This great news ought to keep fans of typography and lettering busy: the Letterform Archive, the physical collection of letter arts based in San Francisco, has digitized a significant chunk of their holdings and that searchable database is now free and open to the Internet.
As I write this, a few weeks into an open-ended global self-quarantine that we hope might mitigate the worst effects of what data suggests will be a historic wave of illness and death, it’s easy to feel that the future has been stolen, or at least the luxury of feeling halfway certain what the future might hold on levels both micro and macro. It’s easy, as well, to feel that even the very recent past is suddenly unavailable, at least without the risk of tumbling into nostalgia for a time when we took mundane errands and gatherings for granted. As winter finally gives way to spring, each day offering my three-year-old daughter new flower buds to marvel at through the sliding glass door, I find myself living like a goldfish in a bowl, endlessly tracing the same few movements—bedroom to bathroom to kitchen to living room to kitchen to living room to bathroom to bedroom. I yearn for a return to normalcy while fearing the consequences that return might bring. I watch governments at home and abroad either fumble or sabotage their response to this disaster. For lack of a better option, I batten down the hatches and wait for death to roll through, hoping that by sheer luck myself and those I love might be passed by. And in the meantime, I focus as much of my attention as possible on my daughter’s shrieks of glee as she notes the day’s new purple and yellow buds. You’d think the kid had never seen a flower before.
Good news, you can now stream Hertzfeldt’s It’s Such a Beautiful Day for free via Vimeo:
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Jordan Mechner’s game development diaries from when he made the original Prince of Persia are a good read, and now available in what looks like a nicely illustrated hardback edition — he was a teenager when he released his first commercial game and roughly 20 when developing the even bigger hit Prince of Persia, and his diaries illuminate both the remarkable technical accomplishments he was able to pull off on the limited 1980s hardware but also the mind and outlook of a teenager diving into an increasingly commercial world.
From the NY Times, one of the more interesting science reports I’ve read lately: there exist a number of species of plants that thrive in metal-rich environments, soaking up the heavy elements that can then be harvested and used for industrial purposes (traditional farming has a lot of downsides, but perhaps not as many as mining operations?).
Slicing open one of these trees or running the leaves of its bush cousin through a peanut press produces a sap that oozes a neon blue-green. This “juice” is actually one-quarter nickel, far more concentrated than the ore feeding the world’s nickel smelters.
This quote is evocative of the “speculative fiction” sound this makes:
The language of literature on phytomining, or agromining, hints of a future when plant and machine live together: bio-ore, metal farm, metal crops. “Smelting plants” sounds about as incongruous as carving oxygen.
In 1985, computer graphics were exotic enough that using them for a TV commercial was the kind of thing you might save for a Super Bowl ad slot, as seen in this short documentary. I would not have guessed that the first significant use of CGI on TV was for an ad illustrating the sexy (?) futuristic appear of _aluminum cans_.
(They fail to mention this in this mini-doc, but the ad studio was clearly lifting the chrome-plated sexy robots imagery of Japanese illustrator Hajime Sorayama)
As my office building at the University adds more and more permanent signage with zero consistency in typeface choice or other typographic consideration, this passage from Adrian Frutiger stood out:
The reader encounters typefaces in other forms as well as in printing. His daily environment, in face his entire living space, is filled with typographic characters of all kinds.
Unlike printed matter, with which the reader can bring the written word into his field of vision according to his own desire and choice, lettering on buildings is forced into view without restraint. Depending on its design, such lettering can provide an enrichment of the environment, almost in the sense of ornamentation, or, on the other hand, it can be ugly and therefore experienced as aggressive “pictorial noise”, inimical to the environment.
In this connection, lettering can be regarded as two-dimensional architecture. This realisation makes it possible to appreciate the designing of public signs and notices from a completely new viewpoint, by integrating them into the total concept instead of simply “sticking them on” or “hanging them up”.