following the industry trend of flat-is-better, because, well, Volkswagen. (Okay, I undersell. Perhaps.) Read the lack of news at Motor11Motor1 also has a decent roundup of new car logos, from 2016-present, which underscores the “flatness” trend. or The Drive, where they manage to convey the brand’s use of the phrase “digital touchpoints.”

I don’t know whether this will make any more sense in a few or even many months — which is relevant because of BMW. Four years ago, one of the industry’s design leaders expressed strong this new style, and I didn’t get it. But it’s worn better than most, and superlatively on occasion — check out the logo’s use on the Vision Neue Klasse X:

Rather than a standalone, plastic part sitting on the paint, it’s etched into the finish. Man, I hope that makes it into production.

Neue Klasse: do like. Bull? No so much.

Update, 2 April: BrandNew, itself sporting a new look, has weighed in on the new Lambo style, calling it “not good.” (FYI, BrandNew is a subscription, quite possibly the best $20/year someone interested in design can spend.)

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    Motor1 also has a decent roundup of new car logos, from 2016-present, which underscores the “flatness” trend.

Beautifully Briefed 24.2: February Favorites

This time, book design times two, book cutouts, album covers, and a reflection on my 2023 photographs. It’s one of those Februaries, so let’s leap into it.

Jodi Hunt’s Great British Design
Screen print by Kate Gibb, lettering by Jodi Hunt, and photograph by Adaeze Okaro.

You might recognize the above book cover from my 2023 Favorite Book Covers post, a fantastic series of choices that speak to all colors while definitively saying, “Black.” It’s Nice That has a short post talking about Jodi Hunt, who designer that cover — and more.

Design by Jodi Hunt.

The screen printing is prominent here, too, and the interaction between that and title are, to borrow a Britishism, “ace.” And the below, with its slightly haunting image treatment (and that great text, lower left), also earns kudos:

Design by Jodi Hunt.

Great design, deservedly highlighted. See the other examples here.

The original Book Design
Ernest Lefébure, Embroidery and Lace: Their Manufacture and History from the Remotest Antiquity to the Present Day (1888), with binding created by May Morris

Before there was book design, or even graphic design — that is, when books and pages were thought of as art instead of design — folks were still coming up with great book covers. The Grolier Club, “America’s oldest and largest society for bibliophiles and enthusiasts,” has a wonderful exhibit of cover design . . . made up exclusively of antiques.

Lynd Ward, Gods’ Man: A Novel in Woodcuts, 1929, and Madman’s Drum: A Novel in Woodcuts, 1930.

One of the most memorable artworks […] is a sumptuous but comparatively delicate volume, a 1643 book of psalms created in London. Atmospheric exposure usually turns white silk-bound editions tan and brown, but this cover is a shiny cream color. The polychrome silk and gold metallic threads, which wind around one another to form a colorful floral pattern, maintain an eye-catching vibrancy. The only sign of the book’s age is the oxidized silver “stumpwork,” a type of raised embroidery that in this case resembles beading.

Elaine Velie, Hyperallergic

The quote above refers to the book in this month’s cover image, second from left, and is but one where what you see isn’t necessarily what you think it is — it’s more complex, more interesting, made with what the artist had available in the day. Great reminders, all, that book design has a much longer history than what we think of when we hear the term.

Check out that Hyperallergic article, another on This is Colossal, or, if you’re near NYC, go to the exhibit at the Grolier, 66th and Park. If, like me, you’re not able to visit in person, give them props for also posting the exhibit online.

Books Manufacture Realities

“Meticulous incisions and methodical folding allow scenes to arise from aged books and color swatches in Thomas Allen’s paper cutouts,” This is Colossal notes — but a picture is worth a thousand words:

Timber by Thomas Allen.

The vintage paperback work happened by complete accident. I was cutting into a pulp novel one afternoon with the intent of removing the illustration completely when I noticed that if I left some areas attached, folded the parts carefully, and looked at them from a single vantage point so that everything aligned, they created the illusion of 3D pop-ups. Everything snowballed from there.

— Thomas Allen, via This is Colossal
The three-hour cutout: Shipwreck, by Thomas Allen.

Here’s his desk — whoa:

Test cutouts in Allen’s studio, via This is Colossal.

The article is a must-read. Awesome stuff.

The Article’s Great — but the Headline is the Point.

“Virality over Creativity.” Few things summarize the last few years more — it’s always about getting eyeballs, not about truth or quality. It’s satisfying the algorithm. Because, of course, these days, media is social.

Real or AI?

POV, a new series of articles from It’s Nice That examines, in this case, creativity and AI in design for the music industry. “If an artist isn’t putting a piece of themselves and their experience into the work,” it asks, “why should anyone care?”

All valid questions, yes. But it’s the headline that provides another potential word of the year: virality.

The times we live in . . . .

Some of my Favorite 2023 Photographs

I’ve updated my photography page with my favorites of 2023, including these two:

Blue Against Blue Against Blue, 943 Ellis St.

The above, taken in Augusta, is architecture that doesn’t make me feel blue, while the below, taken on the main street in Sparta, does:

Bulb Moment, 12745 Broad St.

A couple of reflections: I didn’t get out as much as I did in 2022, and regret it, and have somehow pretty much eschewed both black-and-white and effects (film grain, light leaks, etc.), and kind of regret that, too. Both things to do differently in 2024.

That said, six years after investing in a different style of photography, I’m settling in — and looking forward to the future. I hope you are, too.

Beautifully Briefed 24.1: Optimism, Hopefully

In this installment, Honda’s new(ish) logo, the Travel Photographer of the Year 2023 winners, and the Macintosh turns 40. Plus, one more thing. But first:

My Favorite Book Covers of 2023

In case you missed it, the annual favorite book covers post is up — all 78 items (plus some extras). It’s best viewed large, so click and enjoy.

Honda’s New Logo: Not a Zero
Not a zero — an “H.” Clever(ish).

As car manufacturers go, Honda’s tiny. As a result, they’re way behind on the electric push: they’ve got some hybrid stuff, a hydrogen fuel-cell item only available in California, and a new battery vehicle built by GM. Not where you want to be in 2024.

So they’re trying to make a splash. And to their credit, they’re doing it in an attention-getting style. Introducing the Honda Zero series, starting with the Saloon:

Futuristic indeed.
There’s no mistaking this for an Accord — but then, that’s the idea.

And the Honda Zero Space Hub:

Not minivan, Space Hub. (The no-rear-window thing is becoming a trend, alas.)

Other Zero Series cars will follow, and of course, being concepts, details are scarce. Both concepts, however, highlight a new logo for Honda’s EV effort:

Yeah, not earth-shattering. (And distinct from the Zero-series logo, above, which does not seem to appear on the cars — only marketing materials.) Here’s a history, for reference:

It’s worth noting that the non-electric cars will retain the current logo they’ve used since 2001. Read more at Motor1 or The Drive. (The latter has more on Honda’s Zero cars, too.)

2023 Travel Photographer of the Year (Contest)

Disclaimer up front: it’s another pay-to-enter photography contest, which seem to have proliferated. The problem here is the outstanding quality of output — perhaps I should just get over it and move on.

The rules of this one require both prints for final judging, no composite images, no AI, and a RAW file to check results against. All of which mean, to me at least, a higher level of achievement in order to enter. Okay.

Shout out to the BBC for bringing this year’s winners to my — our — attention.

Travel Photograph of the Year 2023 overall winner: AndreJa Ravnak, Slovenia

Slovenia is a beautiful country, and AndreJa Ravnak’s winning portfolio of photographs absolutely reflects both that and its hard-working agricultural nature. But there’s more:

Nature, Wildlife, and Conservation Portfolio Winner: Martin Broen, USA

A “ray of sunshine” joke here . . . .

Leisure and Adventure Winner: Andrea Peruzzi, Italy

Certainly a lesson in how not to enjoy the wonderful city of Petra, in the Jordanian desert — but an attention-getting photograph.

Landscape and Environment Portfolio Winner: Armand Sarlangue, France

Seriously amazing stuff: moody, dramatic, and yes, fluvial morphology. Nice.

See more at the Travel Photographer of the Year website. (Also via PetaPixel.)

The Macintosh Turns 40

1984 seems like so very long ago — and let’s face it: 40 years is a long time. Indeed, these forty years of technological progress has been unrivaled in human history. But the Mac is not only still with us but better than ever.

A Mac Plus, circa 1986.

There are a stack of articles that’ll retrace the history, tell a story, cite unusual examples of the breed, or even come up with the original press release:

We believe that [this] technology represents the future direction of all personal computers,” said Steven P. Jobs, Chairman of the Board of Apple. “Macintosh makes this technology available for the first time to a broad audience–at a price and size unavailable from any other manufacturer. By virtue of the large amount of software written for them, the Apple II and the IBM PC became the personal-computer industry’s first two standards. We expect Macintosh to become the third industry standard.

— Apple Computer, January 24, 1984

My first Mac was the one pictured above: a 1989 Mac Plus, with an external 20MB (!) Jasmine hard drive. (I even still have the case, although mine was a black Targus item.) It didn’t last long, though, because I’d been bitten by the graphic design craze and soon traded it for a Mac called a Quadra, with its separate 256-color monitor.

A preview of the future: 2000’s PowerMac G4 Cube.

Such was the pace of technology those days: that one was replaced with another, then another. (Including one of the Macs pictured at the top of the post. Bonus points if you know which it is.) I did not have the G4 Cube, pictured above, because by then I was rocking a tower and scoffed at Apple’s first attempt at desktop miniaturization — not to mention the inferior quality of the first generations of flat screens.

All-in-ones were — and remain — the domain of Apple’s iMac.

But less than ten years later, the computer had become part of the flat screen, and these days, I’m still using a 27″ iMac. Sure, its days are numbered, but I love its ability to get huge book and photography projects out the door with a minimum of fuss — all in a simple, elegant package with very much more than a passing resemblance to the original Macintosh.

Here’s to another 40 years, Apple. Congrats.

Special Bonus: There are few folks more “Mac” than John Siracusa, who has penned a thoughtful piece on AI: “I Made This.” (Via Pixel Envy.)

One More Thing: Word of the Year, 2023

From none other than Cory Doctorow: “enshittification.”

Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

— Cory Doctorow, Pluralistic, 21 January 2023

He’s specifically referring to TikTok, and cites Amazon and then Facebook as further examples, but oh, so many, many other items apply. I’ve not read something that represents where we sit — in America, sure, but beyond — at the start of 2024.

And this year promises to be a doozy.

“‘Monetize’ is a terrible word that tacitly admits that there is no such thing as an ‘Attention Economy,'” he writes. And yet, “monetize” is where business, education, and perhaps society is at. Ug.

The whole thing is fantastic and very much worth a read. But, “[n]ow that [they] have been infected by enshittifcation, the only thing left is to kill [them] with fire” might be taking things a bit far. Let’s hope — and work — for a better solution. For all of us.

Beautifully Briefed 23.11: Considerations

A selection of diverse items for this entry in the series: a new publication from The Guardian, open source fonts for your 2023 goodness (along with more for ’24), and the Natural Landscape Photography Award winners. Also: DAK. Let’s get into it.

The Long Read

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of The Guardian, including its unusual-for-journalism payment model (that, frankly, some outlets in the US would be wise to copy). Now, they’re on newsstands with a “bookazine” called The Long Read.

The back cover. (See the front cover at the left in the header image.)

“We know that for many people, myself included, when it comes to long, immersive pieces, reading in print […] is still the most satisfying reading experience, and one that should be cherished in a climate so saturated by disturbance,” quotes It’s Nice That. With most of these more evergreen stories taking months or even years to build, hardy print felt the best way for them to live. [A] ‘bookazine’, it balances all the things we love about magazines (“the drama, the pace, the energy”) with the considered typesetting of a book. A lot of attention was given to packaging its large volume of text – clocking in at 55,000 words – to make the reading experience as relaxing as possible, from body type size to column widths.

Liz Gorny, It’s Nice That
An article title page — indeed, the best of a newspaper magazine in book form.

Read more at It’s Nice That, and give The Long Read a look at The Guardian bookstore or a newsstand near you.

Three Open Source Fonts for 2023, and 50 for ’24

As a self-confessed font junkie, I’m always interested when a new one comes across the bow — but there are so many these days, they’ve unfortunately become almost commodities. (That’s a huge shame, but also a discussion for another time.) So it’s interesting when I see ones that are not only good but also available for everyone, free and open source.

Monaspace is the first of three I want to highlight, “a monospaced type superfamily with some modern tricks up its sleeve.” Designed for code — hence the monospace — it’s a successful answer to the question, “Letters on a grid is how we see our code. Why not make those letters better?”

Get the full story or download from GitHub.

B612 is designed for — get this — the screens on Airbus commercial planes. “[T]he challenge was to improve the display of information on the cockpit screens, in particular in terms of legibility and comfort of reading, and to optimize the overall homogeneity of the cockpit.” Read the back story here.

B612 is available from Google or GitHub.

Inter is described as, “The 21st century standard,” “a workhorse of a typeface carefully crafted & designed for a wide range of applications, from detailed user interfaces to marketing & signage.” One of the world’s most-used font families, it’s perfect when readability is at the fore.

Inter is detailed and downloadable here.

But there’s more!

Brinca by In-House International. (Image via CreativeBoom.)

CreativeBoom has their annual compilation of 50 new fonts for the coming year up, “a comprehensive list of the best fonts that demand your attention in 2024. We’ve compiled this comprehensive list by asking the creative industry for their favourites, analysing work from the last 12 months, and taking on board the design trends emerging right now.”

National Museum in Gdańsk by Tofu Studio. Featuring Migra by Pangram Pangram. (Image via CreativeBoom.)

Great stuff. Creative. Boom!

Special Bonus: Simon Garfield publishes biographies on Albertus, Baskerville and Comic Sans. Seriously:

The Natural Landscape Photography Awards

For once: a contest that demands more — like the original RAW files. (Literally the raw image from the camera, before processing, for those who don’t know — think film negatives, rather than the resulting prints.) Okay, sure, it’s not perfect; there are entry fees and it doesn’t have a long track record, but the rules are solid with respect to image integrity.

Of course, the quality of the subject chosen to photograph is, if you’ll pardon the expression, subjective. The overriding theme here seems to be the perfection of dramatic subtlety — not an easy thing to get right.

Photo: Adam Gibbs
Photo: Adam Gibbs

The two photographs above are both by Adam Gibbs and reflect the judges’ desire to reward photographers who display a diverse portfolio of subjects.

Photo: Alberto Rodriguez Garcia
“Once Upon a Time.” Photo: Matt Redfern

A winner from the “abstracts and details” category for the first and a great title for the second image that does indeed tell so many stories. Rounding it out, another beautiful black-and-white:

Photo: Franka Gabler

See the contest website for the complete selection of 2023 winners. (Via PetaPixel.)

Remember the DAK catalogs?

If you’re a certain age — that is, were around in the ’80s — the DAK catalog was a regular. (Give me one, together with a JC Whitney catalog, and a weekend was gone.) A recent post by Cabel Sasser brought it all back:

The catalog from Summer 1983.

Oh, the products. The explanations. The fun.

I’m not going to spoil the effort put into the story of Drew Alan Kaplan, a.k.a. DAK, Joseph Sugarman, Products That Think, or any of it: go enjoy for yourself.

Beautifully Briefed 23.10: Shifting, Branding, and Creating

A variety of interests addressed this time: a bit on Shift Happens, a great question on branding, and Leica’s new M camera — and its content credentials. (Plus, bonuses.) Happy October!

Booking a Keyboard

We talked about this title back in January, but it’s worth the reminder:

A 3D rendering of Shift Happens.

Marcin Wichary has long been interested in keyboards. In his words,

Keyboards fascinated me for years. But it occurred to me that a good, comprehensive, and human story of keyboards — starting with typewriters and ending with modern computers and phones — has never been written. How did we get from then to now? What were the steps along the way? And how on earth does QWERTY still look the same now as it did 150 years ago? I wanted a book like this for years. So I wrote it.

Marcin Wichary, Shift Happens

This title fascinates me, partially because it’s an interesting subject — one we’ve all interacted with, often without thinking about — and partially because it’s a great, well-covered exercise in book design.

A very cool photograph of an IBM Electric. Photo by Marcin Wichary.

Further, Marcin has done a fantastic job in getting the word out. He’s designed a killer web site, written some great updates, and gotten some good press — including a recent interview with Ars Technica, in which he says:

I am a web guy, and I used to think that the web (just like typewriters, once) took away a lot of hard-won typesetting nuance and tradition. But it turns out that the web also makes it much easier to do certain things. To have a word be surrounded by a rounded rectangle—a visual representation of a key—is a few lines of CSS or a few clicks in Figma. But for the book, I had to cut my own font and then write Python scripts to do typesetting inside the font-making software, which I’m pretty sure you are not supposed to do[.]

Marcin Wichary, Shift Happens

Really looking forward this title. Copies are, as of this writing, still available.

Let’s Talk Branding.

It’s Nice That asks a great question: “Are rebrands starting to look the same? The challenges facing commercial design,” in which author Elizabeth Goodspeed discusses whether “shortened turnarounds and economic tensions” are taking a toll on originality.

Westinghouse branding guidelines from the ’60s.

The answer might seem to be, “Well, duh,” but it’s nonetheless a thoughtful and insightful article that asks the correct question: “how does one define originality in an age saturated with visual stimuli?”

[T]he digital applications more often associated with modern rebrands, while comparatively easy to update, may counter-intuitively promote less care and attention towards their making. [A]nother possible issue contributing to rebrand redundancy: lack of rollout support beyond rebrand launch. Even a unique identity may lose its spark when its primary consumer touchpoint is what a social media manager produces on Canva after skimming the brand guidelines once. Further still, many clients no longer approach design studios to harness their expertise but, instead, with preconceived notions of the result they expect; design studios may want to create original work, but sometimes clients are willing to pay more for a rebrand that mirrors their own preconceived ideas of what the work should look like.

— Elizabeth Goodspeed, It’s Nice That
The logo’s the same, but the applications vastly different.

The whole article is great (and richly illustrated) — give it a few minutes of your time.

Special Bonuses #1 & 2: Let’s look at a couple of places where branding has been in the news recently (pun intended). Also from It’s Nice That, an article on The Irish Independent rebrand. Here, as is often the case recently, it’s the custom illustrations that carry the day:

Andy Goodman is the illustrator responsible for the lively work found throughout, which toe the line between measured and playful,” It’s Nice That writes. Agreed 100%.

Less successful is England’s The Guardian, whose ongoing campaign to raise money — they don’t have a paywall, relying instead on reader contributions — perhaps could have used more work:

These ads don’t really have me on the fence: The Guardian deserves better.

Meh. (And this from a huge fan of The Guardian.) Creative Boom is more positive.

Special Bonus #3: From the wildly successful, original branding department comes, of course, the brilliantly-named Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity. They’ve been covered here twice before, but are back in the news with a new branding Manual. See why that’s capitalized at Dezeen.

The Eames Institute branding oozes positivity, class, and — you guessed it — infinite curiosity. Nice.
Leica, Adobe, and Content Authenticity

One would assume that Leica users are the epitome of content authenticity — there’s nothing like the world’s best lenses (IMHO), attached to some incredible cameras, to provide photographers with all that’s needed to make the best possible images.

Leica’s new M11-P, however, packs a world first: hardware encryption that supports a system called the “Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI).” In CAI corporate-speak, it’s “the future of photojournalism […] usher[ing] in a powerful new way for photojournalists and creatives to combat misinformation and bring authenticity to their work and consumers, while pioneering widespread adoption of Content Credentials.”

Leica’s new M11-P. A bargain at $9,195. (Lenses extra, of course.)

B&H puts it another way:

The Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI) is a collaborative effort initiated by Adobe in partnership with various other organizations, including The New York Times and Leica, among others. Announced in late 2019, its primary goal is to develop a standard for digital content attribution. The rise in manipulated digital content, deep fakes, and misinformation has underlined the need for a more transparent system of content attribution, which the CAI seeks to address.

The interesting thing here is Adobe’s initiative. What’s their goal?

Adobe has been suffering a few hits recently. They’ve just raised prices — on the heels of record profits — and “monopoly” is not in any way a stretch. Photoshop? Entered the lexicon. InDesign? No credible alternatives. Illustrator? Professional standard across multiple industries. In other words, we’re stuck with ’em, and they know it.

This line of thinking is expanded at CreativeBoom: “Is Adobe Becoming the Frenemy of Creatives? But that’s not all.

Ignore’s Adobe’s unfailingly cute examples: AI + texture = exactly what some “creative director” needed. Seriously uncute.

They’re pushing hard into AI, too, and surprisingly up-front about it changing creative work in ways potentially less creative:

Firefly 2 was unveiled yesterday at the 2023 Adobe Max conference with the artificial intelligence (AI)-powered tool incorporated into Lightroom’s new lens blur feature that simulates depth of field along with a host of other tools. However, it was the new “Generative Match” tool that will allow users to upload a reference image to guide the AI image generator to a specific style that prompted Adobe to comment that the new tools could mean less work for photographers. 

Adobe is appealing to companies who want a “consistent look across assets.” It is offering brands the chance to generate hundreds, if not thousands, of similar images for different uses such as websites, social media, and print advertisements.

— Matt Growcoot, PetaPixel

Or how about this example: An agency or freelancer working on a vector image in Illustrator, and need to add something that they either don’t have the time or talent to do myself. Previously, they could find either a stock item — made by a human (who is paid, by the way) — or hire it out (again, to a human, and again, one who is paid for their work). Now? Just tell the computer what you need.

Get more from Ars Technica’s Unlimited Barbarians Dept.

All of which ties nicely back to the previous section on whether branding is beginning to homogenize. Is AI going to accelerate that process? You betcha.

Value human creativity, folks. Artists, teachers, writers, thinkers: all the people pushing at the edges of the envelope will now have to push even harder, in an era when envelope-pushing is increasingly demonized.

Special Bonus #4: Ars Technica argues that the U.S. Copyright Office’s blanket ban on the copyright-ability of AI-generated images isn’t going to age well, using photography as an argument.

Special Bonus #5 (Updated 31 Oct): Via Nick Heer’s excellent Pixel Envy, we have a great explainer from Tim Bray regarding The Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA), the actual implementation of CAI. Better than my brief description by a country mile.

Special Bonus #6: To round out this post, from the department of envelope-pushing: PRINT Magazine put together the book covers of the 11 most-banned books in America. Dangerous, indeed!

Beautifully Briefed 23.9: Falling into Brilliance

As summer turns to fall, let’s take a look at Type 1 fonts, a library index, revolutionary posters, posters for “get lectured,” and two different photography contests. Let’s get right into it.

Adobe discontinues a standard: The Type 1 font

Back in the early days of desktop publishing — up to about the turn of the century, give or take — everything typographic used PostScript, a programming language by Adobe. (Other stuff, too, like Adobe’s vector program, Illustrator.) PostScript fonts were the so-called “Type 1” variety, made up of a bitmapped “suitcase” that housed the standard display sizes and an outline file used by the output device to print clean, what-you-see-is-what-you-get beauty.

The Apple LaserWriter Plus and some vintage Macs: nostalgia! (Note the book — heh.) Image: YouTube.

Companies from Apple to Microsoft didn’t want Adobe to hold a monopoly on output tech, so later fonts evolved into TrueType and then OpenType, the latter of which is the standard today.

So much so that Adobe has now discontinued Type 1, and they, along with Microsoft, have stopped being supported. Which is understandable and yet a shame: some of us still have hundreds of them.

Ars Technica has the best roundup.

Meanwhile, I’m going to investigate a conversion utility. Will report back.

All the Libraries in London

It’s Nice That has a post that reminds us of a library’s central purpose: to leave knowing more than you did when you entered. “The library, in our shared public imagination, is a special place,” the author argues — reminding us of what libraries were established to do, often distinctly different from the modern reality (especially in the United States).

In the library you begin to be convinced that language matters, that words have the power to clarify, to rouse, to make us feel something, to help us understand the political and cultural features of historical and contemporary moments.

Lola Olufemi, It’s Nice That
All the Libraries in London. Cover design: unknown. Image via It’s Nice That.

All the Libraries in London does something artistic with a simple listing, elevating it, reminding us how compelling the ideal that libraries represent really is:

This is a political and artistic listing, one that invites the reader to rediscover their own memories of their local library as a site of discovery. The book’s authors invite us to reflect on our personal relationship to libraries as well as the necessity of collectively securing their future existence.

Lola Olufemi, It’s Nice That
Alan Kitching, Durning Library. Image via It’s Nice That.

We need more of this everywhere, but especially here in the States. Meanwhile, check out this great item at It’s Nice That.

Special Bonus #1: Another British treasure, via the very British Antiques Roadshow (a British original, natch): this incredible poster by Ralph Steadman.

Ralph Steadman’s Where the Buffalo Roam (1980) poster. Image via Wikipedia.

Special Bonus #2: British book designer Steve Leard has launched a new book design podcast, Cover Meeting, featuring interviews between Leard and fellow book designers on the work, the industry, and more. The Bookseller has more.

Cuban Movie Posters. No, Really.

While we’re on the subject of great posters — and It’s Nice That — let’s talk about how Cuba’s revolution-era political posters transformed their poster design for films. Appropriately enough, a new film, El Cartel Cubano, highlights these amazing (and, likely, never seen before) items.

Besos Robados, ICAIC, by Sotolongo & Carole Goodman. Image via It’s Nice That.

How come our posters in the US aren’t this beautiful? What did this say about the priorities of the revolution? What did the medium or choices in the scarcity of materials used say about the economic situation in Cuba?” It’s these questions which form the bedrock of El Cartel Cubano, a fascinating and tender tribute to the artists on the island.

Adrienne Hall, co-director, El Cartel Cubano
Sur, by Michael Myiares Holland. Image via It’s Nice That.

I have to admit: this isn’t a subject I would have leapt at, but It’s Nice That sold it. Awesome.

Get Lectured (on Architecture)

Closing out our trifecta of great posters, Archinect‘s Get Lectured series brings us these fantastic items from their Fall 2023 series:

Woodbury University School of Architecture’s Fall 2023 lecture series.
The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture’s Fall 2023 lecture series

Some real gems: see more.

Finalists of the 2023 Urban Photography Awards

Going to soapbox a little here: pay-to-enter photo contests aren’t usually something I want to spread the word about. So ArchDaily‘s basically-a-press-release, “URBAN Photo Awards 2023 has announced its list of Finalist Photographers, marking the penultimate stage of the international contest,” was guaranteed a pass.

But there’s a problem: some of the photographs are really compelling.

Untitled, by Claudia Costantino

This one’s my fave:

Back to the 70s, by Stephane Navailles

See the contest website, or ArchDaily‘s post.

Winners of the 2023 Black and White Photography Awards

Another contest, yes. They’re everywhere. But … wow.

Street Lights – Ottawa, by Gareth Jones, category winner, architecture
Another mushroom? By Hector Ballester Ballester. Silver mention, architecture.
Alamillo bridge, by Manuel Ponce Luque. Finalist.
The concert, by Helena García Huertas. Finalist.
Reflections on the stairwell, by Max Dobens. Finalist.

And that’s just the buildings/architecture — there are portraits, street photography, landscapes, and more. A reminder to aspire, every day, with every image.

The Black and White Photo Awards (2023). (Via PetaPixel.)

Beautifully Briefed 23.7: Items of Independence (Day)

The mission for these posts is simple: independent, unrelated items which add up to something interesting. This time, it’s nifty type, aka NFTy.pe, photographic AI (or not), the 2023 Logo Trends Report, great London Review of Books illustrations, and a worthy art book list hijacked for a rant on stickers. Boom!

Better Than it Sounds: NFTy.pe

Typefaces have become, from this designer’s point of view, become commodities — perhaps even part of a broken system. Most clients don’t have a budget for unique type, there are too many spread across too many different sites, and, as Creative Boom puts it, “ownership has become poorly policed, if not non-existent.”

NFType really flips the script on all of that and attempts to reimagine the industry from creation to sale. In a nutshell, NFTy.pe uses a combination of modular type design and generative scripts to create fonts with unique visual attributes. The upshot is that no two character sets are exactly the same. And thanks to smart contracts and embedded metadata, ownership is quick and easy to verify.

— Craig Ward, NFTy.pe creator, via Creative Boom
Create a unique typeface that rewards, in more ways than one.

As pointed out, it’s not just for type users:

There’s a lot of work to be done to put some distance between the dumpster fire that represents much of the NFT space and projects – like this one – with actual utility. I wouldn’t vouch for the worth of a lot of what I’ve seen out there, but the underlying tech – the smart contracts themselves – [is] actually genius and will be a game changer for any industry where provenance is a key factor – agriculture, property, fashion etc.

— Craig Ward

The whole article is worth a read, or go straight to the source.

Photographic AI

This year has been centered around AI, it seems — and, as illustrations go, some of the results are indeed a new form of art. Take this one posted by Dezeen as part of their AItopia competition:

Created by Midjourney for Daniel Riopel.

Fantastic. Its creator, a production technician in the prefabricated housing industry, deserves major kudos for describing something to the Midjourney engine that’s intricate and, if I dare use the term with AI, creative. (Several of the images there are excellent — check ’em out.)

That said, I’m not a fan of articles like PetaPixel‘s recently-posted “Photographers May Have to Embrace AI, Whether They Want To or Not.” Simply put: no. I don’t have to embrace it, because nothing has changed — either I can get the photograph I want using the cameras and lenses I have or I can’t. I’m not going to “generate the fill,” pure and simple. (I don’t control the computational photography my phone produces, but Apple isn’t prone to creating what isn’t there.)

I’ve been trying to write on this subject for a while, without success. Possibly because I don’t need a longer version of the above paragraph, possibly because it’s something else I haven’t been able to articulate yet — even to myself.

The 2023 Logo Trends Report

It’s back! BrandNew points us to the latest in styles and, as advertised on the tin, trends:

“Sonics,” part of the 2023 Logo Trends Report.
“Ritz,” as in the cracker, part of the 2023 Logo Trends Report.

Always an interesting read, including this fantastic tidbit directly related to the previous section:

“Don’t worry about AI stealing your job. To replace graphic designers with AI, clients will need to accurately describe what they want. We’re safe.”

— Bill Gardner, LogoLounge

Read the full report, “a whirlwind of ideas, symbols, and AI, evolving how creators like us create,” at LogoLounge.

Illustrations at the London Review of Books

Because we cover books here often (pun intended), an article on Jon McNaught’s awesome illustrations for the London Review of Books absolutely caught my eye. “A collaborative relationship,” it’s called — and the results produced not only illustrate a huge variety of subjects in a consistent style, but do so in a way that delights:

A great illustration by Jon McNaught.
Of the examples posted, there’s not a single one I don’t like. Copyright Jon McNaught.

Since 2011, Jon has been collaborating with the renowned literary journal, creating works that have a quietly mesmerising quality. His scenes breed comfort with their universality, but also their ability to evoke specific memories and feelings in the individual viewer. Through his covers, Jon artfully captures the essence of everyday life by representing the vastly contrasting nature of British weather, plus the uniqueness of London’s architecture, green spaces and public transport.

— Olivia Hingley, It’s Nice That

See many more illustration examples and read the article at It’s Nice That.

Hyperallergic‘s Art Books to Read this summer

Hyperallergic‘s coverage of art, despite the annoying pop-ups, is worth its bookmark — illustrated by this list of 11 Art Books to Add to Your Reading List This Summer. Some, like the Philip Guston I recently saw highlighted on Perspective, are as relevant as ever. It’s a great list.

As usual, whenever I see something like this, I’m going to do something else at the same time: mine it for potentially great book design. Which, if you’ll indulge, leads to this short rant: I hate good covers marred by stickers.

“Read with Jenna?” Seriously?

Solid cover. Soooo, who’s Jenna? Is she important enough to mar the cover with? (I DuckDuckGo’d the answer: maybe … if you watch television. Not sure that’s the audience publishers should want to cater to.)

This time, the “sticker” is National Book Award Finalist. Better, but still.

Another solid cover — perhaps even really good, something that’s appropriate for a title up for the National Book Award. Real shame, then, that the sticker gets in the way, winding up completely distracting from the very nice circular title treatment (I’m sorry I don’t know either book designer to list here.)

I understand that it’s a little like trying to hold back the tide with a shovel, but it’s something I needed to express. [/rant]

Bonus #1 (awful): From the disturbing trends department: TikTok may start publishing books. Barf.

Bonus #2 (amazing): Via Kottke, a fantastic poster and perhaps better question:

Poster for the 2023 International Book Arsenal Festival, by Art Studio Agrafka

A book festival. During a war. In a city under martial law. While schools and legislatures here in the US ban books about Black and LGBTQ+ experiences based on bad faith complaints of tiny fundamentalist parent groups. Tell me, who’s doing democracy better right now?

— Jason Kottke, Kottke.org

That’s all for early July, folks. Go forth and make your summer a better place.

Beautifully Briefed 23.5: Spring Mix

Lettuce first apologize for not having an update in a minute, but I’m going to try to make up for it with this word salad delicious selection of items I’ve been setting aside: ABCD book design, impossible book design, some thoughts on DPReview, Architecture in Music, Hoefler’s typographic illusions, and, because you deserve it, the Great Wave in 1-bit. Enjoy.

Book Design #1: ABCD

“Winner of All Winners,” says The Academy of British Cover Design (ABCD):

Cover design by David Pearson.

“Pearson’s design was judged to be the best book design to have won an ABCD award in its decade-long history,” says The Bookseller.

Meanwhile, their “Best of 2022” list included several I named as well, along with a few I hadn’t seen. The illustration that is the cover design for this young adult title, for instance:

Cover design by Michelle Brackenborough.

Out There fills its “wonderfully weird” billing incredibly well, too:

Cover design by Lydia Blagden.

Alas, the US version:

Cover designer unknown. (Probably just as well.)

I often discuss UK covers when they’re pointed out somewhere, but as a general rule, my book design coverage, for lack of a better term, is US-based. Some other time, I do want to discuss why the UK covers are, generally, better than their US counterparts — as the above illustrates.

Anyway, read Design Week‘s excellent article on those and all the Academy of British Cover Design winners of 2022.

Bonus: I ran across Penguin Galaxy’s 2016 version of an Ursula Le Guin title I’ve got on my read-that-someday list — and love the cover design:

Cover designer unknown — I’ll look into it and update this post if possible.

The whole series is awesome, in fact. Check it out.

Book Design #2: The Impossible Bamboo Hardback

The Eyes & the Impossible the first-ever book to be published in two editions, for two readerships, and from two publishers: Knopf has one, in standard form, for the young adult audience.

The other one, however…:

Cover design concept by the author.

Yes, that’s an illustration showing through laser-cut bamboo, with a glimpse at the red cloth spine. There’s no way to summarize this design story in a way that does it justice, so just go to PRINT and read the whole article. Great stuff.

Photography #1: DPReview Shuttering

Digital Photography Review, long known as just DPReview, is being shut down. Started in 1998 by Phil Askey, it’s currently part of Amazon and is arguably the internet’s leading camera database — with over a thousand reviews of cameras, lenses, and related items, 24,000 articles, some 2.7 million comments, and more.

Perhaps most valuable, and something that will be missed by many, is their large selection of galleries: lenses and cameras, all in a way that can be compared side-by-side, an invaluable tool for those looking to purchase a new toy essential item for their photography bag.

Askey, who left in 2010 (three years after the Amazon acquisition) blasted Amazon’s short-sightedness:

I meant to write about this long before now, but there’s an interesting thing commenting more than a month later: they’re still there. Like many corporate decisions these days (ahem, Twitter), something changed — but it doesn’t matter. The damage has been done, foot shot, whatever. The reporters have moved on, the articles have slowed to a trickle, and updates have been greeted with skepticism.

What a shame.

Photography #2: Architecture in Music

I somehow didn’t write on this one last time I saw it — so when a new series was covered by This is Colossal, there’s no way it wasn’t going to be celebrated here:

“1995 Low C Prestige Bass Clarinet,” by Charles Brooks

Recognize it? No? How about this one:

“The Exquisite Architecture of Steinway, Part 8,” Steinway Spirio R piano, by Charles Brooks

Charles Brooks, a twenty-plus-year overran of orchestras around the world and a cellist since childhood, has taken a probe lens and put it inside some of the world’s amazing instruments. The results are magical:

“St. Marks Pipe Organ, Part 1,” by Charles Brooks

See many more here (2023) and here (2022). (See also this post’s header image, “Siete Lunas’ Guitar by Roberto Hernandez.”)

Typographic Illusions

Hoefler & Co. points us at necessary illusions in typography:

Highlighted on Netflix’s Abstract: The Art of Design, these “cheats” show us that letterforms are so much more than just shapes drawn to stylize characters.

Since a number of people who teach design have suggested that we manufacture these for use in the classroom, I thought I’d take the more direct approach, and make them available as a free download, as a PDF that can be printed on transparencies. Whether you’re teaching typography, studying it, or just giving letters a closer look for the first time, I hope you’ll find these useful.

—Hoefler & Co.

Absolutely. Check ’em out.

One-Bit Wave

Last but not least this Monday morning, let’s please celebrate Great Wave Off Kanagawa — in glorious 1-bit greatness:

I usually use either my Quadra 700 or PowerBook 100, mostly because those are my reliable and easy to access computers (that run System 7, my favourite and most familiar OS of that era).

Software-wise I use Aldus SuperPaint 3.0, which is what my family had when I was a kid. Yes, I’d say that all of this is 99% nostalgia-driven…

—James Weiner

Incredible. There’s more info at his fantastic web site (done, naturally, in the style of a classic Mac system). Thanks to Kottke for the link.

Bonus: As I was writing this, he was posting 1-bit emoji. Sweet!

Have a great week!

Beautifully Briefed 23.3: Kottke’s 25, The Book Cover Review, B&N Back to its Roots, The End of Type 1 Fonts, and I Don’t Want to Log In

This time, the twenty-fifth anniversary of one of my favorite websites, a new book cover review site, an interview with B&N’s CEO, the end of Type 1 fonts, and a world-class rant.

Kottke Turns 25
“Fine Hypertext Products,” indeed.

Jason Kottke has been publishing a blog continuously for twenty-five years — more than half his life — and along the way, earned many an eye. (It’s been a full-time job since 2005.) Some of his thoughts from the anniversary post:

My love for the web has ebbed and flowed, but mainly it’s persisted — so much so that as of today, I’ve been writing kottke.org for 25 years. A little context for just how long that is: kottke.org is older than Google. 25 years is more than half of my life, spanning four decades (the 90s, 00s, 10s, and 20s) and around 40,000 posts — almost cartoonishly long for a medium optimized for impermanence.

I had a personal realization recently: kottke.org isn’t so much a thing I’m making but a process I’m going through. A journey. A journey towards knowledge, discovery, empathy, connection, and a better way of seeing the world. Along the way, I’ve found myself and all of you. I feel so so so lucky to have had this opportunity.

— Jason Kottke, Kottke.org

Cited here often, always brimming with interesting items, and a regular source of learning, Jason deserves massive congratulations. Happy 25! Here’s to many more.

Bonus: Kottke was a guest on Daring Fireball’s The Talk Show. Check the links — Textism! — and enjoy a trip down blogging’s memory lane.

The Book Cover Review
NYT? No, English, actually.

FastCompany points us to a new and interesting cover review site: mostly classic titles, covered in ~500 words “from a range of voices around the world.” Good stuff, with a NYT Book Review look and feel, updated regularly. Give it a try.

The Verge interviews B&N’s CEO
Decode B&N with James Daunt

I’m not a regular listener of The Verge’s Decoder — it’s usually business-centric, going so far as to describe itself as secretly about org charts — but this one’s interesting: an interview between Nilay Patel and Barnes and Noble CEO James Daunt. They cover changes at B&N (with emphasis on why) and, of course, the elephant in any room:

[Amazon is] really terrible at putting a book in front of you that you never thought you’d want to read, that you have no reason to read and no tether to at all. Whereas a bookstore is precisely the place that does that. You pick up the book that you never thought you would want to read, might read, or could even think about reading, by an author you’ve never even heard of until that moment. When a bookseller says, “Look at that,” “Read that when you next come in,” or “I love that,” or whatever it is, all those small, little recommendations are personal and able to attach themselves to books that otherwise have nothing going for them at all.

James Daunt, CEO, B&N

Props to The Verge for providing a full transcript, especially helpful for folks who would rather read the interview than listen to it. Whether you want to read or listen, though, book lovers in the US should take in this interview.

Adobe Discontinues Type 1 Support
Flying Suitcases.

Back in the old days, Type 1 fonts were the backbone of desktop publishing. They were multi-part, often incomplete or corrupted, and always getting in the way of perfect print output — and yet beautiful and opening never-before-appreciated horizons of possibility for your projects.

Now, in these days of OpenType, Google Fonts, and digital output, Adobe has taken the decision to discontinue support for the legacy Type 1 format. TypeNetwork has the full story, along with some options, and there are other converters if you need ’em.

Bonus: TypeNetwork also has all of the Adobe Originals, from back when Adobe was your go-to instead of the corporate behemoth. Classy classics: see the list.

The end of an era. (Via BrandNew.)

The Perfect Rant: Solved
There’s a park calling your name.

One more from The Verge: “I don’t want to log in to your website.” The surge of login and email requests before being allowed to read “free” content is addressed brilliantly:

So what we’re looking at here is creating a worse user experience in order to pursue a variety of scummy money-making schemes. And that sucks because there are no real public spaces on the internet. Here in reality, I can fuck off to a park and hug a tree and sit on a bench and do stuff without ads, without anyone trying to track me, and without having to pay a dime. There was a time within my memory when people tried to make websites feel like semipublic places — you could hang out on someone’s cool blog and enjoy yourself. 

Elizabeth Lopatto, The Verge

Read the whole thing, nod in agreement, and go enjoy that park.

Beautifully Briefed 23.2: Book Cover Portals, Lorem Ipsum, Favorite Fonts, and Building Photography

Look out, look up, look forward, and look through in this edition of brief, link-filled goodness.

“You May Now Enter”

PRINT covers, uh, covers:

While the book blob dominated the discourse for the last few years, we’ve recently identified another trend splashing its way across new releases: the recurring symbol of doorways, open windows, and mysterious portals.

—Charlotte Beach and Chloe Gordon, PRINT

A couple of the examples they cite:

Not only a portal but a shelf. Cool.
Not only a portal but also stairs. Nice.

Unlike the blob, I’m in favor of this one — the hint of the unknown is appealing in a visceral way that offers more while simultaneously offering more sales by asking potential readers to speculate and, thus, engage. Nice call, PRINT.

See more: Several of the covers on my Favorite Book Covers of 2022 follow this trend. (Some very enjoyable blobs, too.) Or, for another trend….

Dummy Text?

Here’s a question you’ve been absolutely asking yourself: what are the origins of the infamous Lorem Ipsum?

The lack of placeholders on the shelf is remarkably appropriate. (Photo: Scott Keir.)

Turns out it’s not as simple as Aldus [known as Adobe these days —Ed.] — or the even-more-infamous annonymous. Tim Carmody, the very capable guest chair at Kottke.org, fills it in: it’s Cicero. No kidding: Slate says so.

De finibus, indeed.

Fourteen Fonts to Follow

Creative Boom, where having eyes on you is actually fun, celebrates “14 Fonts to Fall in Love With” for Valentine’s Day. While Foreword may be late to the party, a couple of the type choices are first rate:

Irregardless1I absolutely want to steal their website design: the menu system is brilliant. and Pastiche, in order. (And no, I didn’t put those two together to be funny.) Read the article and pick your faves.

Art of Building Photography

I wasn’t aware of the Chartered Institute of Building, or their Art of Building photography contest:2Their terms are good, too — something remarkably rare in contests.

“White Constellation,” by Francesca Pompei.

Since architecture and photography very much intersect in my camera, brain, and work, I’m glad to have found this great source of inspiration:

“House of God,” by Roman Robroek.
“My own little cosmos within reach,” by Pati John.

See many more, read some press coverage, and “celebrate the built environment,” as they put it. (Thanks to Archinect for the tip.)

Then, go outside, find some nature, and celebrate spring. See you in March.

  • 1
    I absolutely want to steal their website design: the menu system is brilliant.
  • 2
    Their terms are good, too — something remarkably rare in contests.

Beautifully Briefed 23.1: Winter Potpourri

From book design and minimalist photography to … well, book design and what absolutely isn’t minimalist photography, plus some street signs and another warning about Adobe. Let’s dig in.

Book Design #1: People Really Do Judge a Book by its Cover

From University College Cork — that’s Ireland, folks — we have something that, on the surface, seems obvious: a book cover “is the most likely factor to convince a person to read a book if they are unfamiliar with the work or its author.” Maria Butler, a PhD candidate in the School of English and Digital Humanities at UCC, reminds us why.

Design by Kimberly Glyder.

You’re reading Foreword, so you likely agree — and shown above is one of those worth-a-thousand-words images: the first of the 2023 titles I’ve set aside for my favorites of the year, and absolutely something good enough to make me pluck it off the shelf without knowing anything about either the title or author.

Bonus: See 70 (!) more of my Favorite Book Covers of 2022.

Book Design #2: Shift Happens

A fantastic website has clicked our way: Shift Happens, for a book about keyboards.

A screenshot from the Shift Happens website. Great stuff.

This project not only scores with great web design — check the interactive version of the book, pictured above — but what also seems like great book design. It’s a Kickstarter project (or will be, next month), so the usual cautions apply, but I might just go ahead and take the leap.

Couple of interesting book design items, by the way: the TOC is at the back, the endpapers are awesome, and the macro photography is tops. The book design reminds me of The Playmakers, still my favorite book design project ever.

Bonus: Tim Walsh, author of The Playmakers, is still going strong. Nice.

Photography #1: Minimalism

The winners of the Minimalist Photography of 2022 awards are in, some are fantastic. Here are a couple of favorites, from the architecture category:

“Prince Claus Bridge in the Netherlands,” by Arthur van Orden
“Blue Window,” by Andrea Richey

The Minimalist Photography Award is the only foundation that deals extensively and professionally with minimalist photography as a branch of photography in which the photographic artistic vision takes the lead.

Milad Safabakhsh, President of Minimalist Photography Awards
Photography #2: Wonders of Street View

This is Colossal brings us another gem from Neal.Fun: the Wonders of Street View.

“Wall Driver,” indeed.

Direct quote, just because: “A man with three legs, a vintage car scaling a building, and an unsettling formation of people donning bird masks are a few of the scenarios highlighted in the terrifically bizarre Wonders of Street View.”

I didn’t know it was a thing to dress up and pose for the Google cameras. Perfect.

Street Sign Style Guide

Speaking of street views, did you know there’s a style guide for highway signs? Would you believe that I’m a fan?

Interestingly, there is an I-42/I-17 interchange in Phoenix, but this ain’t it: these signs are representational.

As with most things government, there’s confusion, too many regulations, and yet it’s based around good ideas. Beautiful Public Data has a guide to the guide.

Adobe Steps in it, Again

From DPReview: “If you’re an Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber, you might want to go and turn off a new setting immediately. It’s been discovered that Adobe has automatically opted users into a ‘Content analysis’ program that allows Adobe to analyze your media files […] for use in its machine learning training programs.”

It’s important to note that Adobe only uses the files saved in the “Creative Cloud,” something I don’t do as a matter of course, but even still, this is yet another example of Adobe using its monopoly position in the creative field to take advantage of its paying customers.

Adobe, unsurprisingly, didn’t return DPReview’s request for a comment/clarification.

Beautifully Briefed, Holiday Edition (Late December, 2022): Nick Heer, Jason Kottke, Stealing Sheep, a Landscape Photograph, and Some Old Logos

“The Bleak Cycle”

I don’t usually think it’s fair to quote another blog post in its entirety, and I certainly won’t make a habit of it. With that out of the way, the always-interesting Pixel Envy, written by Nick Heer, hits us with a doozy — one that, due to its length and depth, requires the complete quote:

The Bleak Cycle

It’s a cycle. People create something, together, that reflects their energy and weird work; that thing becomes compelling as a result, and that makes it valuable, and at some point someone puts a price on it and someone else pays that price. It is at that moment that the thing begins to change. The new owner will almost always decide that what is most interesting about this thing is not the human essence that gave it value, but The Owner Himself, and will act accordingly. People will come back for the valuable stuff until the owner succeeds in crowding it out; when that crowding is done, the owned thing dies. Until then, what’s left is just what’s valuable—the humanity and brilliance and unpredictability and fun that all that cynical and idiotic and self-serving wealth is always and everywhere busy replacing with itself. There’s nothing to do but look for the good stuff until the looking becomes too challenging, or until it’s gone.

David RothDefector

Heer writes in response: “You may disagree with Roth’s headline thesis — ‘everything is Silicon Valley now’ — or his tie-in with the story du jour, Twitter, or his analysis of baseball’s problems. But the paragraph above? That is something to keep pinned in your brain. For most of us, it is a reminder to be wary of how things are changed in exploitative ways; for those in power, it should be seen as a cautionary pattern.”

Pinned.

Kottke is Back!

After a few months off, Jason Kottke is back in the blogger’s seat to enrich all of our lives. As someone who’s been reading for years — he started in 1998, and I’m certain his site was in the blogroll of the old Foreword, back in the Aughts.

Fine hypertext products indeed: Kottke.org, December, 2022.

We might be waiting a while for his so-called “comically long what I did on sabbatical post,” but his Sabbatical Media Diet post is a gold mine of to-read and to-watch items.

Welcome back, sir. May you blog for many seasons more.

Stop Stealing [Free] Sheep

No, not that — the type book:

From Kottke, while we’re on the subject, one of his Quick Links from Dec 20th: “Google Fonts is offering a free download of the newly updated 4th edition of Erik Spiekermann’s Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works.” It’s a PDF, available now.

9th Annual Landscape Photography Awards

It’s fair criticism to say that I both decry photography contests and yet sometimes celebrate the results. But…:

“The Winding Journey” by Max Rive, Border Between Chile And Argentina, Patagonia

Wow. I couldn’t not highlight that photograph.

Many more at the source. (Via DPReview.)

Oldest Logos Still in Use

Image Relay has an interesting item showing how long some familiar logos have been used — and, yeah, there’s a reason they’re familiar!

The black triangle is when the company was founded, and the bar indicates how long a logo with elements still used today has been around.

That’s but a sample of the complete listing; shown are nos. 3–8. Coca-Cola, the company I’d probably name if asked for the oldest logo, is no. 12. Click through for the rest.

That’s it for this year

Foreword will be back in January with our annual first-of-the-year best-of: my favorite book covers of 2022. Happy holidays, everyone!

Top image: Tree Lights, December 2020, downtown Macon, Georgia.

Beautifully Briefed, Automotive Edition (December 2022): Audi, Lancia, Kia, and Mercedes-Benz

This time, it’s three automotive logos . . . and Mercedes’ accounting department, plus a holiday bonus. Joy to the Auto!

New Audi Logo Falls Flat

Audi’s “Four Rings” have been around for a long time — since Auto Union was formed, ninety years ago:

Now Audi follows the pack (see VW, Mini, Volvo, etc.) and converts their logo from three-dimensional to two; the rings now are either white and framed by a thin black border or dark grey with black borders.

Four-ring closeup. (It’s hiding sensors, too.)

Not an improvement, IMHO. One of the articles mentions the concept of “a consequence of digitalization,” and think that’s about as good a description as you’re gonna get.

The change will roll out starting with the updated Q8 e-tron — which, thankfully, still looks good:

Even better in Sportback form:

Dezeen has the best coverage of Audi’s new logo, but see also Motor1 and CarScoops for more pictures.

Lancia Debuts … a Mouse

Okay, it’s not really — it’s a conceptual sculpture, titled “Pu+Ra Zero,” that represents their rebirth:

They call it a “a three-dimensional manifesto,” and no, I don’t get it either. (The light signatures and, apparently, the circular sunroof will carry through to the new models, however.) The logo, their eighth in 116 years, is new as well:

I didn’t know Lancia well (only in passing? Eh. —Ed.) until the famous Top Gear segment naming them “the Greatest Car Manufacturer of All Time,” although I knew of the Delta Integrale — and think that the Fulvia is one of the prettiest sedans ever:

The 1972 Lancia Fulvia

Let’s hope their new models, and conversion to an all-electric manufacturer, lives up to their past achievements. Meanwhile, The Autopian has the best roundup of the new Lancia.

Kia, KN, and … Wait, What?

30 thousand folks a year are doing Google searches for “the KN car.” Why? Kia’s logo, of course:

Thankfully, the Autopian to the rescue:

I’m not a huge fan of the new Kia logo — and can absolutely see the “KN problem” — but I think it speaks more to modern society that this is a news item than anything related to graphic design. Willing to be wrong.

Mercedes: $1200/yr for Full Output

This subscription thing has gotten seriously out of hand: Mercedes-Benz USA, in an effort to further bilk their customers — ’cause, y’know, MBs don’t cost enough — has decided that the last 60-110 horsepower available on their 2023 electric vehicles are only available for a yearly fee.

The MB EQS gets even less attractive.

Gak.

Holiday Bonus: Free Online Automotive Design

Interested in car design? Happy Holidays.

Beautifully Briefed, Thanksgiving Edition (November 2022): Book Sculpture, Architectural Arcades, and Artists Sunday

This time, art from old encyclopedias, architectural art, and an appeal to add art to your post-holiday shopping and giving plans.

Books as Art — In a Different Way

Cara Barer says, “Books, physical objects and repositories of information, are being displaced by zeros and ones in a digital universe with no physicality.  Through my art, I document this and raise questions about the fragile and ephemeral nature of books and their future.”

It’s more than that, though:

As This is Colossal puts it: “With cracked spins and crinkled pages, the manipulated objects reference the relationship between the natural and human-made as they evoke flowers at peak bloom.”

As a book designer, I’m glad that the titles used aren’t something a designers labored over but rather mostly instruction manuals and old encyclopedias. Either way, they’re a beautiful way to make commentary.

See more at her website.

“Photographic escapades in arcades and colonnades”
Liberty Station, San Diego by Keith James

Few scenes set my photographic heart aflutter as does the view down a long covered walkway towards a distant, barely visible vanishing point. As a self-confessed symmetry addict drawn to architectural images in black and white, photographing these vistas scratches a deep creative itch.

Keith James, MacFolios

His article is well-illustrated, informative, and speaks to my heart: I love a good arcade — although, in some cases, I feel like an entry or exit makes the point:

Vassar College Chapel Arcade, September 2021

This is not the first time I’ve admired Keith’s work. His “Architecture Meets Sculpture in Black and White: the Interplay of Light and Form” was great work. Both articles are highly recommended.

Artist Sunday

For those of you in the United States, this weekend is the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s also that most American of traditions: a shopping weekend. I have spent recent years boycotting Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and am encouraged by the emergence of Giving Tuesday. Here’s something to add to that list:

Photographer Chris Sherman developed the concept of “Artists Sunday” in 2019, after noticing a bump in sales on that day in November. “The idea struck,” Sherman told Hyperallergic. “What a great time to patronize artists — during the busiest shopping weekend of the year.” 

In 2020, Sherman launched the project alongside Cynthia Freese, a fellow artist who has also spent extensive time on the boards of arts nonprofits. On a dedicated website, Sherman and Freese provide artists and arts organizations with free marketing materials to promote the event. Now in its third year, over 4,000 artists and more than 600 towns and cities across the country have signed onto the initiative, which takes advantage of special events and partnerships (with nonprofits, individual artists, and businesses) to spread the message.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Beautifully Briefed, Early October 2022 [Updated]: Triboro’s Lyrics, Hoefler’s Daggers, and Skoda and Citroen Provide Contrast

This time, we’ve got some great book design (with a bonus), Hoefler educates on typography (with a bonus), and two updated car company logos. Let’s get right to it!

Print Magazine on the design of Lyrics

The still-very-relevant-in-2022 Print Magazine brings us a great feature on the design of Paul McCartney’s book, Lyrics:

Front and back covers of Paul McCartney’s Lyrics, by Triboro Design.

Turns out it was designed by an outfit called Triboro Design, from Brooklyn (appropriately). Print brings us an interesting interview with David Heasty, the principal:

I […] found him to be sharp, quick, articulate, and modest. Below, we discuss Paul’s involvement with the project, the book’s gorgeous bespoke typeface, and the importance of staying true to a legend’s vision.

Ellen Shapiro, Print Mag
The “S” spread of Paul McCartney’s Lyrics, by Triboro Design.

Interesting and informative. Catch this interview when you can.

Bonus: Looking at Triboro’s website, this lovely piece of typography stood out:

Triboro Design’s Zolo Jesus album typography creates desire.
Hoefler Discusses Daggers

In “House of Flying Reference Marks,” Jonathan Hoefler talks about daggers, or, what you use when an asterisk isn’t enough:

Hoefler on daggers.

Beautiful examples, complete with a phrase you don’t hear everyday: “twisted quillon.” Read and enjoy. (If the opportunity presents, follow on with the ampersand article — which, uh, takes a stab at where the word came from. Nice.)

Bonus: Creative Boom’s article, “18 highly respected type foundries that remain fiercely independent.” (I guess you could say I’m still surprised Hoefler is now, well, Monotype.)

Skoda and Citroen have new logos

It seems like nearly all of the major car manufacturers have introduced a new logo in the past couple of years, but here are two more. One’s best described as “an update,” while the other … goes a little farther.

Skoda, for those that don’t know, is a Czech company and part of the massive VW Group. Frankly, it shows:

Skoda’s 2022 Kodiaq, a thoroughly VW Group product.

For 2023, they’re introducing a push to separate themselves from VW a little, resisting the downmarket image. As is (now) normal with updated car company identities, there’s a concept:

Skoda’s Vision 7s concept.

It’s … not inspiring. Maybe the actual updated logo will turn the corner:

Skoda’s 2022 logo.

Solid. (Pardon the pun.) But seriously, even an avid car nut like me didn’t know that represents a winged arrow — and I’m not sure the new version helps. At least they get points for consistency:

Evolution of Skoda’s logo, 1895–2023.

Read more at Brand New’s “Czech this Out,” or Carscoops’ more optimistic take, “Thriving Skoda Brand Forging Its Own Path Within The VW Group.”

Then there’s Citroen. Even under the potentially-smothering corporate blanket that is Stellantis (there’s a name!), the pioneer of decades past still manages to actually thrive. First their new logo:

Citroen’s 2022 logo.

They’re not quite as consistent — the dual chevrons have varied a bit. This time, they’ve literally gone back to their roots, pulling the 1919/1921/1936 version out and dusting it off for modern use:

History of Citroen’s logos, 1919–2022.

Points to them for hinting at what’s to come, too:

Citroen’s 2022 logo, with just a slice of concept car showing.

…Which turns out to be something with, ahem, Oli bits:

Citroen’s Oli: the antithesis of a Skoda.

“Nothing moves us like Citroen,” they say. The Oli moves me, to a point where I truly wish Citroen was once again available in the ’States. Cool and radically innovative, without losing sight of something VW has truly lost: fun. Well done.

Read more on the logo: Motor1, “Citroen Unveils Updated Retro-Flavored Logo And New Slogan,” and Carscoops, “Citroen Unveils New Logo Inspired From Its Past, Teases New Concept.” Read more on the Oli at the excellent Autopian: “The Citroen Oli Concept Is An EV Made From Cardboard And Good Ideas.”

Updated, 19 October, 2022: Brand New adds to Citroen’s new logo story, with a slightly-less-than-enthusiastic take on the logo and has frankly unkind things to say about the new, custom typeface (custom typefaces are now de rigueur — a policy as much related to rights ownership than creativity, alas).

I really like the cursive in this Vimeo screenshot:

YouTube? What YouTube? Citroen posts to Vimeo. Ahh, the French.

BN also includes a number of extra photographs of the simply awesome Oli, too. Here are a couple, for your enjoyment:

Plug-and-Citroen.

Note the removable Bluetooth speakers (the black tubes with “+” and “-“) and, especially, the seats:

I love everything about this interior.

Check the rest, and BN’s take, here.

Apologies to both Skoda and Citroen for the lack of language-correct accents. WordPress needs a glyph function.