There’s a summer heatwave here. Yes, I know, it’s summer and it’s Australia, so saying it’s hot is somewhat tautological. But really, it’s been hot. Last Sunday the weather app on my phone (it’s addictive, isn’t it?) told me the temperature was 45 degrees. I have an OCD tendency to want to know the temperature in fahrenheit too. A quick calculation using the ‘add 15 and double it’ formula made it a staggering 120 degrees. (More accurately it translates to 113, but either way, when it gets that hot what’s a few degrees either way?) News reports of hordes of people at the beach proved the point and I bet the cinemas were packed too, given how icy their airconditioning usually is. We stayed inside all day in a dark room with the fan on, but perhaps we should have ventured to the beach, which this dingbat, from the DF Diversions character set, makes enticing.
Often the best things turn up when you are not looking for them, like this scrap of street poster. I have long been in the habit of looking for type everywhere I go — and even more so these days as I have a new project in the pipeline — but this fragment appeared when my focus was elsewhere. I like it on so many levels: the bold, no-nonsense sans serif type, the colour, the very scrappiness of the torn edges and glue residue. My upcoming project involves type and a book, so this piece of urban detritus is remarkably prescient.
I never intended my ‘short break’ to stretch to eleven months, but time has a way of ticking along and space has a way of getting itself filled. Over the last few weeks people have started to ask me what’s going on and if I’m returning to the blog, so if you are reading this, I guess the answer is that I have been successfully prodded. And in the way of all things timely and synchronous, a dusty ratty torn cardboard box came into my possession (the contents of which are for next time) with this most wonderful Toolite label stuck on the side.
Alphabet City Press is taking a short break, but I’ll be back. I am not an android assassin who has been denied entry into a police station, and therefore I will not be returning by driving a car through the doors to gain access. My return will be a little quieter—just the usual thing that will no doubt involve typography in some way. In the meantime, the DF Commercials clock and the wonderful Bach Script, a recent release from the Mendoza Vergara design studio, will have to suffice.
Well, if there were birds, I certainly saw no sign of them! But perhaps, in the middle of a sunny but cool day in late winter, they were nesting well away from my line of sight. This view captured my attention not just for its message, but for the range of hard surfaces surrounding it, which appear at odds with the imagery you would usually associate with birds—like trees and leaves and branches, materials which have a great deal more inherent suppleness than aluminium, concrete and brick. Also somewhat eyecatching is the use of title case, sometimes referred to as maximal caps. Minimal capitalisation, or sentence case, is more the thing these days. While I guess there’s nothing actually wrong with title case here, it’s just odd and stylistically outmoded. Which really only goes to show that I am not immune to the influence of typographic fashion.
Ed Benguiat is prolific. He has designed more than 600 typefaces—Benguiat, Benguiat Gothic, Bookman, Tiffany, Edwardian Script, Souvenir and Bauhaus are just a handful—and played a significant role in the establishment of ITC. Not to mention his hand in a multitude of logotypes—The New York Times, Ford, Readers Digest, AT&T, Estee Lauder, Esquire and countless more. In 1989 he was awarded the TDC Medal, the award from the Type Directors Club presented to those ‘who have made major contributions to the field of typography … and who by their work and talent have shown the value of a heightened awareness of typography in communication’. Before becoming a type designer he played drums in big bands with Stan Kenton and Woody Herman, and despite his stellar design career, he sees himself first and foremost as a jazz percussionist. On the connection between music and design, he has been quoted as saying: ‘Music is nothing more than placing sounds in their proper order so they are pleasing to the ear. What’s a layout? Placing things in their proper order so they are pleasing to the eye.’
Regardless of any political conservatism, King Kalakaua, last reigning king of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, seems to have left his mark in ways that matter—dancing, storytelling, surfing and music! He revived hula and surfing; his support of the ukulele contributed to its becoming the musical instrument symbolic of Hawaii; he wrote the lyrics to Hawai‘i Pono‘i, which became the Hawaiian state song. Not long after his reign began, in an attempt to boost a struggling economy, he negotiated a treaty with President Ulysses S Grant which allowed certain Hawaiian goods to be admitted to the United States tax-free. I don’t know if ‘fancy sliced’ pineapple was part of the deal, but this old packaging box features him prominently. It goes without saying that I like the typography, but I especially like his portrait—or is that Magnum, PI?
It’s the season of cheer alright. Christmas carols in parks, colourful banners in main streets, tinsel and baubles in christmas trees. And christmas sales already! In general, the obvious signs of commercial christmas don’t seem to be as blatantly overdone as some years, but what I have seen is a staggeringly high incidence of unimaginative typography. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of typefaces out there—many of them free—but it is as if the only fonts that can be used in the lead up to christmas are Algerian, Comic Sans and Papyrus.
In typography, an ellipsis is, as its common name suggests, a series of three dots. It has several uses, and its placement can convey a great deal of information by the very fact of taking the place of words that are absent. Primarily, it indicates an intentional omission of words from a larger text without changing the meaning. This can be an unfinished thought, a leading statement, a pause, a feeling. As for style, I use the option+semicolon keyboard command, which gives a non-breaking three dots, and I always insert a space each side of it. The well-regarded and much-used Chicago Manual of Style recommends the use of an ellipsis for any omitted word, phrase, line or paragraph from within—but not at the end of—a block of text, and their preferred method of construction is three spaced periods.