Design

Where one can purchase good type is often a subjective choice. However, establishments that tend to have high quality product are listed below.

Collectives or Large Foundries

  1. FontFont
  2. FontShop
  3. MyFonts
  4. Font Bureau
  5. Commercial Type

All these sites offer work from multiple foundries and sometimes their own. Commercial Type and Font Bureau represent the more exclusive and storied typefaces from many famous contemporaries in the field of type design today. While the others have such variety from the big guys and the little ones, that you'll find a great font. Sites like MyFonts are really good at comparing classic typefaces like Helvetica, Futura, or Garamond to help narrow down the cut that works for you.

Smaller or Individual Foundries

  1. Darden
  2. Okay Type
  3. House Industries
  4. Sudtipos

    Darden, Okay, House, and Sudtipos are great places to find display and specility typefaces that are very extensive and well crafted. Don't miss the cursive scripts from each of them. The ligatures and extended features are very exciting.

  5. Emigre

    Their Mrs. Eaves font has held up through fad and fashion very well.

  6. Storm Type

    This Czech foundry is a little under the radar, but their recuts of Baskerville and Walbaum are exquisite. They’ve done a fantastic job modernizing classic types like those and others. They also have a few in-house fonts they’ve designed based on Czech morphologies.

  7. The Foundry

    Foundry's serif fonts are some of the best, and would be very well suited in editorial or print work.

  8. Frere-Jones

    After the messy split with Hoefler, Tobias launched his own foundry and offers one font currently. You'll also find some of his pre-Hoefler work on Font Bureau.

  9. Playtype

    Based out of Copenhagen, these guys have fun and quirky type great for branding. I've used them on a few projects.

  10. Grilli Type
  11. Nouvelle Noire

    These Swiss foundries have very clean and sophisticated fonts with flair and whimsy built at a very subtle (or not so subtle) level. I haven't used any of their work yet, but I can see the potential.

  12. Milieu Groteseque

    I think these guys are underrated compared to Klim. I've found their type to be very well suited to pratical (even UI) as well as branding use.

  13. Hoefler & Co.

    The fonts here are expertly crafted and you can almost never go wrong using them. Their attention to detail and the craft of creating type is very evident. They're a powerhouse for good fonts, as they cover every major category well.

  14. Klim

    The typefaces here are great. They're boutique but very popular, like your favorite Indie brand.

Source

First published on Designer News in 2016.

Designing Marketing Emails

Getting a work email is the equivalent of seeing a bill int he mail: you just know it’s a bill without even having to open it because the design communicates that. Close your eyes and imagine a bill in the mail: the thinness of the envelope, the weak security paper, the simple and plain colors and fonts, the glassine address window. Bills can be identified by touch and sight alone without even having to open them.

And the experience of a bill? Bad.

Work emails are similar: the from address, the styling of the message, the time of day you receive it, the way it’s written, the apologetic workplace tone that is both friendly and distant. We all know how work emails read and what they look like.

And the experience of a work email? Well, work. And that’s not fun.

And now marketing companies and experience and design experts are telling us that these emails convert better when your outbound emails look “normal.” Their reasoning is simple: because these emails look like everyday, personal emails, we’re more likely to open them and trust them because they match the style of real emails from friends and colleagues.

There are a few issues there:

  1. It’s even more misleading: you’re co-opting an authentic design (a hand-written email from a real person) and using the same visual cues for an automated, impersonal message. You’re blurring the user’s expectations. It’s an anti-pattern, and the opposite of authentic.
  2. It’s a design issue: if marketing emails give everyone hives, we need to understand why. Somewhere in this phase of discovery, we lost track of what makes marketing good and that is precisely good design and writing. Design that excites, motivates, cajoles, and smiles. We need to fix design patterns, not discard them completely.
  3. It’s less work: non-technical and non-design marketing teams convinced themselves that simpler emails are always better because they are somehow more authentic. This was a convenient truth because these teams often don’t have the expertise to create strong marketing emails.

A good marketing email is beautiful and convincing. It has clear visual cues in it and clear calls to action. Just like you wouldn’t design a web page or magazine ad with just plain text (in most cases), so too, should your emails embody the experience of your brand and use the full world of visual design. That takes work. But your users will enjoy your emails with actual pleasure and won’t think to themselves, “great, more work.” Don’t send users bills, send them love letters.

Essentialism versus Minimalism

Essentialism is not minimalism, though you can be both. I would say the work of Marie Kondo is mis-labeled as minimalist, when in fact it is “essentialist.” An essentialist is somebody who only holds onto those things and experiences that are most important to her or his identity and purpose. A person can indeed very easily cherish or value a great number of things. I often wonder if someone who has a cluttered home or does a great many number of things … are they living simply or minimally? Perhaps not in those terms, but they can certainly be living essentially.

Finding Good Fonts

Some of my favorite places to find good fonts are listed below. I have listed a few popular and storied foundries with a wide selection first, then listed more specific independent foundries second.

  1. FontFont, FontShop, MyFonts, Font Bureau, and Commercial Type

    These larger foundries offer fonts ranging from the classics to new work from many famous contemporaries in the field of type design today.

  2. Darden, Okay Type, House Industries, and Sudtipos

    Darden, Okay, House, and Sudtipos are great places to find display and specialty typefaces that are very extensive and well crafted. Don’t miss the cursive scripts from each of them. The ligatures and extended features are very exciting.

  3. Emigre

    Their Mrs. Eaves font has held up through fad and fashion very well.

  4. Storm Type

    This Czech foundry is a little under the radar, but their recuts of Baskerville and Walbaum are exquisite. They've done a fantastic job modernizing classic types like those and others. They also have a few in-house fonts they've designed based on Czech morphologies that I'm dying to use on a future project.

  5. The Foundry

    Foundry’s serif fonts are some of the best, and would be very well suited in editorial or print work.

  6. Frere-Jones

    After the messy split with Hoefler, Tobias launched his own foundry and offers one font currently. You’ll also find some of his pre-Hoefler work on Font Bureau.

  7. Playtype

    Based out of Copenhagen, these guys have fun and quirky type great for branding. I’ve used them on a few projects.

  8. Grilli Type and Nouvelle Noire

    These Swiss foundries have very clean and sophisticated fonts with flair and whimsy built at a very subtle (or not so subtle) level. I haven’t used any of their work yet, but I can see the potential.

  9. Milieu Groteseque

    A bit underrated compared to other small shops, I’ve found their type to be very well suited from practical UI needs to distinct branding uses.

  10. Hoefler & Co.

    The fonts here are expertly crafted and you can almost never go wrong using them. Their attention to detail and the craft of creating type is very evident. They're a powerhouse for good fonts, as they cover every major category well.

  11. Klim

    The typefaces here are great. They’re boutique but very popular and also do commissioned type work quite frequently.

Sapper Industrial Sewing Machine
Source
Industrial Sewing Machine (1964) prototype by Richard Sapper (1932–).

Jade

Jade Freer Sackler
Jade freer sackler 6015 10
Jade freer sackler 7630
Jade freer sackler 7678
Jade freer sackler 6015 06
Jade freer sackler 6016
Jade freer sackler 6015
Jade freer sackler 7623
Jade freer sackler 8239
Jade freer sackler 7622

A collection of sublime jade objects from the Freer & Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian. Jade — for all its popularity as a green stone — is strikingly colorful. Jade covers nearly every hue, and we would do well as artists to take advantage of these characteristics. Jade isn’t just green after all.

Palais Garnier
Source
Transverse section at the auditorium and pavilions of the Paris Opera’s Palais Garnier. 1880. Wikipedia.

Flint Striker
Source
A flint striker in the form of a bird. Free & Sackler Galleries.

Japanese Lacquer
Source

Plastic

I despise plastic.

And yet, plastic is the true technologist material. Like a stem cell, you feed instructions to the plastic: this is what you shall be and it is so. Plastic can be soft, hard, woven, carved, flexible, rigid, biodegradable, permanent. We will find “higher quality” materials like metal and glass increasingly anachronistic for the purposes of technology, especially advanced technology. And as technology will drive the fortunes of other disciplines, they will have to follow its march. Well, now is the time to begin to appreciate plastic aesthetically.

Design versus Engineering

Consider this scenario: a engineer is working on a project and finds another engineer has worked on something similar but has a better solution. This other engineer shared his solution on his blog. The code is open-sourced. The engineer grabs that code, and uses it. This is a fairly common, and not really falling under any scrutiny, as far as I am aware.

Now, a designer is working on a project and finds another designer has worked on something similar but has a better solution. This other designer shared his solution on his blog. The designer grabs the design and uses it.

Whereas for the engineer, this is common practice, for the designer it is not as reputable. If the designer were to share his work and let it be known that it is from someone else, his talent would diminish. My question is: do engineers ever feel similarly about this? I for one feel less authentic and less skilled if I use a template file. Even if I remake that template from scratch following the same steps I feel more satisfied: much like a musician playing Mozart or a chef using an established recipe: even when the steps are copied, variation and innovation seem to occur. When something is copied wholesale — even with tacit encouragement from the creator — the mutation of creativity does not seem to occur.

Schedel, Constantinople
Source
A view of Constantinople. Woodblock from the Nuremberg Chronicle by Hartmann Schedel (1493). Paul Swaen Galleries.

Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Attesa

In artwork, symbolism maps meaning to unrelated things. In paintings of the Annunciation, white lilies are used to represent Mary’s virginity and purity. What can be so frustrating when viewing modern art, especially, is that the mappings are completely lost to me as a viewer. This is partly due to no set meanings for abstract forms: does a line signify separation, renewal, connectedness? Well of course, it can be all of those and more: symbolism is much less fixed (if at all). Almost in every instance, the symbolism must be explained by the artist or the museum, leaving the viewing of modern art to be both challenging and intellectually rewarding.

Source
Concetto spaziale, attesa (c. 1964) by Lucio Fontana (1899–1968).

Ricketts Indigo

Indigo is the best dye in use. The color varietals are dizzying and the applications are endless. It is a blue that captures nuances in nature that are hard to come by in dyes. For this reason, Indigo has had a long history of use. Its most popular form today is in blue jeans, which themselves are nearly universally appreciated the world over. Pictured above is a black and indigo textile used as a Japanese room divider, or noren, produced by Ricketts Indigo.

Source
Ricketts Indigo.

Heian Brushes
Source
Heian brushes, Craig Mod.

A Simpler Amazon.com Menu

Amazon Menu

When designing for megamenus or writing web copy in general, don’t put filler or nonessential words first: this prime location should be reserved for the most information-bearing verbiage and nothing else.

Update: further discussion on this topic at Designer News

Signature Cues

Lippicott says good brands have signature cues that concentrate a brand into something tangible and can fundamentally be considered as a sign or signifier of the whole business. What is signified can vary dramatically. Examples form Lippincott include:

  1. Scent: the wood-infused interior of a Rolls Royce
  2. Sound: sonic signature of Intel
  3. Visual: the silhouette of iPod advertising
  4. Touch: the touch of Lycra
  5. Shape: classic Coca-cola bottle
  6. Voice: “Thank you for jetting with us” from JetBlue
  7. The behavior of people: the well-trained baristas of Starbucks
  8. Service: 24/7 customer service from Zappos
  9. Product uniqueness: the left-handed ignition of a Porsche
  10. Ritual: insisting on a lime wedge when drinking a Corona
  11. Color: the distinctive blue box from Tiffany

Etching of Süleymaniye Mosque

One common example of skeuomorphic design mentioned by designers is the simulation of paper texture on the screen (Apple being the most common user of this aesthetic). What you may not realize is that the simulation can go even farther in our visual past. Above is just one example.

This is an etching printed on paper, but the etching simulates curled paper on the top left corner. Simulating paper on paper itself? You might as well simulate pixels on a computer screen.

The etching is a view of the Süleymaniye Mosque built in the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century.

Local Production

Arguments that local or American made craft traditions are somehow implicitly superior to foreign production will be viewed with the same disdain we view Victorian ideas around nationalism and race. These are inherently nationalist (and even racist) statements that have swept the world of consumer goods. A globalized world must admit that every person is on equal footing with another and that country of origin should hardly be imbued with such mystique and pride as it is now. Do people who produce goods in other counties deserve less respect? Are they less capable of being called craftsman?

Faux Bois Toothbrush Holder

Originally designed for resting a knife or spoon, and found at any elegant table, this silver-plated rest with charming faux bois detail makes a very suitable rest for your toothbrush. The elevation prevents the toothbrush from touching anything nasty; the direction of the head allows water to dry more effectively with the help of gravity; and I find the low form-factor a welcome change from the top-heavy toothbrush cups that always seem to collect some unidentifiable gunk inside of them. And yes, there is room for more toothbrushes.