All Posts in the ‘typography’ Category

Look Both Ways by Debbie Millman

January 26th, 2010 | By Christine in books, design, designers, illustration, typography | 2 Comments »

The first book I’ve completed in 2010 is Debbie Millman‘s Look Both Ways, which Nina kindly grabbed for me at the Type Directors Club. I’d been eyeing it since it was published a couple months ago, and I was so ecstatic when she gave it to me last week during Typography class.

The book is subtitled ‘Illustrated essays on the intersection of life and design,’ yet I found the experience of reading it much more profoundly grounded in the ‘life’ part, much to my liking. Aside from the beautiful ways in which she designed and handlettered each essay, which instantly dropped me into Debbie’s world, or the constant connections she made with branding and art, I felt most moved by the stories of her life.

Part of it is that I’m always interested in the back story of any person, place or thing that I admire. You know — the Wikipedia syndrome, which is the curiosity that cannot be overcome, so your fingers automatically gravitate toward the keyboard before your eyes can even turn toward the screen.

Another part of why the book spoke deeply to me is that she writes in such a way that makes me feel like we’re very similar. Whether we actually are similar or not, the tales of girlhood, youth, uncertainty, and continuing thoughts and observation beyond those early qualities (which, I suspect, never really disappear completely no matter what your age) made each story feel so familiar, like reading my own forgotten journal. I think any thoughtful person who sees and thinks actively will have similar anecdotes and related ideas of what it is we’re going through in this world. Maybe I’m tired of hearing stories of success and listening to people who make it all seem easy — even if they claim that it’s not easy (and I’m sure it wasn’t), they make it seem easy by the mere act of speaking to us about it in large speaker-audience settings. Which is perhaps why the book lends itself better to telling such stories. Debbie’s carefully crafted essays and crafty illustrations immerse the reader into a world of memory and thoughts, outside of the conscious notion that this is coming from Debbie Millman, celebrated host of the Design Matters series, President of the design division at Sterling Brands, and AIGA President.

Many of the stories had me laughing out loud, but because they read a lot like my own feelings from the past, they also had me close to tears. While reading the chapter ‘Pick One,’ I was sitting at a Pret on 49th and Madison, and when I read that she had hopped off a bus on 42nd and Madison on her way to a Condé Nast interview right out of college, I downed the rest of my coffee and hurried down the avenue to get a sense of what that moment had been like.

Some of the stories, mainly the ones that address a stage in life I have not yet reached, had me wondering what other sorts of similar thoughts and experiences I’ll have in the future, and whether glimpsing hers have prepared me in any way for them.

But the biggest surprise was in ‘Fail Safe,’ in which she writes:

I am not profoundly unhappy with what has transpired in the years leading up to today; most days I consider myself lucky that I have a fun, secure job and a good paycheck. But I know deep in my heart that I settled. I chose financial and creative stability over artistic freedom, and I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if I had made a different decision on that balmy night back in the West Village.

The spot in the West Village she’s referring to is mentioned on the first page of this essay, which begins:

A few months out of college, I stood on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Bleecker Street in New York City wearing pastel-blue balloon trousers, a hot pink V-neck T-shirt and bright white Capezio Oxfords. I lingered at the intersection peering deep into my future, contemplating the choice between the secure and the uncertain, between the creative and the logical, the known and the unknown.

I dreamed of being an artist and a writer, but inasmuch as I knew what I wanted, I felt compelled to consider what was ‘reasonable’ in order to safeguard my economic future. Even though I wanted what my best friend once referred to as ‘the whole wide world,’ I thought it was prudent to compromise.

Living very close to the corner of Seventh Avenue and Bleecker Street (I am on Thompson and Bleecker), and about to graduate college (though I don’t own a hot pink V-neck, nor do I know what balloon trousers are, really), I feel like I couldn’t have read this essay at a better time. I guess nobody really considers the possibility that a highly successful presence in the design world would regard such a career as ‘settling,’ but standing on my own corner and brimming with hope and greed and enthusiasm for possibility, and dreaming my own dreams of being an artist and a writer, I, too, am hoping first and foremost for financial stability once I turn the tassel.

As Robert Frost wrote: a poem ‘begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It is never a thought to begin with.’

I recommend the following course of action for those who are just beginning their careers, or for those like me, who may be reconfiguring midway through: heed the words of Robert Frost. Start with a big, fat lump in your throat, start with a profound sense of wrong, a deep homesickness, or a crazy love sickess, and run with it. If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.

I will try. Now.

The Type Is Right

November 12th, 2009 | By Christine in designers, events, typography | 2 Comments »

On Monday night, at Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO, many graphic designers were guilty of taking part in the geekiest game show ever, AIGA/NY‘s The Type Is Right. My friends were as excited as I was when the event first popped up on the events page, so we immediately signed up to volunteer.

Here are Liz and Nina at the check-in table.

Liz Man and Nina Vo volunteer

Complete with silly game show theme and ominous thinking music, the event was emceed by Ellen Lupton, and there were four teams — the Serifs, the Sans Serifs, the Italics and I forget the last one. Each team had three designers plus a randomly chosen audience member.

Round 1 began with a first team consisting of Paula Scher, Louise Fili and Chester Jenkins, along with their audience member. They played against Roger Black, Allan Haley, and a third person whose name I do not know. Oh, plus their audience member.

Here we have a blurry Ellen, Paula, Louise, Chester, audience member, and Paul Shaw, who ruled on challenged questions and provided information when needed. He is obviously a master type history guru to be much respected.

I thought that my own type nerdiness wasn’t too bad, but the questions asked were so difficult, it shamed me. Still, the teams were able to wow us with their amazingly broad knowledge. This question was one of the few that I was able to answer.

Amongst sillier questions (like how long a certain designer’s line of cocaine was, with the answers given in points and picas — the answer was ‘D. Whatever’), there were much more difficult ones. For example, which typeface from a given list of four was designed the earliest, which designer had a typeface named after him or herself (the answer was Matteo Bologna, who was also there), something to do with the didone classification … it was madness!

But the most traumatizing question was surely the one that asked which of the following Eric Gill is said to have had sex with — A. his sister, B. his daughter, C. his dog, D. all of the above. And the answer was D! I think I may hesitate for the rest of my life before using Gill Sans.

Here we have the other two teams during Round 2. The team on the left, consisting of Charlie Nix, Patrick Seymour, Paul Carlos, were all dressed in suits. So when their audience member came up jacket-less, Matteo (on whom my classmates and I have had a crush since seeing him at the TDC’s Night of the Italians) was ready at the front with his own suit jacket, which he kindly lent him. The team on the right was the one I was banking on winning — how can you think otherwise when it was led by Jonathan Hoefler and included two of his employees, Andy Clymer and Sara Soskolne?

This question, for Hoefler’s team, asked which was Bodoni. I was torn between B and D. You can see Hoefler and Clymer standing in front of the screen to see it better. But, FOR SHAME, they chose C, which everyone around me knew was wrong. C turned out to be Filosofia, and B was the correct answer.

Still, Hoefler’s team prevailed to win by one point against Roger Black’s team in the final round, which was pretty intense. There was a trophy!

Among other big-name designers that we spotted in the audience were Jessica Hische, Drew Hodges, and Scott Stowell.

Sorry for the poor-quality images. This is why you should buy me a digital SLR! Much thanks in advance.

Bring back Typographunnies!

May 8th, 2009 | By Christine in design, random fun, typography | No Comments »

I just discovered Typographunnies via Print Magazine‘s Twitter account. I was quite delighted with the site, until I read their April 1 post that reads:

A “Letter” of Apology
Typographunnies has shut down due to a request from the Type Directors Club. Apparently, a website of typographic humor perpetuates the critical stereotype that type design is ineffectual and pointless. The jokes exhibit “a distasteful disregard for the rich lexicon that typographic history has brought about.” Humor is a threat to those serious in the craft of typography. I apologize hesitatingly to the typographic community for my grave offense — I thought it was acute gesture of typographic appreciation. If you would would like to fight with me, sign the petition to bring Typographunnies back or send me an e-mail for more information.

Now, I love typography, and I don’t consider it unimportant by any means (quite the contrary, actually), but it just seems a tad ridiculous to think that jokes like this would undermine typographic history.

And I’m talking about jokes like:

What do letters do when they get overworked?

They take line breaks!

Actually, I and my graphic design friends love typography and learning to use it properly so much, that we enjoy such jokes like a mathematician loves that one about lying tangent to somebody’s curves. Yes, they’re lame, but oh, so fun. So why not engage in some good ol’ typographic fun, TDC?