Running with scissors (and saws, hammers, nails)

Anyone concerned with the safety of children in school might be alarmed by this page from a very large-format picture book intended to promote pre-reading conversation and discussion in 1950s primary schools.

Collection: Sue Walker

Legs & Co.

This hand-drawn lithographic poster, which doesn’t carry a printer’s imprint or date, shows that you don’t need Photoshop to extend legs to eye-catching length on a billboard – the lithographic artist could do it all!

Collection: Department of Typography & Graphic Communication

Isotype revisited

The website of the AHRC-funded project Isotype revisited is now up and running. You might like to listen to this episode of Melvyn Bragg’s In our time where Otto Neurath’s contribution to logical positivism is discussed.

They’ve got form

Inland Revenue formThe ‘Designing information for everyday life’ team write:

The official form – in the literal senses of ‘a set order of words’, ‘a formal procedure’, and ‘a document designed to elicit information’ – remains a void in design history. There exists no account of the development of this neglected genre of information artefact.

This month at ‘Writing design’, the Design History Society’s annual conference, Paul Stiff convened a panel on ‘Designing and reading forms of discourse’ at which he and his colleagues Paul Dobraszczyk and Mike Esbester gave a sequence of three talks on the official form, arising from their work on the AHRC-funded project, ‘Designing information for everyday life, 1815–1914’.

Why is this work of interest to design historians, information designers, and people working in applied language studies? Because forms instantiate the earliest type of what came in the late 20th century to be called interaction design. They give concrete shape and particularity to the abstractions of ‘discourse’. They offer the prospect of insight into modes of (anonymous) designing before designers. And they promise the possibility of richer conceptions than are currently usual of historic users of design, readers who were required to respond with acts of compliance but who misunderstood, committed errors, stubbornly made refusals, and routinely transgressed the boundaries of the question field inscribed by the official mind.

The black and white book (2)

Iain Stevenson doubts that the ‘iPod moment’ for ebooks will be with us in the near future, in a letter in today’s Guardian.

Making branding cute

Journalist may joke about the ‘i’ prefix being an Apple trademark, but it seems that Apple does see the funny side.

Evidence-based design

Maybe not much hope, if Garry Trudeau is to be believed.

The black and white book

Mark Batty, writing in Forbes on ebooks, and the Amazon Kindle in particular, stresses the monochrome, one-dimensional quality of the electronic product. Exactly the same things were lost when books moved from manuscript to print: for several hundred years almost all printed books were black and white, and incunabula certainly had a restricted range of type sizes and styles when compared to the richness of manuscript:

‘Disadvantages? It mostly contains words, not pictures, and not in color. The content available is somewhat limited so far to topics in popular demand – health, money, sports, hobbies, news analysis, baby names. Conventional text titles, such as fiction, biography and history, are gaining traction, however, especially in certain niches, such as romance fiction, which comes in strengths from flaccid to super-steamy – and the latter has the advantage of coming to you digitally, wirelessly and confidentially, although, alas, also unillustrated.

‘What you read on the Kindle is all gray – a few shades of relatively low-resolution gray. It's always set in Caecilia, not a bad font in its own right, but what you get on the screen is words, not design. Whether your reading matter is racy, mind-numbingly violent, ingeniously obtuse or an auto parts list, it all looks the same. A purpose of type is to help evoke appropriate feeling though a pleasing but unobtrusive design. The fact that the Kindle can’t do this today indicates that it is not yet a book at all.’

Art on the street

Earlier this summer, when the Fine Art department degree shows were about to take place, I was convinced that these cryptic marks were part of a mystical street art installation – ley lines for urban utilities. They turned out to be just surveyors’ spray-painting after all, as I discovered when the roads around Earley Gate were unceremoniously dug up.

Read a book? Now wash your hands …

I saw this in the loos at Reading University Library. At first I thought it was an attempt to prevent sticky student fingers handling the books (there is a new cafĂ© in the Library), but then I realized it was just part of the general swine flu precautions …


The post may (or, depending on any delay at Blogger’s servers, may not) be posted at 09.09 on 09.09.09. You might have preferred me to wait until 20.09 on 20.09.2009. Are you a number? Or are you a free man?

A quick guide to italic handwriting

Thanks to Peter Fraterdeus at ATypI for this link. As he says, nothing like a nice ductus before coffee.