I’ve always been on the move. It started before I was even four years old, going from Vicenza, Italy to Vancouver, Washington. My dad, a retired Chief Warrant Officer 3, served in the Army for 20 years and we were stationed in three states. Through twelve grades I changed school nine times.
Twice I moved mid-year. The first time was during kindergarten, Vancouver to Indianapolis. There, my parents tried to enroll me but a full year of kindergarten wasn’t required, so I stayed home. I cried, my mom says, but I later found it funny: joking that I only learned the first half of the alphabet, a through m.
For college I moved to Boston. Four years later I was in New York City. Three more and I was back in the Northwest. Now I’ve been here six years, the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place.
My professional career has been focused — magazines, primarily — but as unstable as my moves. Until two years ago when I became the design director of Seattle Met. In that time, I have been firmly planted, producing a local magazine every month, and settling into the city. Moving to another place is no longer a temptation — I love it here. Today my 27th issue hits the press. This closing week was the smoothest it’s ever been.
But it’s the last issue that I’ll ship.
It was my pursuit of a writing degree that drove me to typography. It began as an attempt to add legitimacy to both my peers’ and my own work. During workshops I wondered if our short stories, in all their inkjet glory, could be fairly judged. Was any story, in fact, the same if presented as both double-spaced Times New Roman from Word and neatly justified columns of Mercury in Esquire?
The design-driven campus magazine I co-founded and the many chapbooks I made all stemmed from that thought. It drives me still: the possibility that proper typography — beautiful and original typefaces, employed with care — reveals credibility.
When I quit my last job, web font services had emerged and I found myself consumed by browser typography. As in college, I wanted to figure out how I could make words look as true as possible. Now two years later, fonts from services like Webtype are a must-have for any legit website or app. But as has been the case since forever, when the awareness of type grows, so does the amount of work produced by those with no real know-how.
Bad typography is rampant and it drives me nuts. Recently, when I found myself digging into source code and taking screenshots of responsive designs to capture their line-heights, I realized it was time for me to move on.
This is such an exciting period of innovation, a rapturous phase for consuming everything editorial and typographic. An iOS Newsstand notification, when done well, is a thrilling little thing. I want to be more involved. I’m going to help.
“I never learned the second half of the alphabet.”
An entirely nonsensical notion. But I’ve always liked that from the beginning I might have been cut off and forced to get from n to z on my own. I’ve worked really hard with this alphabet of ours — sometimes I know it by heart, sometimes it looks all mixed up.
This is the latest Newsweek cover (they’re all digital editions now). Offensive? Yep.
Oh, no, no, wait — it’s not the image of the gun or whatever Mamet’s fierce words are firing after. It’s that little thing down there at the bottom. “Pull for Content” on its side, a fragile target.
“Clay pigeon?” @luxuryluke asks.
What a perfect word for these debatable objects. This one shows a particular mistrust in the reader’s understanding of what to do with a digital magazine. More so, it shows a highly unimaginative designer. Aren’t tablets the stuff of movement, timing, sounds, fades? If ever there was a device to help the reader — hell, force the reader — to sink into a magazine.
“Lobbed interface pandering?” @luxuryluke then suggests.
Exactly. When will this LIP service end?
“… all the boundaries of print just feel so incredibly old-fashioned now—the need to do things in a certain shape, in a certain mix, by a certain time of day in the week.”
Tina Brown in New York magazine, regarding the Daily Beast
I stopped using Instapaper years ago, for a few reasons. The main one being, if a site can’t properly present their text, then it doesn’t deserve to be read. I read everything in its native state and yes, often this just plain sucks. When it’s bad enough, I close the page and forget about the article.
I cannot alter a printed book. I have to make the choice to buy it. It’s no accident that I tend to buy well-produced books. And if I take the risk with a poorly designed book, I return it before I’m finished (usually a typography book with typographic errors), or I share criticism with my friends. I certainly don’t share a link to it. My dollars, or criticism, keep me honest.
That one can avert an original web page, sending an article to Instapaper, immediately erodes the feedback loop. The reader is basically telling the publisher (or, I suppose, not telling), “The text is the only thing that matters, so I’ll find a way to read it; I’ll give you a pass.” But that’s not fair to designers and typographers that are working hard to get things right—who already do things right—and it’s not helping the people who are responsible for the bad site to begin with.
(I’m not ignorant about the non-design decision to simply save content for later. If that’s your sole reason for using Instapaper, I would have a hard time debating that benefit. As someone who owns wi-fi only iPads, I occaisionaly long to have articles on hand. For now, I leave pages open in Safari tabs. Sometimes a page times out and I’m left with a grey screen. That wouldn’t happen with Instapaper, I know.)
But my challenge to you is this: Stop reading articles if they’re not presented in a readable way. Don’t circumvent their typography, because we don’t separate content from design in the real world. Stop “buying” text without its design and never link to a story’s native presentation if you yourself read it elsewhere. Encourage this behavior—be critical. If you really care about an article, tell the author. Tell the designer. Tell them that why you stopped going to their site. Post screen shots to Flickr, dish out critiques on Twitter, start a list on Listgeeks that ranks the sites that have the best reading experience, and the worst. Get picky with the web. There’s no lack of stories to read, so read the ones that care about you.
If you’ve ever checked this tweet from Big Boi to make sure it wasn’t a hallucination, then this short interview on Pitchfork is a welcome update. Still, this unlikely yet promising collaboration continues to spin heads.
Pitchfork: What’s happening with the stuff you did with Modest Mouse? Big Boi: It’s for their record; it’s coming. We actually took a trip back out there to go see them a couple months ago. I did maybe three records with them. Isaac [Brock] is cool, man, like cowboy cool. He showed me how to make a bong out of an apple and shit. For real.
Say what? English can be so SpottieOttieDopaliscious. Apple bongs aside, for a moment there it almost sounded like Big Boi and MoMo have an epic trilogy on their hands. But I think it’s safe to say that he used the word record in two different ways. Record colloquially refers to an album of songs — if not specifically a vinyl disc — but also to a single track. The Grammys remind us of this when Record of the Year follows Song of the Year. (The same work often wins, but Record of the Year honors the producer and engineer, too, not just the songwriter.)
So, now we know for sure that Big Boi spent enough time with Mr. Cowboy Cool & the Gang to record (verb!) more than one verse. But keep in mind that Brock’s label since 2005 is, intentionally, called Glacial Pace. If the promise of just one Brock/Boi track got us through the last 20 months, then this news of three should keep us floating on.
“Refer typographic disputes to the higher courts of speech and thinking.”
Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style
Poor Myrle ran a poor organization. It didn’t even have a website. Without a dime of funding in over three months, his hopes of helping people find themselves by way of evening drawing classes held in the basement of a church to which he didn’t belong were now all but lost. Long ago he had been somebody, then nobody, then somebody again and now he was back to being a nobody. If, he thought, if he could bottle and sell the curves of life, the highs and lows, then he’d be rich enough to keep his organization going, in order to save more people from riding the proverbial roller coaster. But poor Myrle’s experience in the universe’s carnival had taught him one thing: the stuffed animals we win are mostly filling. So he sunk back into being nobody, for now.