2019

  • Techna Sans

    A nice open-source sans-serif

    Really nice to see more and more strong fonts being released under open-source licenses. This one is particularly lovely - I have a soft spot for these chunky humanist typefaces and I love the little details in this one, like the angle-cut terminals and the treatment of the lowercase “t”.

    I hope the community keeps developing it; I’d especially love to see where they might go with additional weights and styles.

  • Levi Walter Yaggy’s amazing geographic illustrations

    I’m really blown away by these maps and diagrams created by Levi Walter Yaggy, and published in 1887 in his folio book Geographical Portfolio - Comprising Physical, Political, Geological, and Astronomical Geography. Each page was 2 by 3 feet and the large graphics were intended to be used in the classroom as a teaching aid.

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  • Inked a new drawing last night!

    Life has been busy lately and it’s been awhile since I’ve been able to work on a new drawing. This week I finally had a few free nights to work on something, and it felt so good to pick up a brush again.

    This drawing will be used in a new print edition, inspired by a “science experiment” my wife Jackie did for Evelyn, our 4-year-old daughter. She put some white flowers in water, added food coloring, and left them for a week or so until the the petals began to turn the same color as they water.

    Flowers in food coloring
  • Thank you, Mr. Pei. We'll miss you.

    I’m so sad to hear of IM Pei’s passing today, at 102. He was one of my favorite architects, and judging by the volume, fame, and international breadth of his work, I’m hardly alone. I still remember how much the East Wing of the National Gallery in DC blew my mind the first time I went there. Same for the pyramid at the Louvre.

    The New York Times wrote a nice primer on his work here.

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  • An aero bicycle frame... made from wood

    HTech’s new road bike is absolutely stunning. It’s an exotic aero road bike that looks as state-of-the-art as any of the bikes you’d see on the line at the Tour de France. But it’s made mostly from trees.

    There’s something that always intrigues me about using traditional or natural materials to build something technologically “modern.” I love the kind of yin-yang of technology and hand-craftedness on a bike that’s been designed with computers, wind tunnels, and CNC machines… and then finished by hand, slowly, with sandpaper and lacquer. There’s over 300 hours of labor in every frame.

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  • In praise of friction

    The value of learning curves and context in UI/UX design

    “Easy” and “intuitive” are words you hear an awful lot if you make websites, apps, or any kind of interface. Over the last 20 to 30 years, they’ve become watchwords of user interface (UI) design; our metric for a design’s success is often based on how self-evident it seems to unfamiliar users. Can anyone, anywhere, pick it up and start using it without needing outside help? Does it “just work” for most people?

    User experience (UX) designers often describe their approach as a process of reducing “friction.” We spend a lot of time trying to figure out what our users’ goals are, and then do our very best to eliminate any “friction points” that slow them down. Along the way, a certain minimalism (and sometimes even asceticism) has overtaken UI design, as we strip away anything that feels even potentially complicated or unpredictable.

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  • Stunning images of snowy trees and icy lakes from Swiss photographer Pierre Pelligrini

    I really love these images.

    Stray observation: it’s interesting the way this photographer, Pierre Pelligrini, uses Instagram’s square frame. Back in the day, medium-format film (usually 6cm x 6cm negatives, or “120”) also had a square frame, a format that was widely used thanks to cameras like the Rolleiflex that were popular with journalists, portraitists, and fine-art photographers for their simplicity, portability, and optics. Famous users include Diane Arbus and Viviane Mayer.

    Square frames became a signature of a certain kind of landscape and street photography that fell somewhere in between the Ansel Adams tribe with their stately-but-cumbersome view cameras and the run-and-gun, grainy 35mm Gary Winogrand types. Thoughtful and detailed but not so static. It’s nice to see Instagram is maybe helping to re-popularize that visual style.

2018

  • Hilma's af Klint's groundbreaking abstraction

    I stumbled across this review of early 20th century Swedish painter Hilda af Klint and I’m pretty blown away by it. For one, her work was staggeringly innovative: her experiments with abstraction and spiritualist-inspired painting predate Kandinsky, Miro, and Klee by decades. But I also think her stuff is simply beautiful. Despite the stylistic and thematic similarities with her male contemporaries, there’s a precision and care in her compositions that strikes me as unique. They feel kind of graphic in a way, inviting enough to be equally at home on a poster or a gallery wall. But it was, of course, the gallery walls that were forbidden to her.

    The fact that her work – and that of countless other women artists of her time and long before – was alternately ignored and dismissed for (literally) 100 years is yet another reminder of Modernism’s unintended legacy. The idea was to create a more accessible, more democratic, more universal way of seeing and creating and living. But the founders’ definition of “universal” extended only to people who looked and thought like themselves. That is to say: rich white dudes. This blindness often reduced modernism to an enabler of prejudice, and, in af Klint’s case, robbed the world of at least one of the geniuses of the 20th century.