Protected birds

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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

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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.’

King of Hawaii

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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?

Ho ho ho!

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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.

Dot dot dot

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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.

Bank

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I like this because there is no mucking around. Just one short word and you know exactly where you are. The lettering is gold, so if your money was lodged with this establishment you might feel reassured that it was being managed in a profitable way. I’m itching to tinker with the kerning though.

The end

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I can’t even remember what movie this was. I have a vague memory of it being the tail end of something before the thing I was recording started—highly likely in light of the fact that tv program guide times are more of a suggestion than something you can set the recording clock by. Anyway, I just thought it was rather lovely—pleasingly proportioned and elegantly drawn, on that moody backdrop of clouds.

Inverted commas

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Inverted commas, quotation marks, quote marks, speech marks, sixty-six-ninety-nines. Whatever you want to call them, they are pairs (one opening, one closing) of double or single punctuation marks to indicate direct speech, quotations or phrases. Although the double quotation mark dates from the fifteenth century, usage specific to quoted material did not became common till 200 years later. Single quotation mark came into being around 1800 to indicate a second level of quotation. In current usage this order has been reversed. Single quotes are used first, and a quote within a quote takes on double quote marks. Like any letter form or punctuation mark, inverted commas vary in design from typeface to typeface, from the lush curves of Sahara Bodoni to the chunky blocks of Interstate and everything in between.

Leading

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In typography, leading (also referred to as line spacing) is the vertical distance between lines of type. The term ‘leading’ comes from the days when type was set by hand and strips of lead were inserted between the lines of type to determine the vertical space. This week I have been reminded how important the appropriate use of leading is in blocks of text. I am currently reading two books whose approach to leading is extreme. One is a re-issued re-packaged fiction book, where the leading is set so tight it is uncomfortable to read, despite the fact that it’s a great book by an author I admire. The other is a nonfiction book where the leading is so airy that, while the content of the book is really quite informative, as I read the text I can’t help thinking that it lacks substance and has been overly line-spaced to meet the criteria of a certain number of pages to justify the price.

He

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I had an email from my friend a couple of days ago. She’s in Tasmania this week, so I was not expecting to hear from her. She had attached a couple of photos of a pub sign, but it was the message itself which was inordinately pleasing: ‘I love how the H has extended a helping hand to the E,’ she says. ‘See what you’ve done to me—photographing typography—I mean, really!’