“I’ve got science for any occasion
Postulating theorems, formulating equations”


This is so wonderfully geeky I can barely stand it:

Last week I mentioned the atomic pen, which scientists used to construct some awfully tiny letters one atom at a time. These are small letters indeed: measuring two nanometers in height, they’re about 1/40000 the thickness of a human hair, which surely gives their inventor sufficient authority to issue the casual throwdown that “it’s not possible to write any smaller than this.” But it is, of course, and the technique for doing so has been known to typefounders for more than five hundred years.

Go find out who won that throwdown: “Atoms and Aldus” by Jonathan Hoefler, Typography.com (via Tom Christensen’s rightreading.com).


For anyone who uses print-on-demand outfits such as Lulu.com, or who has been considering doing so, Cathi points out the following brilliance:

Dear Lulu” is a test book researched and produced by graphic design students and Prof. Frank Philippin at Hochschule Darmstadt, Germany, during an intensive two-day workshop with London-based designer James Goggin (Practise). The book’s intention is to act as a calibration document for testing colour, pattern, format, texture and typography.

Exercises in colour profile (Adobe RGB/sRGB/CMYK/Greyscale), halftoning, point size, line, geometry, skin tone, colour texture, cropping and print finishing provide useful data for other designers and self-publishers to judge the possibilities and quality of online print-on-demand — specifically Lulu.com, with this edition.

The book’s price is set at Lulu.com’s exact printing cost per unit.

Continue reading “Calibrate!”

And attendance is the other 50 percent of your grade.

Free Hand Penmanship Series Writing Charts

Fonts can shape reality in intangible ways, as Phil Renaud, a graphic designer from Phoenix, discovered when he studied the relationship between his grades and the fonts he used for his college papers. Papers set in Georgia, a less common font with serifs, generally received A’s while those rendered in Times Roman averaged B’s.

—Peter Wayner, “Down With Helvetica: Design Your Own Font,” New York Times, June 26, 2008

Man, that’s why I got those B’s in college: Georgia hadn’t yet been designed.

(Thanks, Rose!)

. . .

In other news, I just registered for TypeCon again. Anybody else going?

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.

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”