Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Whole Lotta Type Talk

While most people spend Memorial Day weekend at the beach or the park or some place outdoors, I've been indoors overloading on type terminology. The above image is my brain on type. When I left off yesterday, I understood the font vs. typeface division (mechanical vs. design) but I wasn't clear about the definition of a typeface.

According to the FontFeed (sanctioned by Erik Spiekermann), when a regular user talks about a typeface they include all of its basic variations and sometimes its widths and weights, however, "strictly speaking" each of these variations are separate typefaces. I have decided to join the ranks of the purists.

Here's an expanded definition of what one contributor calls the four Fs:

Family: a collection of related typefaces which share common design traits and a common name.

Face: any variant (the type style) of this coordinated design to include weight and width but not size.

Font: a typeface at a specific size and in a particular format.

Foundry: a manufacturer of type. (This may or may not include the designer, but I'm not going there.)

This means that Gotham Thin, Extra Light, Light, Book, Medium, Bold, Black, Ultra, and all of the Italic, Narrow, and Condensed versions are separate typefaces belonging to the type family Gotham. And with that, I am closing down my laptop and going outside.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Font vs Typeface

I've been in the publications field for a period of about 18 years now. When I first started in the business, graphic artists were just beginning to make the transition from hand pasting elements on boards to creating computer-generated artwork. Many terms from the old days remain in use without having to be further explained. A proof can still be called a blueline and no one bats an eye. Ask someone for camera-ready art even though negatives are no longer required and it's okay; but mention the word "font" when you are speaking about a "typeface" and your hard-earned credibility is shot.

It's a common error, however; in fact, the two words are so often confused that the FontFeed found it necessary to discuss and agree on the terms they would use when writing about their very own business: typography. By their definition, a font is the "physical embodiment of a collection of letters, numbers, and symbols whether it's a case of metal pieces or a computer file." Therefore, in the most basic terms, a font is what you purchase and put on your hard drive. It's what you e-mail to another person. It's the mechanical aspect based on the original metal letter forms. A font is like a paint brush. It's one of the utensils used for making art. By comparison, the word typeface refers to the design of the letters, numbers and symbols. It's how the O looks, the T looks, the Y looks, and how they all relate to each other.

Sounds easy, but if it were that simple, we would all get it right. Here's where it gets complicated. According to Jon Tan, every design has a family name (a typeface) and a series of personal names (fonts) which refer to the individualized styles, variants, and sizes of that typeface. So, while Gotham is the typeface, Gotham Book 12 pt is a font. That makes sense; but what about Gotham Light or Gotham Light Italic? Are they fonts or typefaces? I take Jon's interpretation to mean they are fonts, but the AIGA would call them typefaces. More on this subject tomorrow.

Image source.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Described by H&FJ as having "an honest tone that's assertive but never imposing, friendly but never folksy, confident but never aloof," Gotham is the typeface I'd like to be.

Introduced in 2000 and designed by Tobias Frere-Jones, Gotham's creation was inspired by New York City signage from the 1930s-60s when letterforms were put together out of necessity and not as a conscious art form. Most notably, the typeface was used by President Obama during the majority of his 2008 campaign for office.

It was a good choice. Distinctly American, the International Herald-Tribune called the selection a "combination of contemporary sophistication with nostalgia for America's past and a sense of duty." It was solid but not staid.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, identified with New Baskerville, a British typeface originally designed in 1762 and one connected with book publishers, law firms, and universities. It was studied like she was. And John McCain, a war veteran, selected Optima, the German typeface featured on Washington, D.C.'s Vietnam Memorial.

Well, this is an old topic, and many articles have been written about the Obama brand and how successful it was, but the point I'm making is that when you chose a typeface to represent your identity, it can be a very personal and far-reaching thing. So, what type would you like to be?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What Type Are You?

Another type personality quiz found here where Helvetica isn't an option. I am Archer Hairline, described as modern in appearance with tiny outbreaks of elegance and tiny dots of emotion apparent only on closer investigation. While Archer is an attractive, delicate typeface designed by H&FJ, I prefer one of the stronger variations like Archer Light or Archer Book. What type are you?

Monday, May 24, 2010

White Floors

We painted the living room floors white this past weekend. When I first moved into my apartment, everything was covered in beige carpet. It helped unify the space but I've never been a fan of carpet and within a short while it started to look dirty.

On a whim, we pulled the carpet up and discovered there was parquet underneath. It was a quite a chore carrying everything down to the dumpster in sections but we got it done. Unfortunately that wasn't the answer. The wood was dark, worn down, and it started to feel like a 1970s basement.

So I looked into having real hardwood floors installed but the price was prohibitive, especially when I have so much I still want to buy. The eventual solution was to paint everything white and after four or five coats, I am happy with the result.

Image source unknown. (Real photos to come at a later date.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Today is Cody's 12th birthday. He's an awesome kid, very bright with a good sense of humor. This photo was taken last summer but I like it because it shows his willingness to have fun.

Yesterday, Eric and I took an all-day Coast Guard-approved class in boating safety. Our plan is to buy a Westsail 28 and then travel either up the coast to Nova Scotia or down the ICW to Florida. After that, when we feel we have enough experience, we will strike out to discover the world. We are hoping Cody will come with us for the adventure.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


This photo is of my sister Andi and me when we lived in the Panana Canal Zone. The year is probably 1966. I always felt very protective of her as you can tell by the solid hand grip. A year or so later, when we were back in the US, there was an eclipse of the sun and I heard somewhere that if you looked directly at the sun, you would go blind. I kept my little sister in our basement playroom all day long with the curtains drawn just to make sure she wouldn't accidently look at the sun. It was a arduous task keeping her indoors but I taught her how to tell time and believed myself to have saved her eyesight that day. If you have a sister story, please tell it here. :-)

Friday, May 21, 2010


Uncertainty is an Indie film I found on Netflix and watched when I should have been reading Proust for the book club I instigated and now have to follow through with. (I want to do it; really, I do ...)

There are two versions of this story told simultaneously, both taking place on July 4th. The green events unfold in Brooklyn and the yellow ones in Manhattan. Spoilers follow: Kate and Bobby are a new couple, ten months into their relationship, when they discover she's pregnant. A toss of the coin at the beginning of the film turns them in two different directions, the subtle question being asked: do they keep the baby?

There's a larger question, though. What will happen to them in the course of their lives? In the Manhattan version, they find a treo and scheme to make $500,000 out of its return to some shady characters. They are concerned about their careers and spend the day on the run, just getting by, sleeping on cardboard. In Brooklyn, they find a dog and are surrounded by extended family relationships and love. They spend the night together in comfort.

The big decision is never pronounced directly, just as the initial question is never posed overtly. (That sentence is sooo bad, I'm gonna keep it.) The conclusion, however, isn't vague and that left me satisfied. Both stories end in the same place the movie begins, on the bridge, with a duplicated final statement. "What do we do next?" one asks. "I guess we just keep going." I interpret this to mean they stay together with the yellow couple deciding to pursue more personal goals and and the green couple opting for domesticity and family. While Eric gives this movie a thumbs down, calling it girlie, I give it a thumbs up for not beating me over the head with its message.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Small, Cool 2010

This photo is from the Small Cool contest international winner's apartment located in Barcelona. I like the plants, the light, and the simplicity. For the rest of the photos, go here. When I click on my "inspiration" tag, I am noticing a new personal trend in a preference for neutral colors and elements.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Danine retired to the relative quiet of surburban life after decades of writing for various corporations and nonprofits. A life long interest in time travel became reality 25 years ago when she discovered the substratum of historical reenactment groups in the San Francisco Bay area. This led to singing at Renaissance and Dickens fairs, and then to organizing events for groups in the "dress up and dance"set. A fourth-generation Californian, Danine enjoys traveling throughout the western states and making sporadic ventures to Europe and the East Coast to keep from becoming completely provincial.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tennessee Floods

I guess by now, if you live on the east coast of America, you have heard about the flash floods in middle Tennessee. This is my Aunt Jan's house in Franklin after the waters had started to recede. In total they got 3-4 feet of water inside their house and everything is ruined. But, in spite of the bad news, all is good. The volunteer support that has been there for her throughout this week has been amazing. Humanity is at its best in times of disaster.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

68 Knots (2007)

If you take this book for what it's worth and from the perspective of the audience for whom it's intended, 68 Knots is a good read. Eight teenagers, approximately junior year in high school, take over a schooner and spend the summer sailing around New England. There's lots of action to include boat races, treasure hunts, and storm sailing. They climb the mast, repair the hull, and perform man-overboard drills. As the story progresses, they learn how to operate as a team and a highly-functional crew.

The kids aren't Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy types. They drink rum and even resort to pirating when their cash flow is compromised. Unfortunately, they are stereotypical and author Michael Robert Evans over emphasizes their traits so heavily they never develop into multi-dimensional characters. To give Evans his props, though, he covers a wide spectrum of the sailing world and creates Bonnie, a consumer-weary cruiser who comes across as original even when the prototype is not, and Smudge, a drifter, who tells an engaging story about Annie's contest with the devil.