Best of the Blogs: Old School and New Skills


The most popular fonts of 2011, according to sales at, cover all categories — serif, sans, slab, script — so it’s hard to detect a single typographic trend. (I’d venture hand-lettered fonts.) But what is clear from this list of bestsellers is that terrific type is available from international boutique foundries, such as Liántype from Argentina and Typedepot in Bulgaria.

It’s been tweeted by Jonathan Hoefler and blogged by Society of Publication Designers: the 1912 American Type Founder’s Specimen Book is online in all its glory. This is not only an amazing collection of wonderful fonts but also a stunning example of book design. Many foundries have migrated their catalogs to the Web or, in the case of FontShop, to an iPad app. While that’s very convenient, give me a printed specimen book any day. And since the post includes a link to download the entire 1912 catalog, you actually can have the printed specimen book!

Über designer Erik Spiekermann tweeted about Playtype, so naturally I had to take a look. Created by the Danish design and branding agency e-Types, Playtype sells fonts that its designers have created for particular projects — or just for the fun of it. A nice touch: the site includes an illustrated typographer’s glossary.
Speaking of Spiekermann, watch Roger Black, Matthew Carter, Paul Shaw, and Spiekerman in a 30-minute video of a panel discussion at the Type Director’s Club. These titans of type served as the judges of the Typeface Design Competition, and as always the talk is spirited, perceptive, and persuasive.
Leave it to Matthew Butterick — the provocateur who made typography a hot topic with lawyers — to lambaste a blockbuster movie for its use of a lackluster font. Butterick was appalled to see that “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” uses Verdana for its subtitles so he wrote a missive to the film’s director Brad Bird about it. Read The Atlantic’s analysis and then download the letter.

OpenType can be a difficult concept to explain. That’s why OpenType expert Ralf Herrmann drew up a helpful infographic-slash-flowchart showing the origins and derivations of OpenType.
This is the first time I’ve come across the phrase “momtographer,” defined as a woman who so enjoys shooting with her DSLR that she starts a photography business even though she lacks the training and experience of the pros. Improve Photography takes a side in the heated debate about the role that these “momtographers” play in the business of photography, and it’s not what you’d expect. (Question: Surely there are “dadtographers,” too?)
Most wedding shooters aspire to be viewed as an elite photographer — with the clientele and fees that go along that reputation. Here’s another point of view from one who deliberately avoids breathing that rarified air. Find out “why I’m not a ‘high-end’ photographer” in this post on The Photo Life (via Jules Café).

Whether you’re a pro photographer or not, it’s best to stop before snapping the shutter and really take notice of what’s in front of you. Photographer Derrick Story shows what it means to really “see” a landscape.
Photoshop and Lightroom

The Lightroom 4 public beta is now available, so there are lots of useful posts about Lightroom flying across the Web. But that information does you no good if you haven’t yet figured out how Lightroom fits into your imaging workflow. Beyond Megapixels shows one way to work with Lightroom.

Why get fancy when simple will do? See how one photographer used basic Photoshop gradients to achieve stunning backgrounds in high-fashion shots. Design You Trust pointed us to this one.

You’ve seen the look: a crisp image surrounded by a crudely drawn frame. Digital Photography School shows how to create that effect.

I made a goofy holiday card featuring my dogs, one of which is a Great Pyrenees (a giant fluffy beast). I could have benefited from this tutorial “How To Remove Background Around Lots Of Hair in Photoshop.”
I think some people shy away from using Photoshop’s automation tools because they don’t trust themselves to tell Photoshop what they want and don’t trust Photoshop to give them what they expect. Or it could be that using actions to automate Photoshop simply never crossed their minds. Time to get over that. This Digital Photography Review post shows how to create actions for hands-free image processing.

Photoshop gives you lots of preset options for cropping the size of photos, but not if you want to crop to a ratio without having to specify a unit of measure. This tip from Digital Photography School shows you how to crop to a fixed ratio like 1:1 in Photoshop.

The Fotoshop by Adobé video, shown here on creativebits, has spread like wildfire, but I’m also partial to this cute Cooking with Photoshop stop-animation video posted by John Nack. The “click” sound gets annoying, though, so I suggest turning down the audio.

Ed Emberley has been described as a national treasure. You’ve probably read about his delightful how-to-draw books for kids or seen his illustrations without knowing who did them. A new video resolves that by taking you into Emberley’s home and studio to see his creative process. Get a taste of the video with this trailer on Boing Boing.
Adobe blogger extraordinaire Terry White shows easy ways to create harmonious colors in Illustrator CS5.

The mark of good design is to make appealing something that’s unappealing. You probably haven’t give much thought to the design problems inherent in tampon packaging, but that’s the brief student designer Heda Hokschirr tackled. Her solution, posted on fast Company Design is hip, clever and discreet.

If you’ve never seen the work of influential Dutch designer Wim Crouwel, be sure to check out this archive of his poster designs on Flyer Goodness.
Creative Process

Don’t you love watching the evolution of and hearing the logic behind a design? This rediscovered video features legendary letterer Herb Lubalin showing and telling how the PBS logo came to be. The client’s reaction to proposed designs is fascinating.

The British bookseller Waterstones has changed its logo — and its punctuation. The Apostrophe Protection Society is in an uproar, according to Logo Design Love.
“Graphic design has always been about words and images” begins this post on the Eye blog. It continues to say that today more then ever writing is “integral” to the design process. Do you agree?

Over the course of a week, Oh So Beautiful ran a series about different printing techniques. The episode on edge painting reeled me in. Other installments include digital printing, engraving, screen printing, letterpress, and foil stamping. There are lots of pictures, too.
Creative Business

This video is part pep talk and part cautionary tale. It’s a contemporary video that animates a 1967 speech by advertising genius Leo Burnett in which he describes what would compel him to take his name off the doors of his own agency. Via Adrants.
A study finds that even though creative professionals work longer hours, they are 50% happier in their jobs than their co-workers. Hmmmm.
Here’s an interesting question: Should designers do personal projects, like their own logos and business collateral, or outsource them to others? This Web Designer Depot post makes good arguments on both sides, and it’s not all about money.
Negotiating fees for your work is by far the hardest part of the design process (at least I think so). Dexigner identifies five fears of negotiating design fees and offers advice. For example: “Talking too much is always a sign of insecurity at the bargaining table.”

Determining your fees is even trickier these days thanks to crowdsourcing sites and others that offer services at a cut-rate price. When they saw a site that promised a logo design for just $42, Tom and Phil of design firm Mat Dolphin decided to see just what they’d get for that price. They posed as a client and tested the waters of the low-cost logo-development market. Read about their experience on Logo Design Love.
Given the tough job market, designers, especially young designers, need all the advice they can get. Creative Freelancer has tips for job seekers when interviewing: don’t wear jeans, do bring cupcakes.

Readers of my columns know that I am obsessed with taming my office clutter. Apartment Therapy shows just how spare my desk could be if I stripped it down to the bare essentials. How Design gives me incentive. When stuck creatively, clean your desk as you would before moving to another location. Uncluttered desk = uncluttered mind.

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and when it comes to affairs of the heart, an e-card just won’t do it. The Felt and Wire Shop sells materials that you can make into cards yourself. Or consider the lovely cards showcased on Oh So Beautiful Paper.

In addition to the Lubalin and Burnett videos, I’ve uncovered a few more posts about bygone eras:

The Atlantic has a video from the 1970s that shows how newspapers were produced back then. Makes me nostalgic for both the process in general and newspapers as a genre. After watching the video, hop over to the InDesign Google group to read designers’ reactions to it.

What’s a flong? asks Steven Heller after paging through an old dictionary of printing and graphic arts terms. Test yourself by looking at some of the other terms he found. By the way, a flong is “a moist mixture of paper-maché which, when impressed and dried, becomes the matrix or negative.”

If the above items give you wistful delight, you must — MUST — see The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies. The site has just “reopened,” so now’s the time to catch up, er, look back. Coincidentally, just last weekend I uncovered a non-repro blue pencil, a proportion wheel, and Haberule Type Rule when cleaning out my basement.

  • prerna says:

    Good blog.
    Thanks for sharing.

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