Got to visit Denver for the second time this year for a friend’s wedding. While there another Denver friend brought me on a walking tour of the Crush Walls urban art festival in the RiNo neighborhood, where we saw some really cool graffiti:
I’m sad I missed the TEDx event this year at my alma mater, especially because of its great theme and logo:
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…
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.
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
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.
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:
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!
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.
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?