On a type walk we will go

What advice would you give to a designer who’s looking to embark on her or his first type walk?

Look up! But also look down! Take your camera with you, and always, always, take a picture if you see something worthy—it might be gone tomorrow. If it is still there the next day, you can go back with your good camera and lens.

Perambulate. There is no need to go to a particular place. Repeat places—you might see something new each time. Just open your eyes and start reading the city. Books on basic architecture and local history could be good starting points. Most importantly, enjoy it.

On a Type Walk We Will Go | Communication Arts

Designer Elena Veguillas discusses the decline of ‘vernacular lettering’: “lettering on manholes, pipes, posts, etc. They are particular to and enrich each city or area, even if we don’t notice them at first.”

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.

Smart quotes for smart people

A cheat sheet for using the right quotation marks in your writing:

“Smart quotes,” the correct quotation marks and apostrophes, are curly or sloped. “Dumb quotes,” or straight quotes, are a vestigial constraint from typewriters when using one key for two different marks helped save space on a keyboard. Unfortunately, many improper marks make their way onto websites because of dumb defaults in applications and CMSs. Luckily, using correct quotation marks and apostrophes today is easier than you think.

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.’

The current abbrev trend has been increasing

1: Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared 5

I hadn’t seen or heard of the previous five episodes of this bafflingly brilliant series.

2: Ermahgerddon: The untold story of the ermahgerd girl

Meet Maggie Goldenberger, who helplessly watched an Internet meme spawn from her awkward adolescent photo. Except, maybe the “Gershberms” girl never existed at all?

3: The biggest man: understanding Andre the Giant, wrestling’s massive, indefinable contradiction

Andre Roussimoff, a.k.a. Monster Roussimoff, a.k.a. Monster Eiffel Tower, a.k.a. Géant Ferré, a.k.a. Giant Machine, a.k.a. Andre the Giant, was neither particularly childlike nor particularly averse to fly-hurting. Very large men who deal in violence for a living are seldom unchanged by what they do, even when the violence is mostly symbolic and theatrical, as it was for Andre.

4: Jonathan Gliniak’s answer to ‘What are the best true scary stories?’

About 7 years ago I got an invitation to attend my cousins dinner party. I have never seen my cousin before and only spoke to him on the phone. I was surprised that his family unexpectedly invited me after all these years.

5: A melody written by a crowd

This is an experiment in crowd-sourced songwriting. A melody is currently being generated, note by note, in real-time, using the popular vote of the crowd.

Will the Wisdom of the Crowd create something special?

6: Elliott Smith is sad, like you

The singer, who died on October 21, 2003, always maintained that he loved making his music, even as his music usually claimed that he didn’t love much at all.

7: Cast of characters

Taking a closer look at new Medium fonts: Charter and Kievit.

8: Wind and solar keep getting cheaper and cheaper

The report was based on analysis of some 55,000 projects around the world, says Henbest. And it found that globally, onshore wind now on average costs $83 per megawatt-hour of electricity ($2 cheaper than in the first half of the year), and thin film solar photovoltaics costs $122 per megawatt-hour — a drop of $7 in just half a year.

That presents an increasingly favorable comparison with fossil fuels — though it still depends greatly on where you are located. Coal-fired electricity cost $75 per megawatt-hour in the Americas, but $105 in Europe. Gas-fired generation cost $82 in the Americas and $118 in Europe, on average, the report found.

9: I went under the sheets of New York’s professional cuddling industry — here’s what I found

Liza Stahl’s head bobbed gently as it rested on my chest; her breathing was calm and measured. With my left arm I held her close to me. We joked and giggled as our bodies intertwined. It was a spectacular day; sunlight poured into her East Harlem, New York City, apartment. It was a scene from a movie. In another world, she was my girlfriend; in another place, we were madly in love.

Stahl, however, was not my girlfriend, and we were not in love. In fact, we had only met minutes before. Stahl (which is not her real name) is a professional cuddler, and for $80 an hour, she will cuddle, spoon, comfort and caress just about any man who walks through her door.

10: Why are your fav abbrevs totes legit hard to spell?

Linguist Rebecca Starr points out that while there are some earlier abbrevs, like commish (from commissioner) from 1910 and delish from 1920, the current abbrev trend has been increasing since the mid-2000s.

The interesting thing about abbrevs is that they’re based on sound, not on spelling. Just think about how we have to respell certain words when making them into abbrevs, such as delish, presh, profesh, unfortch, and sitch. And with words like funksh (function), relash (relationship), fuche (future), natch (naturally), or sosh (sociology), you might not even be able to tell from the abbrev what the original word was.

11: Mike Rugnetta’s answer to “how do I read interesting and challenging stuff?”

Ah! This is a great question! And one I don’t think have a great answer to. My interest in reading difficult stuff didn’t really develop until well after I was in a position to be taught, by professional Readers of Difficult Stuff, how to do so. BUT! I’ve learned some things on my own and they work for me and maybe they’ll be of some assistance?

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Gluten-free economic meritocracy

1: Why I unfollowed you on Instagram

I’m looking for an intelligent feed of my interests. A feed of stuff I’m going to like, drawn from a white-list of trusted curators but personalized for me. Not specific to one vertical (News, Music, Stuff to Buy, etc) or one content type (movies, photos, text, links). Ordered by the most relevant, the stuff I need to see RIGHT NOW. […] We would do ourselves a favor to stop lumping all these tools together and calling them “Social Networks” or “Social Media” and instead note what makes each service uniquely great and push these companies to improve what they’re best at. What they all are is “distribution”, ways of building direct connections between people and each other or brands. Person -> Person, Brand -> Person, Person -> Brand.

2: A new use for the @-symbol

This is a gorgeous old carousel in Jerez, Spain. Both adults and kids likely want to ride it. Let’s look closely at the motorcycle, too small for adults to ride. The sign says it’s exclusively for niñ@s to ride. I believe they are using the @ to be an a and o simultaneously, creating a clever all-encompassing plural for “boys and girls”.

3: Computer Show

Today’s technology transplanted to 1983. Made by the wonderful @lonelysandwich.

4: Women who sniff this Hawaiian mushroom have spontaneous orgasms

According to a 2001 publication in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, the smell of the fresh fungus can trigger spontaneous orgasms in human females. In the trial involving 16 women, 6 had orgasms while smelling the fruit body, and the other ten, who received smaller doses, experienced physiological changes such as increased heart rate. All of the 20 men tested considered the smell disgusting. According to the authors, the results suggest that the hormone-like compounds present in the volatile portion of the gleba may have some similarity to human neurotransmitters released in females during sexual activity. The study used the species found in Hawaii, not the edible variety cultivated in China.

5: The most mysterious star in our galaxy

Astronomers have spotted a strange mess of objects whirling around a distant star. Scientists who search for extraterrestrial civilizations are scrambling to get a closer look.

6: Business Town

An ongoing project attempting to explain our highly intangible, deeply disruptive, data-driven, venture-backed, gluten-free economic meritocracy to the uninitiated. With apologies to Richard Scarry.

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7: Why ‘social justice warrior,’ a Gamergate insult, is now a dictionary entry

Most people hadn’t heard of a “social justice warrior” until about a year ago, when it emerged as the preferred term among the Gamergate movement for the people they believed to be their greatest enemies. Now, the word has crossed over enough into mainstream use that in August, “Social Justice Warrior” was included in the latest batch of words added to Oxford Dictionaries. The online dictionary from Oxford University Press defined the phrase as an informal, derogatory noun referring to “a person who expresses or promotes socially progressive views.”

8: How urban planning made Motown Records possible

The family piano’s role in the music that flowed out of the residential streets of Detroit cannot be overstated. The piano, and its availability to children of the black working class and middle class, is essential to understanding what happened in that time and place, and why it happened, not just with Berry Gordy, Jr. but with so many other young black musicians who came of age there from the late forties to the early sixties. What was special then about pianos and Detroit?

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Write a comma using a mailbox

1: Laugh factory

Read this one even if you read none of the rest of the links today.

It’s not just the Fat Jew. A whole online ecosystem exists to cut, paste, and cash in on other people’s jokes.

2: Wired Style: A linguist explains vintage internet slang

Two of my favourite topics collide: linguistic style and internet history. Gretchen McCulloch digs out Wired’s style guide to explore the evolution of internet slang and the importance of having a personal style guide.

3: Philosophy: the subject that improves children’s literacy, numeracy and conduct

We’re only about 2,500 years behind the Greeks but Philosophy is finally making it on to the school curriculum. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is drafting plans for a short course in the subject to be introduced as part of the new Junior Cycle curriculum.

4: Replacing “crazy” for ableism and preciseness of language

If you’ve arrived at the conclusion that the word “crazy” is ableist, or at least makes some people uncomfortable, or is commonly misused and overused to the point of losing its meaning, you may be struggling to find substitute words. This post is for you. I’ve put together a list of many words that convey better what you mean when you say “crazy” and the specific usages and contexts where they make sense. And fear not: many of them are colorful, and all of them pack punch.

5: Imgur Is the last true internet culture remaining — but can it survive?

There is no more popular online destination for the modern male than Imgur. By the numbers, this humble photo-sharing site is in firm command of the millennial dude, blowing BuzzFeed, Reddit and even Tumblr out of the water with over 150 million monthly visitors and the highest concentration of millennial males in the U.S.

But you wouldn’t know it unless you’ve stared Imgur right in its eyes. Or unless you’re part of the club.

6: The hidden bias of science’s universal language

The vast majority of scientific papers today are published in English. What gets lost when other languages get left out?

7: Why the Wingdings font exists

It seems as bizarre as it is ubiquitous. What is Wingdings thinking? Why would someone want to write a comma using a mailbox? Why would anyone think we want to compose in peace signs and crosses and heart shapes?

Shit readers give zero fucks about

The king of bullshit news

This is an excellent critical look into the veracity of CEN’s too-good-to-be-true stories, used by The Daily Mail, among (many) others:

How a small British news agency and its founder fill your Facebook feed with stories that are wonderful, wacky – and often wrong.

The words the media industry prefers

The scraping process and resulting visualisations are interesting; what got me more was Ford’s typically humorous style:

Does Bing care how I use it? I bet “nope.” After some testing, it seemed that was true. You can hit Bing tons of times and Microsoft is like, our milkshake brings all the bots to the cloud […] I exported the data to Excel because Google Spreadsheet charts look like they were made by color-blind eleven-year-olds. Excel charts, on the other hand, look like they were made by drunks who sell timeshares in Tampa […] In the far future, you might attend my wake. He did important work, you will think. His comparison of sexualized terms on websites changed America.

UX from hell

A couple [of] weeks ago a UX designer Twitter friend tweeted “Web peeps: Is there a particularly industry, segment, or niche that—generally speaking—has REALLY bad mobile web experiences?” I didn’t even have to have to think about it before replying: News sites.

I’m interested (personally and professionally) in news site UX, and have documented many similar things. I like the idea of “Shit the UX designer was forced to include” vs “Shit readers give zero fucks about”. Almost always a complete overlap.

A brief history of the # and the @, by Keith Houston

The average tweet is not an especially remarkable thing. It can contain letters (and almost always does), marks of punctuation (perhaps more of an acquired taste in this context), and pictures (mostly of cats and/or the photographer themselves). But in amongst these most conventional components of modern written communication are two special symbols around which orbits the whole edifice of Twitter. Neither letters nor marks of punctuation, the @- and #-symbols scattered throughout Twitter’s half billion daily messages are integral to its workings. And yet, they have always been interlopers amongst our written words.

Keith’s Shady Characters blog and book are both highly recommended.

Explore the trees

A terrifically detailed visualisation of all street trees in San Francisco. See also Matt Dance’s Trees of Edmonton.

A crowdsourced list of the top 50 cult movies

I asked my Twitter followers about their favorite cult films, and got some great responses (I also triggered a kind of Twitter war over whether quoting people’s tweets using the new embed feature is rude and/or noisy, but I will leave that for another day). Here’s a list of the top 50 suggestions — I didn’t include every one, but they all appear in the tweets I’ve embedded below.

Apple: ‘We do not accept fart apps on the Apple Watch’

My time as a cheese

A guy complained no one had wished him happy birthday on Twitter and things got weird. “On 13 January, Daniel was a bit miffed because people hadn’t wished him a happy birthday.” This gets super weird.

I tweeted to kids as a piece of cheese for a year. “My time as a cheese taught me that the internet is run by pre-teen girls (they were clearly that young, from their profile pictures and dodgy spelling), and that their fandoms demarcate the geography of Twitter. That social media, all its self-promotion and factions and bitching, was made not for childish adults so much as for actual children.”

Architects I work for just gave the best reactions I’ve ever seen in person. “I work as an intern at an office for a few architects as a draftsman. I make 2D drawings and 3D visualizations. I came with the idea to make one of their project into a VR experience and they liked the idea. They gave me a project to work with, which was a perfect fit for VR (a brand new college in Amsterdam with beautiful inside and outside spaces).”

An obsession – brutal, beautiful bus stop design of the former Soviet states.

The gorgeous typeface that drove men mad and sparked a 100-year mystery. “Over the course of more than a hundred illicit nightly trips, this man was committing a crime—against his partner, a man who owned half of what was being heaved into the Thames, and against himself, the force that had spurred its creation. This venerable figure, founder of the legendary Doves Press and the mastermind of its typeface, was a man named T.J. Cobden Sanderson. And he was taking the metal type that he had painstakingly overseen and dumping thousands of pounds of it into the river.”

A new index to measure sprawl gives high marks to Los Angeles. “There is perhaps no more vexing issue for urban policy makers than sprawl. And yet, there’s little consensus on how best to accurately measure it. It’s one thing to impugn the phenomenon for contributing to everything from long commutes, congested highways and worsening air pollution to growing segregation, poverty, obesity and mounting health problems. But it’s another to actually gauge the connection between sprawl and that daunting list of social and economic ills.” The curious and surprising thing here being that the ‘high marks’ in the article title refer to LA’s low levels of sprawl.

Influenced by. Ryan Boudinot (among other writers) on David Foster Wallace: “I don’t think I’ve ever had such a strong feeling that a book was going to change my writing so thoroughly. And of course it did, to the point where a lot of what I wrote for years afterward sounded imitative. That’s always the scary thing—we want so badly to be considered sui generis and hide our influences, but I go back to what Stevie Wonder once said about being afraid of not being influenced by great art. Infinite Jest seemed to me to continue the project that Pynchon was working on, to marry erudition to verbal looseness.” I’m slowly working my way through IJ for the second time. My first was a cold read, not really prepared for its density and length. Coming at it after having read so much about the book, its author, genesis and cultural reception, it is a very different experience. It feels like we’re nearing a Jeff Buckley-type situation, where DFW is over-romanticised to near-cliche by melancholy straight white males, but I’m hopeful his brilliance will outshine any such dismissal.