Chad Comello

libraries, culture, typewriters

Category: Design (page 1 of 2)

Know Wonder

I’m sad I missed the TEDx event this year at my alma mater, especially because of its great theme and logo:

tedxncc-knowwonder-concpet-final.jpg

OED can you see?

A used books and records store in my town just moved even closer to my place. Today I stopped by and saw a two-volume Oxford English Dictionary Compact Edition. It comes in a case and with its own magnifying glass, because they weren’t kidding when they called it compact:

I exercised enough self-control to pass on it, but one day…

Fly the L flag

On my way to a concert last night, I noticed the flag-like design of the Chicago L train platform and tracks when viewed from above:

Track, platform, and the space in between. “The space between” being, in essence, what public transportation is.

Make the interrobang banal‽

99% Invisible (a personal favorite podcast) just did a typically great short history of the interrobang and its fight for survival:

Today, the interrobang is just barely hanging in there. It has its own character in Unicode, the common directory of symbols which all computer fonts must reference. But Keith Houston points out that it still hasn’t cleared the biggest typographical obstacle of all: “I think that in order to really consider it to be a real mark of punctuation, people have to use it without thinking about it.” In other words: a truly remarkable mark of punctuation must be unremarkable.

I strongly believe in the interrobang. For my part, I created an iOS text replacement shortcut that replaces ?! with ‽ in my texts. This doesn’t pass the ease of use test, and it’s not available in every typeface. But it’s what I can do to help make the interrobang ubiquitous enough to save.

See also: Shady Characters

Ain’t no road just like Lake Shore Drive

And there ain’t no road just like it
Anywhere I found
Running south on Lake Shore Drive heading into town
Just slippin’ on by on LSD, Friday night trouble bound

“Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah

I’ve had occasion to drive into or through downtown Chicago several times recently, which is unusual. A few times it was for medical reasons, another for a conference in the Loop, and last Friday for a morning seminar at the University of Chicago.

Each time I do it I’m reminded of how beautiful Lake Shore Drive is.

If you’ve never been to Chicago: the city sits right next to Lake Michigan, and Lake Shore Drive runs north-south along the lakeshore. Except some museums, Navy Pier, Soldier Field, and one swanky skyscraper, it’s mostly beachfront and parks the whole way, so whichever direction you drive it (or bike or run it) will give you an amazing view of Chicago’s famous downtown architecture and the expansive lake at the same time.

On Friday I drove almost the whole stretch of the LSD, from the far north side to the far south side and back. Heading southbound, I think the scenic part of downtown begins at the Oak Street bend where the Drake Hotel sits. (Which to me always calls to mind the crucial Bible from the Drake Hotel in Mission: Impossible:  “They stamped it, didn’t they? Those damn Gideons.”)

And northbound from the University of Chicago it’s scenic pretty much the whole way. You can watch the skyscrapers get bigger and bigger until you’re almost among them.

I don’t know how many other cities have anything comparable to Lake Shore Drive, so I’m happy to have it.

Pattern-spotting in a Chicagoland alley

Though the cold, wintry weather has extended into April this year, the other day the sun beamed and the temperature jumped into the 60s. I decided to take a break from work and go for a short walk, and I soon ambled down one of the countless back alleys that cut through Chicagoland.

(Here’s the fascinating story of how Chicago became the “alley capital” of the United States.)

I noticed right away there was a wide variety of patterns on the garages and buildings that lined my walk, so I started snapping pictures of them:

New font based on Lithuania’s Act of Independence

Eimantas Paškonis made a beautiful new font based on the manuscript of the Act of Independence of Lithuania, passed in 1918:

The whole project took more than 6 months. First of all, a high-resolution scan of the Act of Independence of Lithuania had to be obtained from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Then the person who wrote the Act had to be identified because some characters were missing in the resolution of February the 16th. When the handwriting was established as Jurgis Šaulys’s, the missing characters were created according to other documents written by J. Šaulys and found in the archives. It took a highly skilled typographer over 120 hours to construct the font.

Previously under Russian rule, Lithuania was occupied by the German Empire during the First World War. It used the distraction of the war as another bid for independence, which Germany surprisingly agreed to with hopes Lithuania would “detach itself from Russia and establish a closer relationship with Germany.”

Indeed, they went for full independence, adopting a resolution “that an independent Lithuania should be established and that a closer relationship with Germany would be conditional on Germany’s formal recognition of the new state.”

Baller move, Lithuania. And cheers to 100 years!

Films Galore and other groovy ’70s library brochures

Digging around my library’s local history collection, I found a stack of trifold brochures promoting the services of the old North Suburban Library System (now RAILS) my library is part of. I’m guessing they’re from the 1970s since NSLS started in the late ’60s. Look at all these groovy logos and colors:

And then there’s the one that summarizes all the services:

All reference desks should have a “Just Ask” sign on them to encourage shy patrons. Maybe I’ll turn it into a button.

I’d love to talk to whoever designed these. Were the icons specially made for these brochures or did they come from somewhere else? Perhaps they could be repurposed for a digital marketing campaign, or at least a cool collage project.

Desire lines in dictatorships

I’m in the midst of Robert Moor’s fascinating On Trails: An Exploration, and he mentions desire lines. Defined as paths “created as a consequence of erosion caused by human or animal traffic,” they are usually a shortcut through grass that’s a more direct line between two points.

“They can be found in the parks of every major city on earth,” Moor writes, including those of repressive authoritarian regimes, where dictatorial architects despise them as “geographic graffiti” because they belie the “authoritarian failure to predict our needs our desires.” Efforts to remove or impede desire lines are almost always fruitless: “Wise designers sculpt with desire, not against it.”

Once you realize what a desire path is, you’ll see them everywhere. I love discovering terminology for everyday phenomena that I didn’t realize actually had a name. Here are a few more I like:

Slip lane: The diagonal lane at an intersection that allows you to turn right at an intersection without entering it.

Rumble bars (aka drunk bumps, growlers, drift lines): The slotted lines on highway shoulders that cause your tires to rumble when you drive over them.

Road verge (aka curb lawn, devil strip, easement, parkway, and many more): the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the road.

They are specific but simply worded, almost onomatopoeic in how they describe common but often invisible design. Can’t wait to add more to this list. Any suggestions?

Man’s Search for Responsibility

Finally got around to reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. In one part he talks about a hypothetical “Statue of Responsibility”:

Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.

Clever, I thought when I read it. But when I was researching Frankl after reading the book, I learned the Statue of Responsibility is (becoming) a real thing:

I like how it flips Liberty’s arm motif. There isn’t a permanent site for it yet, but I hope it comes together.

Some other quotes from the book I enjoyed:

  • “For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.”
  • “Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now.”
  • “Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”
  • Prisoners looking at sunset: “How beautiful the world could be.”
  • “Self-actualization is possible only possible as a side effect of self-transcendence.”
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