50 and 50

I’m really diggin the style of the project “50 and 50” — where 50 designers are invited to make an illustration of their state’s motto. The colorscheme (a sophisticated red white and blue) and format is consistent, and curator Dan Cassaro has a sort of modern-Americana vernacular + workhorse Futura-y look for the site which works great with the selected (typographically skilled) contributors. It’s good to see this style done well by more folks than just Draplin — though looks like he’ll be doing Oregon.

North Carolina by Matt Stevens — I’d have bought a print of this one if that had been an option; as it wasn’t I figured the next thing was to blog it. Please guys, prints? Or t-shirts? Tennessee by Matt Lehman. Massachussets by Mark Weaver.

via Public School

Just in Time, or A Short History of Production

I am a sucker for off-register process color, but a limited edition book printed one color at a time on this chain of obsolete printing technologies? Full of pictures of the changing technologies of mass printing? Oh yes please. From London-based designer Xavier Antin.

A book printed through a printing chain made of four desktop printers using four different colors and technologies dated from 1880 to 1976. A production process that brings together small scale and large scale production, two sides of the same history.

• MAGENTA (Stencil duplicator, 1880)
• CYAN (Spirit duplicator, 1923)
• BLACK (Laser printer, 1969)
• YELLOW (Inkjet printer, 1976)

Also available from Antin: Printing at Home, a book of recipes for hacking old inkjets to make, for instance, the brushjet printer, acid printer and potato wheel printer (shown)

via Beautiful/Decay

Tree of Codes, Part 2: Visual Editions Interview!

Some of our readers may remember our post a few weeks back about the Nov 15 release Jonathan Safran Foer (by way of Bruno Schulz) book Tree of Codes. We got a chance to get the ear of publisher Visual Editions‘ Anna Gerber & Britt Iversen and ask them a few questions.

Owen Troy: Congrats on your edition of Tristam Shandy. You’ve not only reproduced Sterne’s formal experiments but layered on some new ones. Can you tell us a little bit about the making of this edition, and maybe where it sits relative to the history of printings of the book?

Visual Editions: We haven’t so much layered new experiments, more than anything, we’ve enhanced the elements that were already there (the missing chapter is now perforated pages) and introduced entirely new ones (a shut door is now a folded page). The book is so playful, so irreverent and we thought it was a shame that the “classics” editions didn’t do anything to help readers see and feel that playfulness. The current editions seem to be more about printing onto cheap paper, in as few pages as possible, rather than trying to get anything close to getting the book’s spirit across. When we briefed APFEL (the design studio we worked with on the book) that’s just what we said: make this book relevant again because that’s what it and its audiences deserves, and be sure you have fun doing it.

OT: We’re really excited about Tree of Codes. We heard Jonathan Safran Foer’s account of how it came to pass that he’d be doing a book for Visual Editions but we’d love to your side of the initial contact?

VE: We’re really excited about it, too. We wrote Jonathan a sort of “love letter”. We had just started talking about the idea for Visual Editions and thought: Jonathan Safran Foer explores this kind of writing better than any other contemporary writer. So we emailed him, told him what we had in mind for VE and said something like “while we can’t offer you money, there are plenty of other things we can offer you.” We signed a two book deal with him shortly after.

OT: And then when he reached the conclusion that he wanted a book where each page was individually diecut, did you agree to it in advance of finding a printer capable of producing it? Was there ever a worry that it mightn’t be possible?

VE: Yes and yes. We made initial contact with the printers who produced Olafur Elliason’s House book [Your House], who said it was possible. But what they said was possible was very different to how we ended up having the book made. They said making something by hand in a very small quantity was possible. When we first started approaching printers with the view to mass produce the book, we literally got turned down by every single printer. They just kept saying that it wasn’t technically feasible. Die Keure in Belgium were the first printers who were up to the challenge, but there were even moments with them when they said the tests weren’t working. We just kept saying, we’ve got to find a way to make this work. And we did.

OT: You have on your website images of other visual innovations in the book form. Do you include these as a sort of primer into the tradition you will be creating books in? Or are you positioning VE as a sort of nexus of a community larger than just the books it publishes?

VE: That’s an interesting question. The images of other books are other examples of what we’re calling “visual writing”. Visual writing is the starting point for our press: we’re only setting out to publish books that are as visually engaging as the stories they tell. And the idea to include other images was to say, look, this has been done before, but never as the driving force behind a publisher. We also think it’s the right time, in terms of how we read, how books are being made, how books are being thought of, to be publishing visually rich books that also tell wonderful stories (in sometimes unexpected ways).

OT: Do you think there’s a line between books that use visual or formal innovation and “artist’s books?” Or is this largely a distinction of production and marketing, where Tree of Codes might otherwise have been an edition of 100 and sold only at Printed Matter, but you’re able to bring to a wider readership? Marketing is the key component for this success. If you want better marketing strategies then check out Victorious SEO for some new marketing strategies. 

VE: There’s a long and rich history of artists books which is a very separate area to what we’re setting out to do. One of our biggest ambitions is for our books to have a democratic reach. The main reason for this is because we think that more people read in a visual way. One of our visions, from the start, has been for our books to be read on the London Tube or the New York subway. Our books are produced to be durable and robust, not precious or niche. You’ll see that Tree of Codes, despite having holes on every page, feels very familiar as a book. It’s not only easy to handle, but most importantly, it’s easy to read. Which is just what we set out to do – for our books to be read, not just looked at.

[Note: This question sort of inspired an extended blog post from VE that expands upon this answer]

[More than just familiar as a book… in these pics it reminds me of one of Keith A Smith’s books about book form. Happy coincidence or sly book design?]

OT: Are there other books in the public domain or authors with an experimental bent that you have your eye on? Anything you want to share about upcoming releases?

VE: Our next book is a re-issue of the first ever “book in a box”: Composition No.1 by Marc Saporta and was first published in the early 1960s. Universal Everything, who mostly do screen-based interactive work, are designing the book for us, which we’re really really excited about. That’s set to come out next Spring.

Thanks for taking the time, Anna and Britt!

Original French edition of Composition No. 1, taken by Jill Walker

Huzzah for Animated gifs

Animated gifs have come up for me three times this week. I know, the word might make you think of that chain email your aunt sent on back in ‘aught six. But no, not those: contemporary animated gifs.

1: The artistic

Found on superb culture curator blog Lost at E Minor, Brandon Jan Blommart’s series of Americas Most Haunted animated gifs are fascinating and soothing.

2: The ZOMG

Gawker’s feminist(ish) blog Jezebel made a roundup of dozens of a newish sort of animated gifs as sort of “Like using emoticons, on steroids!”* which you use in a comments forum when you want to applaud someone:

A Comprehensive Glossary Of Gifs

or tell them to shut up, or that you will kill them,
A Comprehensive Glossary Of GifsA Comprehensive Glossary Of Gifs
or just “whatever.”

*This is actually a reference to the static face reaction shots of myfacewhen but applies even more to these. The quote was introduced to me in a metafilter’s comment about the jezebel post by dreamyshade, who continues: “instead of having text abstractions stand in for our faces, they/we use other people’s faces to stand in for our faces when talking anonymously and virtually.”

3: The uh, professional

I made one, for a google ad for my day job at Speck. It featured these new super limited edition lowbrow creature art iPhone cases. But… it was 160k, much too large for a google ad. In an attempt to get it under their 50k ceiling, I saved a severely lossy dithered 16color version.

We didn’t end up using it because well, it is terrible. But! Strangely compelling, in a vhs reticulation Prince of Darkness nostalgia way. (If you concur, maybe post in the comments a nodding Ms. Jay or something).

Further reading:

Slate has an article on the Glorious GIF Rennaissance and Artfagcity calls 2010 The Year of the Animated GIF. Neither of these articles mention iOS’ continued nonsupport of Flash as a contributing factor to the renaissance, but I don’t doubt it: the first wave of animated gifs predated Flash and all but disappeared to livejournal and myspace for years once Flash hit the scenes.

And as for the retro cheestastic style of that first wave of animated gifs, if you’re still hungry for em, perhaps you’d like to watch that new MIA video? Frankly I couldn’t get through it…

Etsy Schmetsy: Ooky Schpooky

O, October! Ookiest of months! As Halloween draws near, here’s an assortment of goods from the dark side of etsy (actually it gets much darker, but regretsy schmetsy this ain’t).

Row 1: Stuffed “Hattie” mummy by tinymonsterSpooky embroidery scissors and thread winder by cheswickcompanyGoth hair bow by CutieDynamite

Row 2: Branches metallic photo by RaceytayTor t-shirt by classichorrorsBrain in a cauldron soap by WashableArt

Row 3: Dia de los Muertos mask by MasquefaireThey Live pinhole sunglasses by dressyourwoundsWinged kitten necklace by AnomalyJewelry

*If you don’t know who Tor is, watch Plan 9 or more enjoyably Ed Wood. If you don’t know why They Live sunglasses are hilarious, perhaps you should watch the amazingly bad fight scene about them from the middle of the movie. And if you don’t understand what a winged cat has to do with halloween, hush now.

TypograFriday: Tree of Codes Part 1

I heard Jonathan Safran Foer speak with Vendela Vida (yep, co-editor of my favorite magazine ever) the other night as part of the excellent series City Arts and Lectures. After talking lucidly at length about his nonfiction book on the ethical implications of meat, Eating Animals, Vida asked him about a new book he had just finished called Tree of Codes. She showed him a copy (which is one of only ten dummies of the work extant) and he couldn’t contain his curiosity; he hadn’t actually seen it yet.

He was fascinated by his own work for this reason: he didn’t write the words to this book, and its form is rather interesting. London upstart/art publishers Visual Editions reportedly came to him with this offer: “we can’t pay you, but on the other hand we’ll make any sort of book you can imagine.” Their second book, after their ambitious edition of Tristram Shandy, will be his reaction to this challenge (“It’s gonna have to be really interesting to make that worth it”). All the words were written by Bruno Schultz, in his classic collection Street of Crocodiles. What Safran Foer brought to the work was, well, scissors.

Inspired by FBI, wartime or totalitarian redaction of documents, and by Schultz’ own erasure — Safran Foer called the work an “erased text” and told a little bit of the fate of Schultz, who was spared death for a time during the Holocaust by painting murals for a Nazi officer that were subsequently obscured, revealed, and smuggled from Poland by the Mossad — Safran Foer clipped away words revealing a new text: Street of Crocodiles. Visual Editions found a printer willing and able to make it: the published book, incredibly, will be diecut with a different die for every page.

He described the process as something he expected to be fun but was in fact very frustrating. But, one excellent quote from the evening was something like “as time goes on I have less and less faith that I can write something good, but I have more and more faith in accidents.” The juxtapositions and phrases he found in the process are all creative accidents: they surprised him and were not what he would have come to with his own devices.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled about the book. It’s right up my alley. I am fascinated by redaction and erasure. I like diecuts quite a bit. And, not only does it conjure memories of Street of Crocodiles (which is great, distinctly textured, both as a collection and as a somewhat different film by the Brothers Quay — the entirety of which is in two clips after the jump) but of experimental writings I have loved.

Burroughs used cut-ups. Oulipo writers have some games that start with found texts or otherwise artificially limiting word selection to force the creative accident. I dig artists books. And my favorite artist book ever, A Humument, is a  similar project to this one. I first encountered A Humument when its pages were exhibited at the museum when I was a kid. I found an edition years later as if from a remembered dream, and have bought three or four copies since. Artist Tom Phillips painted and drew directly over pages of the Victorian novel A Human Document, leaving words joined by proximity or rivers of white space to make new prose-poems (and a sort-of narrative starring a hero named “toge” who can only appear by name when the original text speaks of togetherness) with the remaining words; for each subsequent edition he’s repainted some pages differently so that the overall text changes over time, eventually becoming a wholly different piece than the original.

More pics after the jump and the whole thing here.

Continue reading TypograFriday: Tree of Codes Part 1

Typografriday: Lost World Fairs

The observant among you may have noticed that the type here at the ‘Agree is a little different. We’re dipping our toe in elegant typography using typekit, and we’re pleased as punch about it. If you don’t know much about using good type on the web yet, but want your site to look good (like ours does we hope, or like my brother’s blog which inspired us to take the plunge, or like thedieline) we definitely recommend it.

If you want to figure out how to make your site look unbelievably good, you should definitely head over to Jason Santa Maria’s site. He not only puts together some of the best examples of good web type, but he’s one of the clearest voices on explaining the new tools and finally, not coincidentally, one of the primary developers of those tools, including Typekit and the WOFF format.

His latest blog entry is a detailed behind-the-scenes of the making of the most fantastic typographic things on the web yet. Lost World’s Fairs. This was made to promote IE9’s support of WOFF (just when most of us were about seven years into considering IE dead). Santa Maria’s Moon one shows live type on a slant, shifted baselines and slant within a text box, overlapping text, text behind alpha masked objects and other things you thought the web couldn’t do. Naz Hamid‘s El Dorado has lovely overlapping transparent type, shifted letter by letter. (Yeah that’s all live css type… Crazy right?) And Frank T Chimero‘s Atlantis one is particularly awesome, combining excellent use of extended slab Hellenic and Simonson’s Avenir-contender Proxima Nova plus extended scrolling-as-narrative movement a la the best webcomic I can remember, When I am King.

Anyway don’t delay: go look at the Lost World’s Fairs right now. And if you’re curious for more, all of the contributors wrote about the experience: Jason, Frank, Naz, Trent, and Dave

Etsy Schmetsy: Tweeder

Autumn is upon us (mind you, in San Francisco that mostly means delightfully summer days, but I digress) and in New York it’s Fashion Week. Time to put away summer’s lightweight casuals and pull out the warmer, dressier heavy hitters. I am talking about woolen tweed, which in the world of handmade crafts has been reinvented from stuffily professorial – the stuff of John Hodgman and Rupert Giles – to adorable and flirty.

Row One  : :  Wool cloche by lizarietz : :  The Delivery Pack by Sketchbook : :  Deer brooch by shopJoliette

Row Two  : :  corduroy and tweed reversible spats by merrybe : :  wool/cashmere/silk cowl by breadandroses2 : :   “the roaring fire” upcycled pillow by emmadear

Row Three  : :  Bon Bon and Belchick (tweed woodland squirrels in love) by sleepyking : :  upcycled scarf by HTandH : : wool wrap coat by 13threads

Row Four  : :  Recycled suits messenger bag by RumahKampung : :  Handmade Journal by Highland Books : :  travel cape by daintythings

Typografriday: Calligraffiti

We’ve mentioned Niels “Shoe” Meulman before, but in case you hadn’t looked closer at his Calligraffiti pieces, I wanted to show a few more. I’m not generally even a big fan of graffiti (and nazis and ed hardy have both seriously threatened my love for fraktur) but his hybrid of a loose blackletter and the drips and attitude of grafitti is inspired and beautiful.





Oh and he makes fancy big silk Unruly scarves too, with lovely color combinations and hidden subversive texts (e.g. “Society Fools,” shown on the model). I’m tempted to buy one but maybe just because it comes with a signed copy of his book.


Although he is fierce at defending his turf, Shoe isn’t the only writer at this intersection. I’ve recently discovered Luca Barcellona, whose lettering work is fantastic, and all the better when he mixes it up with spraypaint on a wall. Here’s a flickr set full of crossover work with his “Rebel Ink” crew.


rebel_wall2 copy

Oh and, happy typografriday!

TypograFriday: 8 Faces

Happy TypograFriday! It’s been a few weeks, type fans, but the type world went and moved on without us. In case you missed its debut a month back, there’s a new typophile magazine in the world. 8 Faces is a project of British designer Elliot Jay Stocks, and it’s a very approachable magazine for people obsessed with letterforms. The 1000 copy print run sold out in two hours, but there is a PDF edition available too.


The magazine is primarily long interview/profile pieces with luminaries in different subsections of the type world such as veteran designer Erik Spiekermann, superhot letterer Jessica Hische, webtype expert Jason Santa Maria, and quality freefont pioneer Jos Buivenga. Earls asks good questions, and they give interesting responses.

For as timeless (or even classical) an art form as type design is, there is a recurring discussion of the very interesting times we are in, in terms of webtype formats, technologies, pricing models and so on. One needn’t be a total typophile to appreciate it; it’s probably the clearest resource I have seen for where the present and future of webtype.


And the title of the magazine comes from a spread that ends each interview, where the designer answers the eternal question: if you could use just 8 typefaces for the rest of your life, which would you choose? I love hearing people’s answers to these sorts of questions (and if you do too may I suggest Types Best Remembered/Forgotten? And because we aren’t holding our breath for Earls to profile us, we’ve preemptively answered the question for ourselves.

  • Kirsten: I use the same five almost all the time… Futura, Avenir, Helvetica, Century Gothic, Cursive Handwriting
  • Jessica: Some obvious. Some cheesy. Some very similar to others. Some I really like, but haven’t yet had the pleasure of using. Futura (obviously), Avenir, Clarendon, Century Schoolbook, Cooper Black (that’s right, I said it), Mrs. Eaves, Rockwell, Neutra
  • Owen: Sentinel (I was going to say Clarendon, but the folks in 8 Faces #1 convinced me that Sentinel supercedes it now), Neutraface, Knockout, Omnes Pro, Futura, Freight (love the versatility of the whole family but even if it was just Freight Micro it might make it onto the list anyway), Bodoni, AGaramond
  • Samantha: Estilo Text, Vendetta, Neutraface, Clarendon/Sentinel, Futura, Garamond, Omnes Pro, GarageGothic (good thing we’re married)

There will be a second issue in a longer print run before Christmas, themed “You.”

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