Give ’em an inch…


In establishing some rather detailed PowerPoint templates recently (which is quite doable with a decent grid in place, by the way), I came across this rather amazing article on Microsoft’s support site: ‘PPT97: PowerPoint Centimeters Different from Actual Centimeters’. The title says it all really, and unfortunately it’s neither: (a) a joke; or (b) any different in Office 2007.

In classic ‘that’s not a bug, it’s a feature’ mode, the article goes on to say ‘how much simpler the metric grid is in “PowerPoint centimeters” than in actual centimeters’. Or centimetres even. So much for convenient internationalization then, eh – one wonders if Microsoft’s fans at the European Commission might have something to say about this…

We’re talking telephone numbers


Custom typefaces for telephone directories can have many advantages, some of which were highlighted in another article. An interested reader enquired about some of the sources for that information, which reminded me that, at one point, I was actually considering directory typography as a dissertation topic during my Reading studies, and had gathered a fair amount of reference material in preparation.

In the end, I wrote a lengthy study of the euro symbol (subsequently published in Baseline), but almost a decade later, I still think the topic is worthy of further exploration. After all, aside from the cost and environmental benefits achieved through streamlined design, directory typography is a perfect demonstration of both typographic choreography (the letterforms and the space around them), and period methods of font creation.

However, as everything moves towards electronic format—who looks at a phonebook when it’s so easy to call Information or reach for Google these days?—perhaps this is a topic reaching its twilight years. (Indeed, a study of mobile phone typography might be more timely.) Still, there’s no harm in sharing some of the collected references, is there?  More ‣ 

Why type matters


Fonts grow on trees and everyone with a computer is a designer, right? Which means they all know about type, of course.

Well, not quite. Typography is a language, with its own grammar and syntax. And as with any language, fluency comes with in-depth study and regular practice, making communication as fluid and efficient as possible. And as communications channels both proliferate and converge, command of the language is a vital component in creating the most functional and efficient vehicles for communication. Type matters – read on and find out why.  More ‣ 

Making a Mockery


In a previous posting, I referred to small, homegrown apps that do specific tasks very well. One such is Balsamiq Mockups, a highly targeted application for mocking up user interfaces.

Where Mockups really wins is by striking a clever balance between utility (it contains pre-built versions of just about every UI component you could ever realistically need), fidelity (meaning even a quick sketch looks polished enough to convey quite detailed aspects of an interface), and hierarchy (that quick sketch has sufficient structure to indicate meaning and intent). Every component is editable to some degree, so, for example, switching from tabs to dropdowns is a simple copy-and-paste. Wireframing therefore becomes a snap, and yet there is still enough of a handdrawn feeling to convey a sense that, while things are certainly considered, they are not yet set in stone.  More ‣ 

Just my type: Platelet


Proofs from the early development of Platelet

A long long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I designed a typeface called Platelet. Having been Internationally schooled (ie. how to be dexterous with just one or two of the classics, most notably Univers), it was my first experience of creating letterforms, and there’s no denying that it was a naïve effort in many ways. Notwithstanding that however, the nice people at Emigre took enough of an interest to put it on the market (in July 1994), and the rest, as they say, is history.  More ‣ 

Productive, creative, or captive?


The horror, the horror: one day, you look down at your Dock (coz, like, you’re using a Mac of course) and see that you’ve got the entire Microsoft Office suite running, but none of the Creative Suite. Yup, you’ve kept your head down, kept your nose clean, and done your time – and have now officially become a manager. Your gleaming MacBook Pro is doing nothing more than a corporate drone’s Dull flaptop.  More ‣ 

Not so smooth


Close-up of ClearType-smoothed text

Discussions of web typography are usually about the frustrating inconsistencies and paucity of decent fonts likely to be available on a user’s machine. But when a client recently made a very sobering comment concerning cross-platform display, I got a rather rude reminder of how easily it is to forget more fundamental issues. Namely, anti-aliasing (or ‘smoothing’ in Microsoft-speak).  More ‣ 

Fashionably late


Back in December, I read an article in The New York Times (yes, on paper) that contained some staggering statistics about the number of dormant blogs. I’ve been unable to locate it again, but Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere was the undoubted source. The long and the short of it was that, of the 133 million blogs indexed by Technorati up until September 2008, fewer than one-in-ten had been updated in the previous three months.

So, just as the blogging steamroller appears to have run out of, er, steam, here I am stoking the fire again. We’ll see how far I get before running out of puff.