Monthly Archive for November, 2008

Bruce McCall on Letterman

I TiVo most of the late-night talk shows each night, in the hopes that some band or author that I love is featured – somehow, that’s easier than preemptively scanning TV Guide. But, I was genuinely surprised and thrilled to see the illustrator and writer Bruce McCall as a guest on David Letterman’s show, the other night.

I’m far too young to know his work from the National Lampoon, but McCall’s New Yorker covers are ingrained in my memory:

Bruce McCall New Yorker Covers

Some of Bruce McCall’s New Yorker covers, from 1995–2008.

Letterman’s show might not have the cultural relevance that it once did, but you get the sense by watching the segment that he’d rather be sitting there talking to McCall, than Mary-Kate or that chick from Twilight. It’s just one of the many things that make Dave tick, and why I have a TiVo season pass for the Late Show.

In the clip below, Letterman and McCall look at and discuss some of the work in McCall’s new children’s book, Marveltown.

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The Mostly True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway

The Mostly True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway:

There is a commonly held belief that Helvetica is the signage typeface of the New York City subway system, a belief reinforced by Helvetica, Gary Hustwit’s popular 2007 documentary about the typeface. But it is not true—or rather, it is only somewhat true. Helvetica is the official typeface of the MTA today, but it was not the typeface specified by Unimark International when it created a new signage system at the end of the 1960s.

r-train
R-train icon, set in Helvetica and Standard.

I noticed this discrepancy earlier this year – I had to recreate some MTA subway icons for use on a project, and noticed that the R train map icon looked nothing like the Helvetica “R”. The MTA’s own website seems to be confused about the type used in the system icons, let alone its station signage.

Enter typographer Paul Shaw, and his 10,000+ word piece on AIGA’s site. Did you now that Boston’s subway signage system was the first to use Helvetica, without modifications? Ever curious as to the process by which enamel signs are made? Want to just look at pretty pictures of subway signs over the years?

It’s a great history, for fans of typography and the MTA.

Saving Buffalo’s Untold Beauty

Downtown Buffalo

Photo Credit: Tony Cenicola/The New York TimesA photo of downtown Buffalo.

The Times had a great piece yesterday on Buffalo’s architectural legacy, and recent attempts to save historic buildings:

Buffalo is home to some of the greatest American architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with major architects like Henry Hobson Richardson, Frederick Law Olmsted, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright building marvels here. Together they shaped one of the grandest early visions of the democratic American city.

Yet Buffalo is more commonly identified with the crumbling infrastructure, abandoned homes and dwindling jobs that have defined the Rust Belt for the past 50 years. And for decades its architecture has seemed strangely frozen in time.

There is also an accompanying slide show, from which the photo above was taken.

Full disclosure: I’m originally from Buffalo.

What’s Hebrew for “Yes We Can”?

Well, that didnt’t take long – given the success of Barack Obama’s digital and design strategy in our recent presidential election, someone was bound to, ahem… completely rip him off, sooner or later.

Surprisingly, the most recent example is the campaign of Benjamin Netanyahu, the conservative Likud leader running for prime minister of Israel. The Times reports:

The colors, the fonts, the icons for donating and volunteering, the use of embedded video, and the social networking Facebook-type options — including Twitter, which hardly exists in Israel — all reflect a conscious effort by the Netanyahu campaign to learn from the Obama success.

I wonder if that type is the Hebrew Gotham?

wp-Hyphenate by KINGdesk

Wp-Hyphenate is a very promising plugin for WordPress, because it enables some typographical control not previously available for the web:

With it your left aligned text will be less ragged, and your jus­ti­fied text will avoid the ghastly word spac­ing that has pre­vented seri­ous web design­ers from using it.

It’s still in its early stages, but I’m experimenting with it here – using justified paragraphs and blockquotes. Let me know what you think.

Out of the box, the plugin broke my linked flickr image codes, so I had to put <a> tags on the whitelist, so the plugin ignores any linked text. Hopefully that issue will be addressed in the future.

UPDATE: Nov 16, 2008 – Jeff King has updated his plugin to address the issue described above.

Grant Park – Alex Wright

My colleague at NYTimes.com, Alex Wright, happened to be in Chicago last night, so he made his way to the Grant Park celebration. I’m sure that will be a moment to remember for some time.

Newsweek’s “Hackers and Spending Sprees”

Newsweek.com has some interesting tidbits about the recently completed presidential election between Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin:

  • Palin’s “rogue” shopping spree was greater than the earlier reported $150,000.
  • Obama didn’t choose Hillary Clinton for the VP slot mostly because of her husband.
  • Palin appeared with nothing on save for a towel, when McCain aides and strategists came to her hotel room to brief her at the Republican Convention.
  • Obama thinks some debate questions are stupid.

More will be released on Newsweek.com in the coming days.

Who Said Print is Dead?

OBAMA
Today’s edition of the New York Times.

I count myself lucky today, for scoring a copy of the paper before they ran out. Apparently, the situation is the same throughout the city, (though I’ve heard rumors of another 50,000 copy run).

In fact, there are a hundred or so people standing on line outside the Times headquarters, waiting for a fresh delivery of news, printed on dead trees.

Print Isn’t Dead

A hundred or so people, waiting on line for today’s paper, in front of the Times headquarters in midtown.

From Gawker:

Everybody wants a souvenir of Obama’s victory, and you know what makes a great souvenir? That’s right, a newspaper. This is a photo of a line outside the NYT building on 40th Street of people waiting—for a newspaper!

I hope that people still come to the Times for more than just a souvenir.