Thursday, 27 May 2021


Sets of letterpunches for type-setters had traditional descriptive names (see also) for presses on the continent, the Far East, the British Isles and the United States. Though point-size varied over time and there’s been more harmonisation among periodical publishers over the years rather than greater divergence of standards. A two-point typeface is called in the American system a “Saxon” and in German “Non Plus Ultra” or “Viertelpetit,” 2½ a “Norse” and “Microscopique” in French and German, three-points an “Excelsior” in the USA, a Minikin in the UK, Diamant in France and Brilliant in Germany, 5½ is an Agate in the American system and Ruby in the British one and so on. Six-points in Nonpareil, seven a Minion (Kolonel auf Deutsch), eight a Brevier, nine Bourgeois (though Petit-romain or Gaillarde in France) with some of the more common sizes being named Pica (12), the English (14), Great Primer (18, 1½ Cicero in Germany), Paragon (20), the Double English (28), the Double Columbian (32) and 48-point font called the French Canon, Gros-canon or Kleine Missal.

� or code point blank

Specials or replacement characters are shunted to the very end of Unicode allocations to act as a substitute for an otherwise unrepresentable glyph (see previously here and here). The garbled text that can result from bad decoding and false rendering is referred to mojibake (ๆ–‡ๅญ—ๅŒ–ใ‘). Though the effects are most catastrophic across different writing systems, languages that use the extended Latin alphabet assigned the character set “Western” or ISO-8859-1 encounter problems as well with the Icelandic praise for outstanding hospitality รพjรณรฐlรถรฐ transmitted as the unintelligible mess รƒ¾jรƒ³รƒ°lรƒ¶รƒ° or some other character string likely to break one’s computer.

Monday, 24 May 2021

ruby characters

Originally typesetters’ lingo for interlinear citations for a letter with a five-and-a-half point (about a pica) height—the US using a standard called agate which is also in newsprint the smallest legible text, the title refers to mark-up notations or glosses that appear above or to the side of logographic glyphs to aid in or clarify pronunciation—and sometimes as a means to communicate puns or entendre. In Japanese, the phonetic courtesy characters are called furigana and in Mandarin, Bopomofo—from the first four letters of the system: ใ„…, ใ„†, ใ„‡ and ใ„ˆ.
ๆฑไบฌ ( ใจใ†ใใ‚‡ใ†)

ๆฑไบฌ ( Tลkyล)

Saturday, 22 May 2021


Though admittedly probably with little practical application, we enjoyed toggling the settings and cycling through the range of cartographic projections (see previously) and scalable display options on Making Maps Out of Emojis via the always excellent Maps Mania. Watching the countries crawl across the screen pixelwise reminds me of the zero-player Game of Life.  There are atlas and globe configurations and a number of different ways to display landmasses and the oceans with sliders to shift the granularity and ensure our smaller neighbours get represented. Click through for more including how to custom code a dynamic world of one’s own.

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

alfa beta

One foundry has—for the centenary plus one of the graphic designer’s birth—plans a re-issue of the authoritative style guide by Turinese type artist Aldo Novarese (*1920 - †1995, also credited with ITC Symbol, Eurostile and Microgramma) plus a revival of his signature font Stadio from 1974, which was formerly lost to the ages, existing only in dry-transfer, rub-on lettering form. More on this extra bold grotesque and Zetafonts at Print Mag at the link above.

Tuesday, 18 May 2021


triangulate your influences: maps of the USA and UK with cities and towns represented by their most prominent or notorious natives—via Things Magazine  

don’t go jason waterfalls: a medley of misquotations, a lot of which are new to us too—see also

unbranded: gorgeous images of Tokyo digitally denuded of cables and signage by Rumi Ando—via Present /&/ Correct  

map app: create custom vintage style maps of anywhere at any historical period—via Web Curios 

 *: a historical style symbol (previously)—via Stan Carey  

princeself: an affirming survey and guide to neo-pronouns—via ibฤซdem  

muchmusic: a fun, nationally sourced soundtrack for the Canadian census

Saturday, 15 May 2021

ducks unlimited

Via the happily back from sabbatical Web Curios, we are treated a treasury—an embarrassment really of more than one could ever use—of little pixel-banked of little graphic design images from Iconduck, providing a consistently styled archive of over one hundred thousand free and open source illustrations categorised by subject and theme to use as one sees fit.

Friday, 14 May 2021


We really enjoyed revisiting the maledicta of grawlixes and the like (previously) from the always excellent Shady Characters as developed by Mort Walker’s lexicon and learn a bit more of the visual vernacular with jarns (๐ŸŒ€), quimps and nittles that mask the curses and waftaroms and indotherms that represent fragrant smells. More to explore at the links above.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021


Default settings are an announcement to one’s audience and become the pervasive standard of least-resistance—as seen in the domineering notes, notices and presentations appearing in the pre-set font family of the Microsoft Office suite of products and so it was a welcome bit of news that the choice was not to be so much foisted on users or queued up in recently used—in the architecture of the programming—but rather would rather replace, unseat King Calibri (Lucas de Groot’s 2002 creation is a fine one but suffer from ubiquity) with a user-juried selection (albeit a self-selecting pool) with contenders including the symmetry-breaking Seaford from Tobias Frere-Jones, Grandview from Aaron Bell that is informed by older German roadway signage and the Mid-Century modern Bierstadt of Steven Matteson—namesake of a suburb of this other Deutsch font city.

Monday, 26 April 2021


and the oscar goes to: highlights and surprises from the 2021 Academy Awards  

zauberwald: Robert Mertl’s forest photographer captures the aesthetic I aim for during my woodland walks  

canzone russa italianizzata: the Russian Italo-Pop musical stylings of Alla Pugacheva  

cards against humanity: the brilliantly sullen poetry of John Giorno  

yahoo the destroyer: maligning the cannibalised early internet for contributing to the Digital Dark Ages via Waxy—plus a different approach to archiving going forward  

the trouble with tribbles: marketing Flatcat as one’s next robotic feline companion  

art of the title: film lettering over the decades

Saturday, 17 April 2021

he who waits behind the wall

First invoked by name in a 2004 on-line form for creepypasta and attributing it to the influence of the eldritch, Lovecraftian primordial deities, Zalgo text, epithet above, refers to the certain aesthetic of overly adorning and stacking text with diacritical marks to produce a glitchy, destructively (sometimes maliciously in the form of copy-bomb and can result in transmission errors) cursed, spooky effect (see also)—with the reader either interpreting their computer or brain malfunctioning, overcome by the preternatural and unfathomable.


cortรจge: the custom Land Rover hearse that will convey Prince Philip on his funeral procession

whiter-than-white: ultra-reflective coating (previously) could help cool the climate—via Slashdot  

eboracia: housing developer Keepmoat Holmes discovers sprawling Roman ruins in North Yorkshire  

elenctic debate: honing one’s critical thinking with the Socratic method 

emojinal rescue: the Unicode subcommittee reconvenes, heralding the coming of new glyphs  

ramshackle: illustrations of antient structures that survived the Great Fire of London before they were ultimately demolished  

pleurants: bright and bold floral urns for cremains

Friday, 16 April 2021


oh, i travel—a sort of licenced troubleshooter: a lexicon of the Bond franchise in all its forms 

riptide: an homage to the pre-code (previously) Hollywood actress Norma Shearer 

dead pilots’ society: CBS Summer Playhouse and similar vehicles were venues for anthologies of failed television shows—see also  

la vie รฉlectrique: Albert Robida’s 1893 vision of the future includes a remote courtship by means of a tรฉlephonoscope 

the sensational she-hulk: Marvel comics hand-lettering from Reagan Ray—previously  

buzz-saw: the ancient shark-like Helicoprion had spiral tooth-whorls 

reinventing the wheel: engineers in Seoul develop transforming, load-bearing tyre using principles of origami—see previously  

oh—the pint pot, half-a-pint, gill pot, half-a-gill-quarter-gill, nippikin and the brown bowl: conventional measurements of liquid (see also) anticipated the next in a binary fashion  

shaguar: if Austin Powers were to be revived today, he would have been cryogenically frozen in 1991

Friday, 9 April 2021


tsugite: software that generates traditional Japanese joinery (previously) that can be 3D printed or precision cut

prince albert in a can: a collection of fish tin labels from a digital museum dedicated to the Portuguese canning industry 

cosmic nature: artist Yayoi Kusama exhibits at New York’s Botanical Garden  

tune-dex: the real-fake book of jazz standards, essential to musicians in the 1970s 

dingbat: thirty select works of Mid-Century Modern print for inspiration 

beer is proof god loves us and wants us to be happy: brew theorems post US National New Beers’ Eve ahead of the anniversary of rescinding parts of the Volstead Act that allowed for consumption of higher proof beer 

ukiyo-e: the unintentional ASMR of a master printmaker at work

Thursday, 1 April 2021

an elaborate hoax

The fictive archipelago shaped like a semi-colon and full of puns related to printing and fonts, the Guardian featured a seven-page supplement (see also) celebrating a decade of independence for the nation of San Serriffe, discussing the island’s history, economy and tourism with in-depth articles. Originally it was to be positioned in the Atlantic neighbouring Tenerife but a tragic airline disaster a few days prior prompted the newspaper’s editorial board to move it to the Indian Ocean, near the Seychelles. In an era before desktop publishing and the wide adoption of home computers, the terminology of typefaces was specialists’ jargon and most readers would have missed the jokes.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

open-apple q

We don’t quite know what to make of this keyboard with keys resized to approximate the frequency of their use in a given lexicon (see also) that touts itself as an innovation rather than perhaps a physical manifestation of predictive text or an homage to a type-setters’ box. What do you think? As much as I aspire, I’ve never been the fluid touch-typist that I would like to be and code-switching between keyboard layouts regularly can be distressing enough on its own without the taxing dexterity of having to dodge commoner letters.

Sunday, 28 February 2021


Via Duck Soup, in a fascinating parallel analysis of the vetting process (though the stakes are much lower) that underpins which emojis enter into common parlance and how they are rendered across platforms (see previously) and approval of new vaccines and other medical interventions, though the correspondence is of course heavily weighted against the former with science and evidence-based research, taste, lobbying, politics and shifting cultural norms play a part in both, which can in usual cases take years. The original syringe and needle emoji dates back to 1999, adopted as a Unicode standard in 2010, and was meant to encourage blood donation in Japan, later used a shorthand to urge people to get tested for communicable diseases, retaining the drops of blood throughout most iterations and incarnations. Now, however, the emoji is being modified slightly to remove those drops of blood (a separate drop of blood emoji was approved in 2019 to represent both donation drives and mensuration and ๐Ÿ…ฐ️, ๐Ÿ†Ž, ๐Ÿ…ฑ️ and ๐Ÿ…พ️ already refer to blood types) across most platforms—like what immunologists hope for adapting existing vaccines to combat new variants as they arise in an expedited fashion since the template is already established, and communicate vaccination status and acceptance and support. It may seem trivial but the ability to signal is immensely important and a lot of people have a lot invested the success of the campaign that these symbols represent.

Saturday, 20 February 2021


Via Spoon & Tamago, we learn that graphic designer Kenya Hara and Nippon Design Centre studios have released over two-hundred-fifty pictograms reflecting Japanese culture and lifestyle in support of the eventual return of tourism free for all to use. We especially liked the icons for sumo wrestling (็›ธๆ’ฒ) and udon (wheat flour noodles, ใ†ใฉใ‚“) Some are even animated to convey the ritual relaxation of bathing at an onsen (see previously). Much more to explore at the links above and at the Experience Japan project website.

Saturday, 6 February 2021


Used in a number of orthographies around the world instead of or in combination with quotation marks, the term is a diminutive of Guillaume (William) after the pioneering sixteenth century French printer and font-founder Guillaume Le Bรฉ—France being the primary place where they are employed, though the nested quotes are used elsewhere and in other ways, including in Japan and China where « » sets off the title of a book or album, in Portuguese and Swiss German (called Mรถwchen, little Sea Gulls) to indicated a reported quotation within a quotation, and inwardly pointing » « to bracket off direct speech. In Quebec, a singular right pointing guillemet itรฉratif is used as a ditto mark.

Friday, 5 February 2021

don’t @ me

While the earliest known attested use is to be found in a fourteenth century translation of a Greek chronicle with the at symbol substituted for the ฮฑ of amen for unknown reasons and in commerce as a glyph representing the unit of volume and mass the arroba on the Iberian Peninsula—about two stone or twelve kilograms before signifying a going rate, despite its inclusion on most Western keyboards, it remained something of a mystery until the widespread use of the internet and social media. Traditions outside of English general ledger accounting (and in reality everyone prior to email) perceived the rather useless upper carriage key as something twee mentioned in a typo—as in Afrikaans, Dutch, Finnish, German, Macedonian and Polish where it’s a tail of a pig, puppy, cat or monkey. Astutely in Norwegian, Welsh, Korean, Esperanto, Italian, Hungarian, Ukrainian and Belarusian it is the word for snail, whereas in Catalan, Hebrew, Swedish and Slovak it is the word for a pastry roll. Though informal stylings probably prevail, in the Kazakh language, @ is officially called ะฐะนา›าฑะปะฐา›—that is, the Moon’s Ear.