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kottke.org posts about design

Geometric Primes

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 27, 2023

detail of a poster that visualized prime numbers as geometric shapes

a poster that visualized prime numbers as geometric shapes

Nicholas Rougeux designed a series of posters to visualize all 143 prime numbers with three digits based on simple rules.

Each print contains all 143 prime numbers with 3 digits. Each is represented by an image composed of simple geometric shapes based on its digital root and colors based on its digits. Arranging these images sequentially creates colorful collages of prime numbers based on simple rules.

For each poster, a unique shape was assigned to the digital root of each prime number which is calculated by iteratively summing its digits until one remains. (All known prime numbers greater than 3 have digital roots of 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, or 8.)

There are nine posters in all that use a few different styles of geometric shape.

The Plywood E-Bike

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 18, 2023

Self-described “maker of things” Evie Bee has made a cool thing indeed: an e-bike with a frame constructed mostly from sustainably sourced poplar and birch plywood called the Electraply.

an ebike made of plywood

detailed view of the frame of an ebike made of plywood

Here’s a video of the bike in action:

The design of the bike was inspired by my love for the cafe racer and scrambler motorcycles of the past (the Great Escape anyone?) and the desire to honour and continue this iconic design through a modern interpretation.

Bee has released a pair of PDFs (one, two) to guide you through the entire process of building your own plywood e-bike. (via design milk)

Sgt. Pepper’s Tribute to Celebs Who Died in 2022

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 17, 2023

At the end of each year, art director Chris Barker collects celebrities who have died in the past 12 months into a Sgt. Pepper’s album cover collage — here’s 2022’s edition.

a collection of celebrities who died in 2022, arranged like the cover of the Beatles Sgt Peppers album

There doesn’t appear to be a complete listing of everyone pictured, but you can easily pick out Coolio, Gilbert Gottfried, Sidney Poitier, Angela Lansbury, Meatloaf, Nichelle Nichols, Pele, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Twitter.

Fueled by television, advertising, cable TV, and the internet, the post-war era saw an explosion of celebrity in America and the world. The average person today “knows of” so many more people than someone living in 1945 did, probably by a couple orders of magnitude. As Boomers and Gen X continue to age, annual displays like this of well-known people who have died will get larger and larger.

Update: An incomplete key to the image is available here. (via @matsimpsk)

A Collection of Sidewalk Stamps

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 11, 2023

a sidewalk stamps that reads 'Jeffrey & Bufton 1910'

a sidewalk stamps that reads 'The Hinchman Renton Co. Denver'

a sidewalk stamps that reads 'Carelli Concrete Const. Co. 1957'

Written in Stone is a collection of photos of stamps and seals imprinted in sidewalks by the people and companies who made them. Great examples of vernacular design.

Update: See also Easy Bay Sidewalk Stamps. (via @presentcorrect)

The Style Guide for American Highways

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 11, 2023

diagram for a roundabout from the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways

For Beautiful Public Data, Jon Keegan takes a look at the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways, the style guide published by the Federal Highway Administration that governs how America’s roads are marked.

The MUTCD states that it “shall be recognized as the national standard for all traffic control devices installed on any street, highway, bikeway, or private road open to public travel”. Exact specifications for the font, size, spacing of letters, background colors, reflectivity, mounting location and orientation help ensure that traffic signs are consistently readable at a glance while driving anywhere in the U.S..

The word “uniform” is key here, as you can only imagine the chaos if each state had its own version of stop signs, and safety warnings. But states do have some freedom in the signs that they use.

Avatar and the Papyrus Typeface

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 09, 2023

I know I’ve posted this before, but with the new Avatar movie out in theaters, it’s a good time to revisit the SNL sketch where Ryan Gosling is driven mad by the typeface choice for the movie’s logo.

I had forgotten about the title card at the end. Perfection.

Update: From Jake Kring-Schreifels at The Ringer last month: The Intertwining History of the ‘Avatar’ Papyrus Font and the ‘SNL’ Sketch That Spoofed It.

There actually is one single person responsible for Avatar’s Papyrus-esque logo: Peter Stougaard. The former senior vice president of creative advertising for 20th Century Fox willingly takes credit for selecting and tweaking the movie’s much-maligned font, but he doesn’t mince words. “I didn’t aimlessly pick Papyrus,” he insists. “I chose it very strategically.”

I can’t believe they got it off of the cover of Cameron’s copy of the script. (thx, matt)

The Best Movie Posters of 2022

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 05, 2023

movie poster for Everything Everywhere All at Once

movie poster for Fire of Love

movie poster for White Noise

movie poster for The Act of Coming Out

movie poster for Pinocchio

movie poster for Tár

movie poster for Everything Everywhere All at Once

movie poster for Corsage

movie poster for White Noise

It feels weird to admit this, even to myself, but maybe I love movie poster design even more than I love book cover design. After running across Daniel Benneworth-Gray’s list of his favorite movie posters of 2022 (via his newsletter), I found some more best-of lists — Mubi, Indiewire, Collider, The Playlist, First Showing, The Film Stage — and selected a few of my favorites to include here. I couldn’t decide between the different versions of the posters for White Noise and Everything Everywhere All at Once, so I included both of each. *shrug*

A Beautiful Typographic Mini Golf Game

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 05, 2023

As a former mini-golf champion, I am completely charmed by Alphaputt, an mini golf iOS game where the courses are shaped like letters of the alphabet.

mini golf courses shaped like a variety of letters

mini golf course shaped like the letter J

mini golf courses shaped like the letter K

mini golf courses shaped like a variety of letters

You can play through the alphabet or play a customized course by typing out a word (come on, that’s pretty cool). (via colossal)

Some Design Notes

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 03, 2023

Hey folks. One of the things I realized coming back here after my time away is that I’m not super happy with how the site works & looks. It could be *waaay* better. The last time I fully redesigned the site was back in 2016 and it’s showing its age. But redesigning the whole shebang just isn’t feasible right now, so I’m starting to do what I can, here and there. First up is taking the Quick Links out of their front page box (the 10 latest links were collected below the first post) and inlining them into the main flow. (If you’re reading this in RSS or clicked through from social media, you can head to the front page to see what I’m on about.) The Quick Links represent a lot of the site’s present activity and I was worried they were a little lost down there in that box…like, were people actually reading them? Were they even aware of the existence of the Quick Links? Were they missing 40-60% of the site’s total activity? That felt like something that needed to be addressed without delay.

It’s not a perfect solution, I’m still not happy with how it works, and the whole thing is slightly inconsistent/janky in terms of design (e.g. multiple people have told me the inlined Quick Links look like ads), but I felt it was more important just to get something out there. There is a much better version of the kottke.org frontpage in my head, but as my art director (i.e. me) is currently 100% focused on editorial, it’s going to have to wait. Feedback is welcome via email, Twitter, or Mastodon. Thanks!

Meet the Artists Behind the USPS’s Upcoming ‘Art of the Skateboard’ Stamps

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 03, 2023

Last month, the US Postal Service revealed some stamps that are due to be released in 2023. Alongside a stamp honoring John Lewis and some cool microphotography stamps are a series of four stamps featuring the Art of the Skateboard.

the USPS 'Art of the Skateboard' stamps

Antonio Alcalá designed the stamps, which feature skateboard decks created by four different artists:

Di’Orr Greenwood is a member of the Najavo Nation who does pyrographic art, burning images into the wooden decks of some of the boards she designs. Greenwood also carves cedar wood flutes and teaches skateboarding. From her Instagram, one of decks she’s designed recently:

a skateboard deck designed by Di'Orr Greenwood

William James Taylor Jr. is a prolific self-taught artist from Virginia. You can check out his work on Instagram and buy a bunch of decks with his designs — here are just a few of them:

skateboard decks designed by William James Taylor Jr.

Crystal Worl is “Tlingit Athabascan from Raven moiety, Sockeye Clan, from the Raven House” who currently lives and works in Juneau, Alaska. Her Instagram is here and here’s a recent deck from her website:

a skateboard deck designed by Crystal Worl

Federico Frum is a street mural artist from Colombia who is based in Washington DC; he operates under the name MasPaz. From his Instagram, a recent desk design:

a skateboard deck designed by Federico Frum

I’m excited to get some of these stamps when they come out later in the year. (via lizzie armanto)

The Best Book Covers of 2022

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 16, 2022

cover for The Rabbit Hutch

cover for Tomorrow and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

cover for No Land in Sight

cover for Constructing a Nervous System

cover for Shit Cassandra Saw

cover for The Status Game

cover for Kiki Man Ray

cover for Cold Enough for Snow

cover for Pure Colour

The book cover is one of my all-time favorite design objects and a big part of the reason I love going to bookstores is to visually feast on new covers. I don’t keep an explicit list of my favorites from those trips, but there are definitely those that stick in my mind, covers that I’ll instantly recognize from across the room on subsequent trips.

I’ve spent the last few days rediscovering some of them (and finding new ones) on the end-of-the-year lists of the best covers of 2022. You can find some of 2022’s most wonderfully designed covers above; from top to bottom:

The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty, designed by Linda Huang.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, designed by John Gall.
No Land in Sight by Charles Simic, designed by John Gall.
Constructing a Nervous System by Margo Jefferson, designed by Kelly Blair.
Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen E. Kirby, designed by Lydia Ortiz.
The Status Game by Will Storr, designed by Steve Leard.
Kiki Man Ray by Mark Braude, designed by Jaya Miceli.
Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au, designed by Janet Hansen.
Pure Colour by Sheila Heti, designed by Na Kim.

I’ve linked to each designer’s website above; I urge you to click through and check out some of their other work. You can find many more wonderful covers in the following places: The 103 Best Book Covers of 2022 (Literary Hub), The Best Book Covers of 2022 (NY Times), The Best Book Covers of 2022 (Fast Company), and Best Book Covers 2022 (Chicago Public Library). Literary Hub’s list is particularly good because the best covers are selected by other cover designers and presented with their commentary.

See also The Best Books of 2022 and my lists from past years: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2015, 2014, and 2013.

Note: When you buy through links on kottke.org, I may earn an affiliate commission. This year, I’m linking to Bookshop.org when I can but if you read on the Kindle or Bookshop is out of stock, you can try Amazon. Thanks for supporting the site!

Vintage-Style Map of the Mandelbrot Set

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 15, 2022

a vintage-style map of the Mandelbrot set

Bill Tavis designed this lovely vintage-style map of the familiar fractal shape, the Mandelbrot set. He is selling a poster version of the map, starting at the very reasonable price of $24. I don’t usually highlight the price on this sort of thing, but an unauthorized seller on Amazon was selling poor-quality counterfeits of the map and even though it wasn’t his fault, Tavis offered to replace any of the crappy maps for free. Great map, and apparently a great human who made it.

I found Tavis’s map when I was searching for the creator of this similarish map that I found on Twitter (bigger here).

a vintage-style map of the Mandelbrot set

Anyone know who made this version? Jonny Laser made the map in the second image for VSauce (scroll down a bit). (thx, kirsten)

Jodorowsky’s Tron

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 01, 2022

imagined film still from Jodorowsky's Tron

imagined film still from Jodorowsky's Tron

imagined film still from Jodorowsky's Tron

imagined film still from Jodorowsky's Tron

imagined film still from Jodorowsky's Tron

Cult avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky famously did not make his ambitious adaptation of Dune but what if he had brought his unique brand of surrealist psychedelia to the screen with a version of Tron in the 70s? Using the AI platform Midjourney, Johnny Darrell imagined what Jodorowsky’s Tron might have looked like. I love these — I would like to see this movie please.

See also Jodorowsky’s Frasier.

Update: Frank Pavich, director of Jodorowsky’s Dune, ruminates on these AI images of Jodorowsky’s Tron.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it all. There seems to be a correlation between how Alejandro’s work was absorbed and referred to by subsequent filmmakers and how his work was ingested and metabolized by computer programming. But these two things are not the same. I want to say that influence is not the same thing as algorithm. But looking at these images, how can I be sure?

It’s hard to find many shortcomings in the software. It can’t render text. And like many painters and sculptors throughout history, it has trouble getting hands right. I’m nitpicking here. The model contains multitudes. It has scanned the collected works of thousands upon thousands of photographers, painters and cinematographers. It has a deep library of styles and a facility with all kinds of image-making techniques at its digital fingertips. The technology is jaw-dropping. And it concerns me greatly.

Noto: A Typeface for the World

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2022

character sample from the Noto typeface

Google has developed a typeface called Noto that seemingly includes every single character and symbol used for writing in the history of the world. I mean, look at all these different options: Korean, Bengali, Emoji, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Coptic, Old Hungarian, Cuneiform, Linear B, Osage, and literally dozens more.

Noto is a collection of high-quality fonts with multiple weights and widths in sans, serif, mono, and other styles. The Noto fonts are perfect for harmonious, aesthetic, and typographically correct global communication, in more than 1,000 languages and over 150 writing systems.

A particular shoutout to Noto Emoji: it supports the latest emoji release (14.0) and includes 3,663 emoji in multiple weights.

Noto Emoji

Perhaps it’s time for a new typeface ‘round these parts…

Update: I got it in my head that Noto was a new typeface, but it was first released in 2013. But Noto’s monochrome emoji font is new — I think that’s where I got confused.

A Custom-Built Moon Motorcycle

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2022

an electric motorcycle designed to drive on the Moon

an electric motorcycle designed to drive on the Moon

an electric motorcycle designed to drive on the Moon

Based on a digital rendering by Andrew Fabishevskiy, motorcycle design company Hookie Co. built a real-life prototype of an electric motorcycle designed to be driven on the Moon. Named Tardigrade after the hearty micro-animal, the 2-wheeled rover weighs almost 300 pounds, is constructed out of aluminum, Kevlar, carbon fiber, and other materials, has a top speed of 9 mph, and a battery with a range of 62 miles. You can check out how it was built in this video. I want one! Electric motocross on the Moon does sound pretty fun:

Regarding flat track racing on the moon, I would prefer some big gaps and jumps more than turning left around an oval. With almost one-sixth of Earth’s gravity, I’d need only a small bump to jump 10 meters — that would be fun! Maybe the Tardigrade inspires space-addicted people and engineers for upcoming lunar missions, and I would be more than happy to be a tiny part of that.

Comic Helvetic, an Unholy Combo of Comic Sans and Helvetica

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2022

text reads 'this font is good for official documents'

In some workplaces, people use Helvetica to conduct business because it conveys a sense of order and authority. In other workplaces, people use Comic Sans, which conveys a sense of casual chaos. Designer Alexander Pravdin decided to combine the two typefaces into one diabolical font: Comic Helvetic. You can download it here.

the words 'Comic Helvetic' set in three different typefaces

a list of some OpenType features

If you need me for the rest of the day, I’ll be over in the corner trying to decide where these three typefaces fit on the alignment chart. (via print)

Update: See also Comic Neue. (via @DirkOlbrich)

33 Letters for Ukraine: an Alphabet of Solidarity

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 31, 2022

the letter K with sharp teeth

the letter A made from two people hugging

a letterform made from two doves

the letter B made from tiny flowers

a letterform of a character walking, holding a peace offering

A pair of Polish designers have organized a challenge for designers around the world called 33 Letters for Ukraine: to create letterforms of the Ukrainian alphabet “as a sign of solidarity”. Each day until April 6th, a new letter is chosen and featured on their Instagram account — you can see some of the work above. It’s Nice That has a piece on the challenge.

Speaking on the thinking behind 33 Letters, Alina says: “To put it briefly, we have two main goals for the project — promoting the Ukrainian alphabet and encouraging people to donate to organisations helping Ukraine. The Instagram challenge is an essential starting point, and we loved to see so many designers getting involved and expressing their solidarity by drawing the letters. But equally important are tangible results: collecting funds and education.”

To do so, they are hoping to sell original artworks and prints of the letters once the project has finished, and then they plan to exhibit all of the works as part of a fundraiser, though the venue is yet to be confirmed. “There are amazing designers taking part in the challenge, and it would be great to see their work shine also outside of Instagram,” says Alina.

(thx, jackson)

Sheila Bridges’ Harlem Toile

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 29, 2022

Toile de Jouy is a fabric, typically featuring “romantic pastoral scenes”, that was popular in France in the 18th century — the wealthy covered their walls in it. Interior designer Sheila Bridges developed her own patterns for her Harlem Toile, inspired by her Harlem and Philadelphia neighborhoods and the African American experience more generally.

As an African American living in Harlem, I have always been intrigued and inspired by the historical narrative of the decorative arts, especially traditional French toile with its pastoral motifs from the late 1700s. I’m entertained by the stories these patterns tell and the questions they sometimes raise. But after searching for many years for the perfect toile for my own home, I decided that it quite simply didn’t exist. I created Harlem Toile de Jouy initially as a wallcovering then expanded the collection to include fabrics, bedding, plates, glassware, umbrellas and clothing. This design (which lampoons some of the stereotypes deeply woven into the African American experience), has been featured in The Studio Museum In Harlem, the Museum of Art and Design in New York City, and the Musée De La Toile De Jouy in Jouy-en Josas, France. I am honored to have my Harlem Toile De Jouy wallpaper included in The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s permanent wallpaper collection.

a variety of scenes featuring Black people on Sheila Bridges' Harlem Toile

Sheila Bridges' Harlem Toile pattern on a tea cup

Sheila Bridges' Harlem Toile pattern on a pillow

Veronica Chambers wrote a great piece about Harlem Toile for the NY Times: The Wallpaper That Is Also a ‘Reminder That My Ancestors Had My Back’.

The wallpaper, which was created by the celebrated interior designer Sheila Bridges in 2006, features beautiful drawings of African Americans in the lush, historical settings that rarely featured them — a couple in 18th-century dress dance under a structure that recalls the Arc de Triomphe to the tunes of a boombox that rests playfully on the grass; women in ball gowns sit under a majestic tree, one combs the other’s hair while yet another woman holds up a fairy-talelike mirror; a courting couple in fashion that now brings to mind the popular series “Bridgerton” feast on a picnic. For a Black girl who grew up loving Jane Austen and Toni Morrison with equal aplomb, Harlem Toile was more than wallpaper. It was a tableau of possibility and belonging.

I’m not doing justice to all of what is being expressed in Bridges’ work and how it’s resonating with Chambers & other members of the Black community, so you should just read the piece. (thx, caroline)

The FBI Guide to Internet Slang

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 21, 2022

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request in 2014, the FBI released their internal 83-page guide to internet slang (most of which are initialisms and acronyms). The quality of the scanned document is very poor, but it’s (just) readable. A few of my favorite phrases gleaned from skipping around the report:

BMUS - beam me up, Scotty
EMFBI - excuse me for butting in
JC - Jesus Christ/just curious/just chilling
MOS - mom over shoulder
PS - photoshop/play station/post script
SMG - sub-machine gun
TOTES FRESH - totally precious
YOYO - you’re on your own
WYLABOCTGWTR - would you like a bowl of cream to go with that remark?

For their annual publication that they send out to their company mailing list, Pentagram recently made a far more legible and well-designed version of the FBI’s guide featuring some of their own favorites.

sample pages from Pentagram's FBI Guide to Slang

sample pages from Pentagram's FBI Guide to Slang with the initialisms BTW, ITII, and LWY

The booklet challenges readers to identify 14 abbreviations of varying difficulty and absurdity, with answers at the back. The acronyms are set in two custom typefaces designed by Pentagram partner Matt Willey, based on the markings that appear on the agency’s uniforms, particularly in popular media. The two fonts are fittingly named Edgar Sans and Clyde Slab in honor of longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and his deputy and alleged lover Clyde Tolson.

Ukrainian Stamp Design Contest

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 14, 2022

After Russia invaded the country, Ukraine’s post office (Ukrposhta) decided to hold a contest to design a stamp that illustrated “Ukrainians’ determination to defend their land”. Out of 500 submissions, Ukrposhta chose 20 designs as the finalists.

design for a Ukrainian stamp featuring a lighthouse as a raised middle finger

design for a Ukrainian stamp featuring a Ukrainian soldier flipping the bird to a Russian warship

design for a Ukrainian stamp featuring a yellow sword cracking a Russian ship in half

(Paweł Jońca’s illustration would also have made an amazing stamp.) Many of the finalists, including the winning entry (middle stamp above), reference the Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island who told a Russian warship “Go fuck yourself”. Ukrposhta is now working on getting the winning stamp printed so that people can use it for postage — because, perhaps unbelievably, the post office continues to deliver the mail & packages throughout much of the country. (thx, @jackisnotabird)

Letterpress Prints of Birds Printed Using Lego Bricks

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 15, 2022

letterpress print of a bird printed using Lego bricks

letterpress print of a bird printed using Lego bricks

letterpress print of a bird printed using Lego bricks

letterpress print of a bird printed using Lego bricks

Designers Roy Scholten and Martijn van der Blom have created a series of letterpress prints of birds made by using Lego pieces as the stamps (in lieu of lead or wood blocks). Letterpress, birds, Lego…that’s gotta be close to a bingo on many a designer’s card. (via colossal)

An Absurd Double-Wide Cadillac

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2022

Car builder Jay Ohrberg has constructed many familiar vehicles for TV and movies, including the DeLorean from Back to the Future, KITT for the Knight Rider movie,1 several Batmobiles, and the Duke boys’ General Lee. But the Ohrberg ride I really like is his robin’s egg blue double-wide Cadillac.

a double-wide blue Cadillac, a long pink convertible, and a comically long limousine

My god, the ingenious outlandishness of that car. The other cars in the photo are equally preposterous, but there is something about the squarish proportions of that Caddy that is really satisfying. And it somehow looks massive and miniature at the same time?

  1. There was a Knight Rider movie?! With Star Trek’s James Doohan in it?

An Abecedarium of International Postage Stamps

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 02, 2022

German stamp with the letter D on it

Haitian stamp with the letter H on it

Liberian stamp with the letter L on it

Polish stamp with the letter P on it

Bangladeshi stamp with the number 8 on it

For last year’s 36 Days of Type challenge, artist and type designer Marie Boulanger selected 26 postage stamps from around the world with letters on them (C for Cuba, F for France, K for Kenya, etc.) and 10 stamps with the numerals 0-9 on them. What an amazing array of designs and lettering styles. I’ve included a few of my favorites above — you can see the rest on her Instagram or collected here in miniature.

Medieval Versions of Contemporary Corporate Logos

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2022

I love these medieval versions of familiar logos by Ilya Stallone, available on his Instagram account.

a medieval-style version of the Microsoft Windows logo

a medieval-style version of the Audi logo

a medieval-style version of the Instagram logo

The best ones cleverly translate the central element in the logo into something more temporally appropriate — e.g. the figurative MS windows into actual stained glass, Instagram’s camera into a colorful painting, Audi’s rings into wagon wheels. (via sidebar)

The Role of Type in Wes Anderson’s Films

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 31, 2022

a film still from the French Dispatch showing a magazine scheduling flowchart

In an interview with Creative Boom, type designer Marie Boulanger talks about Wes Anderson’s use of type and typography in his films, specifically The French Dispatch.

I’m just speaking for myself, but I recently rewatched all of his films in chronological order. You can see typography become a more and more prominent component over time — it’s quite fascinating. In later films like Isle of Dogs and the French Dispatch, it almost becomes its own character rather than a visual or narrative flourish. Especially in a story about writers and publishing, every book, every page, every shop sign, every poster.

Even thinking about the three stories contained within the film, graphic design and typography are really at the core of each one: exhibition posters, protest signs and even menus. You piece a lot of key information together just through certain objects from the set, as well as emotional nuance: humour, joy, sadness. With such a huge part of the narration depending on typography, you have to expect a high level of detail.

Some people can be quite dismissive of Anderson’s work as preoccupied with mere aesthetics, so it’s great to hear Boulanger talk about the depth that something that’s ostensibly aesthetic like typography brings to his films. I loved the use of type in The French Dispatch…so much information conveyed with “just” words. (via sidebar)

J Is for Jim Crow - Typography and Racial Stereotypes

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 21, 2022

Ruby Font Jim Crow

For The Believer, Sarah K. Kramer wrote about a typeface called Jim Crow, how it came to be called that (its original name was Gothic Shade), and what its casual use by designers for decades means.

One of Seals’ pet peeves is “stereo-typography” — things like east Asian restaurants with brush-script logos — and in particular, he takes issue with the way designers often use “black weight” (very thick and bold) font to signify African American culture. For example, the Neuland typeface (designed in 1923 by Rudolf Koch) has been used on many covers of books by Black writers, like Richard Wright’s Native Son. One theory on the origin of the association of these black-weight fonts with Black culture is that they evoke woodblock typefaces printed on nineteenth century tobacco ephemera — an industry closely linked with slavery. Needless to say, much of this material featured racist imagery of African Americans. When Seals was contracted by HarperCollins to design a cover for Charles Blow’s The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto, he definitely was not going to use a “black weight” font. Instead, he designed the cover with Ruby.

Ruby is a reworked version of Jim Crow from Tré Seals’ type foundry Vocal Type Co, which I covered here a few years ago. (thx, reed)

Cracked Eggshells, Carefully Arranged

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 07, 2022

cracked eggshells carefully arranged

I am in deep like with this image of neatly arranged eggshells by Kristen Meyer. And her saltine arrangement is still extremely satisfying. You can check out more of her work on her website and at Instagram. Ok wait, I really like this one too:

torn book pages carefully arranged

(via colossal)

The Best Book Covers of 2021

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 07, 2022

book cover of Outlawed by Anna North

book cover of Dead Souls by Sam Riviere

book cover of Foucault in Warsaw by Remigiusz Ryzinski

book cover of Orwell's Roses by Rebecca Solnit

book cover of Laserwriter II by Tamara Shopsin

book cover of Pure Gold by John Patrick McHugh

book cover of Nectarine by Chad Campbell

I only read ebooks these days and don’t make it to the one decent bookstore within a 60-minute drive from my house that often, but I still love love book covers. As I do every year, I’ve perused the end-of-year lists of the best covers and pulled out some favorites, which I’ve embedded above.

From top to bottom: Outlawed by Anna North, designed by Rachel Willey; Dead Souls by Sam Riviere, designed by Jamie Keenan; Foucault in Warsaw by Remigiusz Ryzinski, designed by Daniel Benneworth-Gray; Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit, designed by Gray318; Laserwriter II by Tamara Shopsin, designed by Tamara Shopsin;1Pure Gold by John Patrick McHugh, designed by Jack Smyth; and Nectarine by Chad Campbell, designed by by Dave Drummond.

You can find many more great covers in these lists: The 50 Best Book Covers of 2021 (Print), The Best Book Covers of 2021 (NY Times), The 101 Best Book Covers of 2021 (Literary Hub), Notable Book Covers of 2021 (The Casual Optimist), 8 of the Best Book Covers of 2021 (AIGA Eye on Design), The best book covers of the year 2021 (Creative Review), and The Best Book Covers of 2021 (Book Riot).

See also my lists from past years: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2015, 2014, and 2013.

  1. This is awesome. If I ever write a book with a traditional publisher, I’m going to fight (probably unsuccessfully) to design the cover.

Brik Font: Creating Type with Lego

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 05, 2022

Craig Ward has been creating letterforms using Lego bricks and posting the results to Instagram. The ones I really love are the anti-aliased letters — reminds me of zooming all the way in to do detail work in Photoshop back when I was a web designer.

the word 'ok' made out of Lego bricks

the letter 's' made out of Lego bricks

the letter 'f' made out of Lego bricks

the letter 'a' made out of Lego bricks

There is just something so satisfying about meticulously rendering digital artifacts in a physical medium like Lego.

Redesigned Book Spines by Ootje Oxenaar

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2022

some book cover spines redrawn by Ootje Oxenaar

some book cover spines redrawn by Ootje Oxenaar

some book cover spines redrawn by Ootje Oxenaar

some book cover spines redrawn by Ootje Oxenaar

Over a period of 50 years, legendary Dutch designer Ootje Oxenaar drew replacement book cover spines for the books in his library. A selection of his spine replacements are collected in a book called Ootje Oxenaar Spines.

Although renowned for his designs for Dutch banknotes and postage stamps, Oxenaar was a prolific designer of book spines. This wasn’t done for commercial publishers, but for books in his own library. When he didn’t care for what he saw poking out from a shelf (or when he needed to procrastinate) he would make his own spine for a book. The result is a fantastic and fantastical mosaic made of tall-and-skinny strips, hand-lettered and drawn with great skill and great whimsy.

Check out Steven Heller’s post at Print for more examples. (via i love typography)