W. E. B. Du Bois’ hand-drawn infographics of African-American life

William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.” Du Bois — sociologist, historian, activist, Pan-Africanist, and prolific author — had also, it turns out, a mighty fine eye for graphic design. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in 1868, Du Bois studied at Fisk University, Humboldt University in Berlin, and Harvard (where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate), and in 1897 he became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University. Two years later he published his first major academic work The Philadelphia Negro (1899), a detailed and comprehensive sociological study of the African-American people of Philadelphia, based on his earlier field work. The following year, along with collaborators Thomas J. Calloway and Daniel Murray, Du Bois travelled to Europe, firstly to the First Pan-African Conference held in London, and then to the Paris Exposition to present a groundbreaking exhibition on the state of African-American life — “The Exhibit of American Negroes” — which, according to Du Bois, attempted to show “(a) The history of the American Negro. (b) His present condition. (c) His education. (d) His literature.”

Source: W. E. B. Du Bois’ Hand-Drawn Infographics of African-American Life (1900) – The Public Domain Review

#c0ffee is the colo[u]r

This is fun:

What real words are actually valid CSS HEX colors? Parsing an English dictionary for entries containing only the letters ABCDEF and limiting the result to words of exactly 6 or 3 letters length (#FFFFFF or #FFF) gives us some interesting results.

Although sadly:

#faeces refered a tad too pale

Emoji as modern gargoyles

James Vincent for The Verge:

Emoji are going to be some of the most recognizable icons of the 21st century, says architect Changiz Tehrani, which is why he decided to cast 22 of them in concrete and use them as decoration for a building in the Dutch city of Amersfoort.

“In classical architecture they used heads of the king or whatever, and they put that on the façade,” Tehrani told The Verge. “So we were thinking, what can we use as an ornament so when you look at this building in 10 or 20 years you can say ‘hey this is from that year!’” The answer was obvious: emoji.

Eastern Bloc matchbox labels

The Instagram account @matchbloc collects 1950s and 60s Eastern European matchbox labels:

Mosty – healthy refreshments. (Czechoslovakia)

A post shared by @ matchbloc on

Seasons. (Czechoslovakia)

A post shared by @ matchbloc on

'Watch military films' (Czechoslovakia)

A post shared by @ matchbloc on

The account is run by Jane McDevitt, Partner at Maraid Design, and Neal Whittington of Present & Correct—both based some 1,000+ miles away in the UK.

From Jane’s 2007 post on the topic:

My interest in matchbox labels lies primarily in the design but also the concept that these small images can communicate to a large number of people.

1950s and 60s Eastern European labels captivate me most. Why did this area of the world embrace modern design and imagery when many countries, including Britain, still preferred the Victorian aesthetic?

Subject matter is also fascinating. As with advertisers, governments were quick to realise the potential of these far reaching messages. Propaganda was popular but so too was public service announcements including fire safety, hygiene, money saving, alcohol abuse and road safety.

This combination of subject and design has left behind an invaluable archive of its time.

A post on It’s Nice That suggests that a book is on its way.

NASA’s visions of the Future

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab produced some retrofuturist posters a while back.

Imagination is our window into the future. At NASA/JPL we strive to be bold in advancing the edge of possibility so that someday, with the help of new generations of innovators and explorers, these visions of the future can become a reality. As you look through these images of imaginative travel destinations, remember that you can be an architect of the future.

Here are a couple. You can download full-size files (200 MB TIFF!) from the NASA site to print out.

NASA's Grand Tour poster

NASA's Mars poster

Comic book lettering


I’m not a big comics fan, but have always been curious about the standard style of lettering. Now available as downloadable typefaces, the ‘comic book font’—which is more variable than might first appear—arose due to constraints such as people’s handwriting and poor quality paper.

Digitisation and the loss of iconography

Sue Walsh on the shared meaning of images as used for icons:

Imagine if the words sunglasses, thunder, continent, and sorrow were suddenly replaced with a single, brand-new word that meant each of those things, depending on their context. How would writers respond? How would readers know which meaning you were seeking when the new word was used? This is what is happening to designers.

Walsh goes on to discuss the ways different jobs are signified in the board game ‘The Game of Life’, and posits:

And what about jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago? A Market Research Data Miner. A Millennial Generational Expert. Social Media Manager. What do those look like? What images conjure up fantasies to kids wondering what they’ll be when they grow up? What would those illustrations look like in The Game of Life?

A modern day revision of The Game Of Life

The typography of Stranger Things

Alice Vincent, for The Telegraph:

Stranger Things’s opening credits are an ode to typography. The drama’s title emerges only after the credits have woven their way through them, the lines that make up the letters glowing like the red neon bars of a Motel sign.

I knew it was reminiscent of something, but wasn’t sure what. It turns out that the typeface, ITC Benguiat, is also used on the Choose Your Own Adventure books, as well as Strangeways, Here We Come by The Smiths.

The typeface’s designer, Ed Benguiat, also designed logos and typefaces for Ford, the New York Times and Playboy, as well as Planet Of The Apes and Twin Peaks.

(Of course, you can make your own Stranger Things logo.)

The typography of John Lewis

A 2012 post for Eye Magazine:

As an early adopter of Modernist themes in retailing, John Lewis used Helvetica from the 1970s to the 90s. A classical note was struck in 1989 with the introduction of Elan capitals for the store names in the John Lewis Partnership (including many acquired stores such as Coles Brothers and Pratts, which were still known by their original names until the 1990s).

I always liked this monogram-style logo by Hans Scheduler, originally from the 1960s:

John lewis Partnership logo from the 1960s

After Helvetica, the company went on to use (briefly) Elan and now a modified Gill Sans:

It was not until this century that Gill Sans was introduced as the John Lewis type family. Interviewed in 2001 for the John Lewis in-house magazine, Cooper had acknowledged the need for further change: ‘The new typeface we will be using on everything from signage to stationery is very elegant and looks contemporary – ironic really, as Eric Gill designed it in the 1920s.’