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 23.3: 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 23.1: 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, Mid-September 2022 [Updated]: Indigenous Type, Italic Type, Adobe Types “Stop,” and Two Awesome New Cameras

A wide selection of items for the beginning of fall, from positive fonts to jolly cameras — with Adobe and Pantone pouring some cold water on things. Let’s get to it!

Indigenous Letterforms

As Americans, Europeans, or, more generally, Westerners, we take for granted that fonts will reflect the various pieces of individual type — that is, letterforms — that we’ll need. But not everyone falls into that category.

North American Indigenous fonts — with updated Unicode. Major Kudos. (Courtesy of Dezeen.)

Dezeen points us to an especially interesting effort: “Typotheque typography project aims to protect Indigenous languages from “digital extinction.” In this case, folks who were in the Americas long before Westerners arrived used languages often not written down, or that use letterforms that simply aren’t supported in modern typographic systems.

“When [the Unicode Standard] doesn’t contain characters in a given language’s orthography, it is not possible for that community to accurately use their language on digital text platforms.”

Typotheque typeface designer Kevin King 

Fascinating. Read more at Dezeen.

Italic Letterforms

The always-great Hoefler & Co. spends a minute educating us about italics:

Hoefler examines italics: point-and-sketch
Hoefler’s Fifteen Italic Textures illustration

Italics can be the most colorful part of a type family, diverging dramatically from their roman cousins. Here’s a look at twelve kinds of italic typeface, with some notes on their cultural contexts, historical backgrounds, and practical applications.

Hoefler & Co.

Read the article, “Italics Examined,” at Hoefler & Co.’s Typography.com.

Adobe Types, “Stop.”

Adobe and Pantone are having a . . . thing. As a result, all Pantone spot libraries have been removed from Adobe products:

A classy move, completely in character for both companies, to reach into users’ machines and remove stuff they had paid for and may rely on because of some licensing spat.

Nick Heer, Pixel Envy

I didn’t get a notice in either InDesign or Photoshop, but a check in InDesign (the CC 2022, aka 17.4, version) shows only the CMYK libraries:

Adobe’s Pantone+ CMYK (Coated) color picker, from InDesign CC 2022

You can subscribe to the additional libraries from Pantone for $60/year. Book design is almost exclusively CMYK, so I won’t be . . . but grrrr.

On the subject of Canadians: thanks to Nick Heer’s north-of-the-border reporting for the notice.

Update, 28 September, 2022: Adobe got around to putting up a banner in my version of InDesign — blaming Pantone:

This notice showed up September 27th, 2022.

They’ve put up a “help” page. (I took a moment to fill in the feedback at the bottom of that page, too: “Removing features we’ve paid for is incredibly uncool, Adobe. Shame on you.”)

Two Awesome New Cameras, from $100 to $100,000

So Pagani, the multi-million-dollar sports car manufacturer, has decided to market large-format cameras. Okay!

One of Pagani’s new camera models
A closeup of the (beautifully-detailed) tripod plate for Pagani’s new cameras.

Incredible, breathtaking detail and quality, based on Gibellini models but taken to 11. But like their cars, mere mortals need not apply: their cameras start over $100,000.

Mortals can dream, sure, but here on Earth, I encourage an order from this Ukrainian company instead:

Jollylook’s Pinhole Instant Mini film camera
Jollylook’s Pinhole Instant Mini in situ

They’re based on instant film cartridges, are made of recycled materials, look incredibly cool, and a kit starts at an incredibly-reasonable $99. Throw in a few extra dollars to support Ukraine and . . . feel Jolly.

Thanks to This is Colossal for the link.

Neenah Swatch Pro

From Dieline:

Specialty paper manufacturer Neenah has announced a refresh to its Classic paper swatchbooks that makes bringing designs from digital workspaces to the physical world, including a significant revamping of the numbering system, optimized for the Neenah Swatch Pro extension for Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign.

I’m a sucker for good paper — many of you know I started in print work, and to this day, prefer it over digital destinations. Neenah manufactures Classic Textures (think: linen, laid, etc.) that have been with us forever and are still very much appreciated when it comes time to put ink of paper. Literally. An extension that makes it easy to see what that looks like — something as simple as a number, like Pantone — is fantastic.

Get more information from Neenah, or check the Adobe Extension Exchange (note: that page still lists a 2019 update).

How Adobe InDesign Took Over

Way back in the day — that is, before the mid-nineties — publishing on the Mac consisted of Quark XPress. Okay, sure, there was Aldus Publisher and some bit players, but it was basically Quark or nothing. I used Quark in book design back then, and … basically hated it.

I was one of the early adopters of InDesign, dragging co-workers and companies along with me, as part of my time working at Tropicana. Not the juice cartons themselves — those were done in Illustrator — but the ancillary stuff, like marketing materials, sell sheets, and so on.

AppleInsider ran a piece a while ago (I’d missed it, initially), “How Adobe InDesign took over publishing with Steve Jobs’ help.” Good history for those of you who don’t know about those days or want a trip down memory lane, best summarized, in fact, by a commenter on the article: “This covers an interesting arc. Adobe went from an ambitious upstart trying to unseat an established, albeit arrogant, standard, to becoming the arrogant standard.”

Read on.

R.I.P., Aperture

Apple’s Aperture photography software debuted in 2005, as a sort of hi-end iPhoto; it combined sorting and editing into one application, using libraries to keep large collections. It was almost immediately followed by Adobe’s Lightroom, which performed basically the exact same functions — and came with better integration with Adobe’s own Photoshop, as well.

Aperture was developed through several versions, but a change in Apple’s strategy led to a end to development in 2015; however, it’s still been useable in every new version of the MacOS since. Until now — with the debut of MacOS Catalina in September of this year, Aperture will cease to work.

That’s led me — and likely many others — to migrate our Aperture libraries into Lightroom. Now let’s be clear: I’ve been using Lightroom for several years now (I pay the $53 per month Adobe subscription, which offers all applications Adobe currently makes, including Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator in addition to Lightroom) and have gotten quite used to the workflow. So when the announcement was made that Aperture was going to stop working, I went into Aperture and . . . was lost. Migrating was necessary.

In the long run, though, it’s been a good thing. Since Lightroom doesn’t import all of the changes and corrections that Aperture makes into Lightroom, I’ve had cause to revisit some of the libraries with a fresh eye.

The first of these is the England library from 2011. Check it out soon.

If you had Aperture, here’s the info from Apple on what to do with your libraries, and the info from Adobe about how to import Aperture libraries into Lightroom (Classic version only).