Stop adding pull quotes

Jeremy Keith:

You either end up learning to blot them out completely, or you end up reading the same sentence twice. Blotting them out is easier said than done on a small-screen device. At least on a large screen, pull quotes can be shunted off to the side, but on handheld devices, pull quotes really make no sense at all.

I’ve never really understood their use. Or rather, why they are employed so freely.

On many CMS I have used, they are merely styled blockquotes. You end up with the content repetition Keith describes.

Better to use blockquotes for their proper purpose—quote passages of text—and use headings, lists, figures and images if you want to help users scan your content.

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.’

Why you shouldn’t move your company blog to Medium

Active Collab, who make project management software, have moved their blog (back) from Medium to their own domain. They list the reasons, with conflicts of interest affecting calls to action an important factor, along with SEO:

A blog should build company’s brand and authority, not Medium’s. As such, it should be a part of [the] activecollab.com [website]. We actively write good content and we should be the ones to get the SEO benefits.

The more quality content we have as part of our domain, the greater our domain authority is and the better we’ll rank in search results. We should be the ones to reap the benefits from our work, not someone else.

The Diversity Style Guide

The Diversity Style Guide is a project of the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism, based at the Journalism Department at San Francisco State University. The center’s mission is to make journalism more inclusive from the classroom to the newsroom. An earlier version of The Diversity Style Guide was produced in the 1990s by CIIJ’s News Watch Program with help from many journalism organizations.

In recent years there’s been much talk about “political correctness.” This is not a guide to being politically correct. Rather, it offers guidance, context and nuance for media professionals struggling to write about people who are different from themselves and communities different from their own. No one person can determine the correct usage of a word; this guide takes wisdom and advice from leaders in the field who have researched and considered the cultural, political and linguistic meanings of words. Most of the terms are taken directly from style guides prepared by other organizations. In those cases the terms link back to the original guides.

Everything’s coming up Milhouse

Mallory Ortberg celebrates (?) Milhouse Van Houten for The Toast:

There is a well-known scene on Parks and Recreation where Ron Swanson describes his coworker Jerry thusly: “A schlemiel is the guy who spills soup at a fancy party. A schlamazel is the guy he spills it on. Jerry is both the schlemiel and the schlamazel.”

Milhouse, too, is both the schlemiel and the schlamazel. Even his best friend’s dad refers to him as “that little weiner kid.”

The business of Bandcamp

Ben Ratliff, for the NYT:

Does streaming from Spotify, Apple Music or Tidal answer your needs in terms of audio quality and how well the artist is paid? Do you have a good record store nearby, and does it sell cassettes and vinyl, too? Do you only buy new records directly from artists, with a cash transaction and a handshake? Do you love spending time on iTunes?

If you answered no to all these questions, you probably know about Bandcamp, the online music site known for its equitable treatment of artists, and one of the greatest underground-culture bazaars of our time.

Better interface copy

John Saito, on Medium, has 7 tips for designing words. The best is the final one:

7. Write in mocks, not docs

Have you ever written something that looked good on paper, but ended up looking too long when it went live? That’s what happens when you do your writing in Google Docs, Dropbox Paper, or any other writing app.

When you write words for an interface, seeing the full context is so crucial. You need to know how your words are going to look next to everything else around it.

That’s why I prefer to write in Sketch mocks, not in docs. I find that writing in mocks helps inform my writing decisions, because I can see how my words will look in context.

Screenshot of an iOS interface

Why there are so many ties in swimming

Timothy Burke has an interesting post on Deadspin that explains why there are so many ties in swimming contests. The swimmers’ times are deliberately not measured to the next decimal point (thousands of a second) due to the relative tolerance of concrete pool lengths and lanes, which are more than a factor of ten greater. So we could measure times more accurately, but the distance each swimmer travels can vary in a way that has a far greater impact.

Facebook’s takeover of political media

The always-excellent John Herrman, for the New York Times:

For now, the network hums along, mostly beneath the surface. A post from a Liberty Alliance page might find its way in front of a left-leaning user who might disagree with it or find it offensive, and who might choose to engage with the friend who posted it directly. But otherwise, such news exists primarily within the feeds of the already converted, its authorship obscured, its provenance unclear, its veracity questionable. It’s an environment that’s at best indifferent and at worst hostile to traditional media brands; but for this new breed of page operator, it’s mostly upside. In front of largely hidden and utterly sympathetic audiences, incredible narratives can take shape, before emerging, mostly formed, into the national discourse.

While this is (mostly) about the U.S. election, the same basic pattern exists in all territories at all times. The only surprising thing should be the scale (tiny) and profitability (staggeringly high) of the content farms.

Gawker’s 2007 style guide

Nicholas Carlson has posted the entirety of Gawker’s 2007 style guide on a post for Insider. It’s still almost completely relevant, with evergreen tips for clear communication filed alongside prescient comment on things like SEO and what has become the dominant bloggy tone: irreverent, humorous, sharp.

See also:

The end of Gawker

Tom Scocca, for Gawker:

Gawker always said it was in the business of publishing true stories. Here is one last true story: You live in a country where a billionaire can put a publication out of business. A billionaire can pick off an individual writer and leave that person penniless and without legal protection.

If you want to write stories that might anger a billionaire, you need to work for another billionaire yourself, or for a billion-dollar corporation. The law will not protect you. There is no freedom in this world but power and money.

See also Nick Denton’s final post.

A weeklong cruise for conspiracy theorists

Bronwen Dickey, for Popular Mechanics:

It was a bit after seven, and I should have been downstairs on Plaza Deck, dressed in formal attire and enjoying dinner with the conspiracy theorists. There were about a hundred of them, and they were nearing the end of their week—the last week in January—aboard the Ruby Princess. Many of them were older people, and each of them had paid $3,000 (not including airfare and beverages on board) to participate in the first-ever Conspira-Sea Cruise, a weeklong celebration of “alternative science” hosted by a tour company called Divine Travels. For the past five days, they had debated UFOs, GMOs, government mind-control programs, vaccines, chemtrails, crop circles, and the Illuminati’s plan for world domination, all while soaking up the mystical energies of three Mexican tourist towns known mainly for wet T-shirt contests and Señor Frog’s.