Yap, yap, yap

Operator by Jeremy Brooks, at Flickr

John Oliver Coffey dropped me an e-mail the other morning about a new discussion forum for typesetters, aptly called . . . Typesetter Forum. It’s

a new (and free) forum for questions, answers and opinions related to the publishing industry with particular emphasis on typesetting.

Its not exactly a free-for-all (will be lightly moderated) and is oriented towards collaboration . . . and solving common typesetting challenges whether in applications or techniques. We will also post jobs, contracts, news and resources for everyone interested in the industry.

So, of course, because I was supposed to be getting ready for work, I decided to check the site out instead. Continue reading “Yap, yap, yap”

All illustration, all the time

Nextbook.org home page, December 4, 2007: Hanukkah 1

Happy Hanukkah!

I hope you’re not getting sick of all these posts about illustrations, because I’ve got a whole week’s worth to crow about, and not a whole lot else. Nextbook.org is publishing a story about Hanukkah on each day of the holiday, and we decided to (a) get each one of them illustrated, and (b) have an image of a menorah (or, more specifically, a Hanukiah, as I learned yesterday—thank god for Wikipedia) on the home page, which will change each day as a new story is posted. Continue reading “All illustration, all the time”

Hot Hahn

Nextbook.org home page, 11/30/2007: Hot Rabbis

Through the magic of technology, even though I am "on vacation" I can happily inform you that today Nextbook posted this hot new illustration by Samantha Hahn, proprietress of the blog Maquette and frequent guest on Moldawer in the Morning, the Moldawer in question being her husband. Do go look at the version on the story page, as it differs from that on the home page in several ways (not least being its not having type slapped on top of it): The Girls’ Guide to Hot Rabbis and Tattooed Chefs.

If all goes as planned, Samantha’s second illustration for Nextbook will appear on Monday, so keep your eyes peeled.

How do you learn Photoshop?

blackboard art

I’ve heard it said that most Photoshop users actually use only about 2 percent of the program’s features, and I can support this theory with my own experience: I know how to do what I know how to do.

I’ve learned most of what I know how to do from watching other people, either on the job or at InDesign User Group meetings and similar showcase-type events. Oh, and once, I read maybe the first half of Real World Scanning and Halftones. When I need to know how to do something else, I look it up in Help, Google what I’m trying to do, or look online for a tutorial. And then, unless that new trick is something I start doing every day, I usually forget it again pretty quickly. I don’t usually learn how to do a task by seeing it done once, but just knowing that something can be done makes it much easier to figure it out later. I would never have tangled with the vanishing point tool, for instance, if I hadn’t seen it demoed at the NYC InDUG.

This approach has worked just fine for me, in an assortment of jobs, since 1996, when I first got my paws on a copy of the program. And apparently my 2 percent is good enough. Continue reading “How do you learn Photoshop?”

Am I in the wrong business?

dirty hands

I just spent something like three blissful hours doing my best to break a new module in Nextbook.org’s content management system, and then writing up a list of bugs and change requests. (The most rewarding was when I managed to elicit an SQL syntax error—all hail the mighty apostrophe!) This is perhaps the most fun thing I’ve done at my job all year.

I used to love doing this . . . stuff—what would you call it? QA?—at Poets.org (where it was a major part of my job), I once sent an unsolicited website critique to my friends at jubilat (I also sent an unsolicited critique of some typographic aspects the magazine, which garnered an “Okay, if you know so much, you fix it, smartass,” though much more kindly, of course), and I frequently submit bug reports to other sites that I visit. I haven’t gotten to really nitpick over any websites in recent years, though, and I miss it.

Anybody need a beta tester?

Photo: dirty hands by O Pish Posh / Shauna R; some rights reserved.

A love letter to letterpress

proof

Ampersand Duck is setting a book of poetry the slow way, and writing very affectionately about it.

You want the type to be invisible in a way, to let the meaning of the words exist independently. If a word is leaping out at you because it’s thick, dull and broken, it’s unfair to the reader. But the warmth of a handprinted page is delightful, ranging from dark greys to a dense black. It’s a small challenge for the spoilt eyes of a modern reader, to whom variety in print quality means the ink heads are a bit clogged, something to be fixed. It is the finite (and rapidly dwindling) number of letters that made me think about the preciousness of words set or written by hand. Poets are, by their nature, careful with words. It is a marvellous experience to get so intimate with a piece of writing. You may think your eyes and your mind caress a word as you read it, but imagine holding that word, piece by piece, and thinking about all its layers and nuances as you ease it into place (albeit upside down and back to front!).

(Sigh.) Sounds like fun.

Photo: proof_1 by Ampersand Duck; some rights reserved.

Is an educated author our best customer?

unhappy author at work on an earlier stage of the book

At the beginning of this week, I spent part of my lunch hour at the cafeteria (aka Whole Foods) casually consulting with a friend of a friend who’s checking the page proofs for her first book. It’s an anthology of articles about filmmaking, and it’s being brought forth by a reputable publisher of scholarly and professional books. Unfortunately for the author, her publisher is determined to produce the book as cheaply as possible: completely generic and poorly thought-out design, executed by apparently quite error-prone compositors in Hong Kong. She loathes the display type, she doubts the wisdom of the layout, she’s unhappy with the cover, . . . and her publisher has been fighting her at every step, since the moment the contract was signed. All in all, she’s not having a very warm and fuzzy experience as a first-time author.

And I’m torn, because she’s right—the interior design is hideous, and a lot of the layout choices just don’t make sense. For instance, perhaps half of the articles are interviews, and they’ve been indented on both sides, for their entire length. This wastes so much space that the body type in the book as a whole has had to be squeezed down quite small in order to make castoff. The design of the epigraphs and head notes is also ill-considered, and the front matter and display type throughout are extremely homely: too many fonts, too many styles, and utterly random indents throughout.

These are problems that a competent book designer/compositor, such as, oh, me or the designer friend through whom I know this person, could fix in one to two hours. I am dead certain that I could make the whole thing look much more inviting and coherent, while sticking to the desired page count, in less time than it will take the distraught author to mark up every single chapter title to be even small caps instead of caps + hideous fake small caps, as my friend and I cautiously recommended.

At the same time, however, looking wincingly at her stack of proofs, covered with Post-Its and liberally scrawled with deletions and additions, wordy corrections using nonstandard proofreading symbols, and requests for global layout changes, I deeply pity and sympathize with her editor and production crew. Continue reading “Is an educated author our best customer?”

The Future of Paper

rolled paper

I realized the need for e-paper in 1989. At Xerox PARC, we had long predicted the advent of the paperless office, with the widespread adoption of the personal computer we pioneered. The paperless office never happened. Instead, the personal computer caused more paper to be consumed. I realized that most of the paper consumption was caused by a difference in comfort level between reading documents on paper and reading them on the CRT screen. Any document over a half page in length was likely to be printed, subsequently read, and discarded within a day. There was a need for a paper-like electronic display—e-paper! It needed to have as many paper properties as possible, because ink on paper is the “perfect display.” Subsequently, I realized that the Gyricon display, which I had invented in the early 70s, was a good candidate for use as e-paper.
(Nick Sheridon, “Father of E-paper,” interviewed at The Future of Things)

I confess that I print nearly everything I have to read for my job, even though I spend all day (and night, obviously) reading text—much of it far longer than half a page—from a computer screen. I try to justify this by saying that I need to be able to mark things up, and that I don’t print anything at home. (Because I can’t. Because my inkjet got gummed up and I’m tired of fixing it.) But I do often e-mail PDFs to myself and print them at the office. Have you ever tried to cook from a recipe on your laptop screen? It sucks, especially if you have limited counter space.

At least I usually print on both sides. Continue reading “The Future of Paper”

Start sharpening your pencils!

Ceci n’est pas un oignon

Only two weeks to go until DrawMo! 2007, the project wherein interested parties try to make at least one drawing a day for the month of November. A dozen brave sketchers joined me on the group blog last fall, and I know that several others followed along at Flickr, on their own blogs, or (gasp) offline.

You, too, can draw more during DrawMo!

You do not have to participate publicly; it’s just more fun that way. To join the group blog, send me an e-mail or leave a comment over there. You can also join the Flickr group.

Become a Drawmonaut today!

[Cross-posted to Clusterflock]

Mr. Sunshine

Nextbook.org home page, October 8, 2007: Shalom Auslander

I was sick of posting the same two grumpy headshots of Shalom Auslander, who has a column on Nextbook.org and whom we feature pretty often, so I asked the valiant Aaron Artessa, who made such a lovely silk purse out of the sow’s-ear photos I sent him of Leonard Michaels, to draw us a grumpy illustration to accompany a podcast about Auslander’s new book, The Foreskin’s Lament. I love the little black rain cloud, which of course makes me think of Pooh. You know—wrath of God, Pooh, same thing.

If you don’t understand why Auslander has a rain cloud over his head, go listen to our podcast (where you can also see the illustration somewhat bigger) or watch the trailer for his book.