The black and white candidate

BARACK OBAMA MAY or may not become the first black president, but he is the first black-and-white candidate of this century.

The newspaper disease

INSIDE AND OUTSIDE of the paper, there’s no confusion about who the paper belongs to. Not the editors who built it, not the reporters who fill it with articles, but the men who bought and paid for it. - David Carr

Requiem for a candidate

IS BARACK OBAMA joining the establishment, now that he’s changed his logo from upper-and-lower to caps-and-small caps? I haven’t heard anyone make this charge, but there has been a lot of talk about the branding of the candidates.

Resolution, Exhibit A (of A-Z)

THE FOLLOWING IS a requested response to Bill Hill from its author to me.

The last year-end post

IT’S IRONIC, BUT 2007 was the Year of Helvetica. The reason, of course, was the Gary Hustwit documentary film by the same name. I waited until September and the ATypI to see it — and wrote about it then — and now my lingering impression is the role of the great Massimo Vignelli, as a kind of Timothy Leary of modern design. Turn on, tune in, drop out. You need no more than six typefaces.

A milestone on the road
to digital magazines

WITHOUT MUCH FANFARE, The New York Times has introduced an online version of T—the seasonal style sections that used to be called “Part Two’s” of its magazine. The design was done with the help of Createthe, an agency that designed the Calvin Klein web site. You can see the hand of Janet Froelich, the brilliant art director of the magazines, but not the influence of the Times’ famous web designer, Khoi Vinh, who has positioned himself as a mediator between print and online and who tends to favor plain old HTML over flashier technologies.

Type as dogma

THIS PAST WEEKEND, the annual Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) conference in Brighton screened the movie Helvetica. This is a fine documentary, directed by Gary Hustwit. It’s been shown at a few other conferences this year, and is now enjoying a small art house run. As one of those who hasn’t used Helvetica since 1970, I was prepared not to like it. But Helvetica, the movie, won me over — mostly by intercutting many striking shots of the typeface in use all over the world, for every possible purpose, and in every situation, from monumental corporate identity to graffiti-covered municipal notices.

Rupert makes his move

THE SALE OF Dow Jones to Murdoch has been greeted by much clucking in the press. Every paper, with the exception of The New York Sun and maybe the Journal itself, seems to have concluded that this is the sad, if inevitable, end to the long, lustrous legacy of a fine journalistic institution. Most columnists point to other supposedly fine papers that were ruined by the man once called the Dirty Digger. Case in point: The Times of London. No one remembers that that gray lady had become pretty frail by the end of the Thomson era. In 1981, when Murdoch took over, the bureau system (which the Times may have invented) was moribund. No longer was there a Times man in every outpost of the Empire serving as an alternative conduit to Whitehall for frustrated foreign ministers. Not that they needed one: the Empire itself was gone.

Eye candy

I MAY BE getting more irritable as I age, which is saying something, but I am increasingly rankled by design that is a superficial visual fix for a complex problem. It seems that the only design that gets attention is “cool”. But you don’t hear about how well it works or how well it solves the problem.

Remember the “print edition?”

HERE IS A simple question: Why don’t newspaper Web sites promote their printed newspapers more? When they first built Web sites, papers crowed about them. They were proud to have gone online, and they wanted everyone to know. There were lots of teasers in the paper about all the stuff you can get on the web. Stories point to more resources. Readers are urged to vote in polls, give feedback to the columnists, and buy cars.

Fuzzy thinking and sharp type

FOR MANY YEARS now I've been aware that people designing for the web are interested in type being "sharper" on the screen. Customers have contacted our shop saying that logos, buttons, and whole fonts needed "sharpening". I think, they think, there is some magic hole that one can put a typographic image into, turn a handle, blow off the dust, and the fuzziness will be gone.

No timetable
for the readability wars

AFTER A FLURRY of discussion about the Microsoft proposal on EOT font embedding, I have some further thoughts on the subject of screen fonts.

Screen fonts,
from Adobe’s point of view

THE COMMENTS IN recent entries on this blog about text in Flash and PDF highlight that Adobe is doing a poor job of making our text features easily discoverable for designers, developers and end-users. I would like to address some of your misconceptions about Flash and PDF text, and encourage you to provide feedback on how we can continue to improve text within Adobe technologies. We’d love to talk to you.

Getting in bed with type

THERE IS FRESH word from Redmond that after all these years we may be able to get more typefaces onto web sites.

A new battle in the Net

WALKING THROUGH THE teaming casino of the Venetian in Vegas on the way to the Microsoft Mix 07 conference last week, you noticed a funny disparity between the way the men and women dressed for gambling. The women were ready for a cameo on a day-time soap opera. The men, with the exception of some older customers who have been to the Zegna shop at Caesar's, looked like frat rats. Shirt tales hanging out, three-day stubble, shorts.

The other shoe drops in Chicago

WELL, THE GOOD news is that Tribune found a buyer. The bad news, for some anyway, is that the Chicago company still owns the Los Angeles Times. Sam Zell (Forbes No. 158), the real estate plutocrat who won the auction, says that he is only in it for the money, and will leave the journalism up to others.

Time for a redesign

LAST FRIDAY, 16 March, Time magazine appeared with a new design by Luke Hayman of Pentagram. (Luke talked about his on-staff redesign of New York on this site in December, and I reviewed the new a little later.)

This just in from Eustace Tilly

THE NEW YORKER has redesigned its web site, and the design is fine, but the approach to the web seems stubbornly retro. Resolutely anti-Web-2.0. The site seeks no community. And it is absent of dynamic content, although as the author of this very slow blog, I suppose I am not one to criticize. Only the calendar changes every day, and those items just come from the weekly magazine section, “Goings on About Town.”

Flower Power

IN MIAMI, at the We Media conference, the aging curmudgeon in me wanted out. The conference was about “community” and citizen journalism, which is like peace and love nowadays, and as in the sixties, the dialogue polarized.

No deposit, no return

AMERICA IS FILLING up with shipping containers, as anyone who has gone by the Port of Elizabeth on the New Jersey Turnpike can tell you. The Chinese evidently don't want them back; it’s cheaper for them to make new ones. And so Americans are trying to figure out how to recycle them, including turning them into houses, as everyone from Metropolis magazine to Bob Vila have pointed out.

Screen Fonts: An Abbr. Hist.

THE TEXT ON this site has caused a certain amount of heat, and I wanted to get my partner at the Font Bureau, David Berlow’s thoughts on the direction of screen fonts. We’ve been hearing about ClearType, and CoolType and other things, but the type on the web sites seems largely to have stayed the same thing, with the only thing improving is the displays. I should not have been surprised that David was not only thinking, but working on this problem, and with this entry, he brings us up to date.

Next step for the Rocky

THE Rocky Mountain News has moved to a new, delightfully small size. It's really a magazine size, and they are taking advantage of the change to update the redesign I worked on with a team from Danilo Black four years ago. This time there was a much deeper involvement from the staff, including workshops based on the project in Houston earlier last year.

Out of Time

ON THE DAY last week when’s redesign appeared, I was having lunch with a young magazine designer with a live interest in online media, a combination that is getting less rare. This guy is a survivor of Giant and Shock (if he applies to work on your magazine, watch out), and he asked me what I would do with Time. My first response was that if they held a gun to my head and told me they would pull the trigger if I didn’t come up with an editorial strategy for the leading newsmagazine, I would say, “Go ahead and shoot.”

It’s still the Journal

TUESDAY morning I opened the door, and in front of the apartment across the hall was a copy of the Wall Street Journal. My own was buried beneath The New York Times and the Financial Times, and I had to get the papers onto the kitchen table before I realized that the Journal had changed. It was smaller; less than a foot wide. Last week it would have stuck out of the stack.

Clearing brush

SOME people like to be seen clearing brush. At least the President does, probably because Ronald Reagan did, but Reagan’s reason was not clear.

Vertical storytelling

THIS presentation started as a 10-year design review for Magazine World.

Enter Brunehilde, stage right

AS I WAS finishing an entry about the new L.A. Times front page, the fat lady in Chicago stepped onto the stage and began, as predicted, to sing. That is to say, the Tribune, through its new publisher in Los Angeles, fired Dean Baquet, the editor of the Los Angeles Times, even as the empire continued to fall into pieces.

A tale of two Times

IN OCTOBER, two big U.S. papers made some changes.The Los Angeles Times, under siege from its out-of-town owners, unveiled a redesigned front page and typography in the “A” section that at last matches the feature sections.

Soft vs. Hard

THE VERY dry public editor of The New York Times, Byron Calame, asks the question, Can ‘Magazines’ of The Times Subsidize News Coverage?

Ad it up!

WHEN I started in newspaper business, one of the first things I learned was that advertising and editorial content don't mix. The basic logic was this: We sell ads, news cannot be bought, so we make a clear (and boring) distinction between the two things. For me it has always been disingenuous. Somewhere along the way the practice became a convention: placing ads in stacked blocks and separating them from editorial content with a 5-point rule would make it crystal clear to the reader what's being sold and what is not. We can argue about the pros and cons of this convention. But that's not my point today.

The view out the side windows
is getting a bit blurry

TIME keeps moving faster, not only for us aging Boomers, although maybe faster for us than even the old people. It seems like just yesterday we had the Font Wars, with Warnock crying on the stage at Seybold.

Modern and austere:
The next generation of newspaper typography?

SEVENTY-FIVE years after the development of Times Roman, there is a boomlet of new typefaces for newspapers. It seems that nowadays you can hardly redesign a paper without one. Custom fonts got going again in magazines in the early 90s, with Rolling Stone in 1977, and picked up steam with the advent of desktop publishing. Newspapers, lagged a few years behind, but by the mid-90s new typefaces were made for specific papers.

How to become a famous designer

OPENING the ATypI conference in Lisbon (in the place of Ellen Lupton, whose flight from Baltimore was cancelled [notes to self: avoid BWI; avoid US Air; allow an extra day for travel to Europe, particularly when giving keynote]), Erik Spiekermann, who is able to speak a the drop of a hat, explained how he does design.

The great unwinding

THE THIRD act of the Tribune’s ownership of the Los Angeles Times opened Thursday, without pausing for an intermission, when the board allowed that it might sell some of the company’s newspapers.

A reality-based guide to news site design: Part 1

WHEN Roger asked me to contribute to his blog. I couldn't say no, and I'll tell you why.

You can take so much cheese off the pizza that nobody will eat it

THE PRINT media continues to lose elevation, and now the heavy freight is being chopped up for fuel, or just jettisoned. Time Warner, Tribune have announced big asset sales. But the death grip of the stock analysts and the media buyers has not relaxed. Further cuts will be needed. Products will get thinner, pages sizes smaller.

Stop the press, they’re putting ads on the page!

A WHILE back The New York Times, announcing that it was going to put ads on the front of the Business section,* mentioned, with a shudder, that the Wall Street Journal was actually going to put ads on their Page One.

“Give it to the monkeys in the back!”

EVERYONE should have somebody like Adie Marks as their first boss.

The last blog

OF COURSE, it’s probably not the last blog, even for me. Wishful thinking. I am just getting started on one so late that perhaps no one can stand to read another, or to comment on it. But here we are. Late to the table is better than no meal at all. The point is to provoke a conversation about media design, and I hope you will dive in.

The intern made me do it

OKAY, okay, okay, it’s red, white and black. I’ve taken a lot of heat since I suggested that the classic print color combination could work well on the web. No one followed this advice, and so most web sites are white, gray or blue. Or a combination.

Last days of the dinosaurs

HARRIS Seigel, the Nils Lofgren look-alike who is one of the stars of the SND, had a header on his slide presentation reading, “Society of News Dinosaurs.” Seigel showed work from the hilarious Asbury Park Press feature section which uses real people in large numbers to tell stories, usually involving alcohol.

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