Three Fonts From the Vault

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

About ten years ago, I made a couple of display typefaces using some old posters/clip art books, tape, ink, and a xerox machine. One of these, Blue Baby, still lives on in various locations across the internet today. I had thought the others were gone for good after numerous computer transitions. The past weekend while digging through the contents of an old hard drive, I stumbled across the TrueType files for three other fonts — Nevada, Psycho 78, and Cowboy Dan). Some of these were for sale on a very old version of this site, and I believe Nevada was given away for free by the defunct Kiiroi magazine.

As I still get requests to use Blue Baby and see it pop up every now and then, I figured some designers may be interested in the getting a leg up on the next grunge design revival.

You can download these fonts here.

These are free for commercial and non-commercial use. If you happen to find them useful, please get in touch and send me a copy of your work. I still get a kick out of seeing the fonts get used, even after ten years.

An Uneasy Suspension

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

…and California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension; in which the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things had better work here, because here, beneath that immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent.

 — Joan Didion, “Notes From a Native Daughter”

Photograph by Todd Hido.

Together We’ll Never

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Those unable to make the journey to Seattle last weekend for the Sub Pop 20th Anniversary festival can live vicariously through fan uploaded videos and Sub Pop’s own mobile broadcasting. Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman delve into the label’s history in a fair amount of detail in this interview. There are lots of reasons to celebrate the label, and those are balanced by a slew of missteps in the post-Nirvana age, referred to the Pavitt and Poneman as the “dark ages”.

Some interesting tidbits, regarding creating a visual identity that matched the sound:

This is something that’s rarely discussed or brought up, but I was always very, very conscious of networking and trying to link people up. In the same way that label would link up a musician with a graphic designer or photographer, I felt it was very important for different regional scenes, and bands in different cities to get turned on to what was going on in other cities, so the whole national scene could kind of coalesce into a more unified thing.

Mudhoney/Nirvana Advertisement, Winter 1998

You say that every level needs a motif, visually. What other labels were you looking to for inspiration?

In my own mind, let’s say Blue Note, most famously. Factory Records. 4AD. And as far as the U.S. indie scene at that time, SST. All had very distinctive looks, and as somebody who had — I had also started a couple of indie record stores, I’d pretty much worked indie rock from every possible facet — what I would notice from working at record stores is that people would walk in and more times than not buy records simply because of the cover art. If there was a label like 4AD or SST that had a very consistent look, people would want to collect those records. Postcard Records from Scotland was another example. Because of the similar look, oftentimes people would want to collect everything in the series. This had a lot to do with how we packaged our singles; with the singles club, we had the bar running across the top. They became a series, and people would go out of their way to get everything in the series, and that led to a lot more record sales.

Tad\'s \"Loser\" and L7\'s \"Shove\" Singles

To me, the key to this identity lies in the black and white photography of Charles Peterson, which captures the sweat, hair, denim, and flannel in bipolar moments of frenzied motion or apathetic daze. His photos grace the front and back covers of almost all of the early Sub Pop releases. Pavitt discusses how the partnership with Peterson came about:

He had just finished printing life-sized photos of bands like Malfunkshun and Green River, and he had this whole showcase in his house. I looked at those photos, and I immediately knew that he was catching the energy of the groups, and combining these images with the music would work. Every record label needs a visual motif to establish [itself], and those photos would help do it.

Charles Peterson’s iconic music photography of the era has been collected in the book Touch Me, I’m Sick.

Elsewhere, Toru Aki’s blurry portraits are the antithesis of Peterson’s work — emerging from a white void, they cast everyday scenes and faces as memory ghosts. More moody photography from Lane Coder. Jamie Chung’s Project One contains black and white abstracts that are part rorschach blot and part ink on water cocktail. Be sure to follow up with her fungus photography in Project Two. (No direct links for these flash portfolios…)

More sights at Artlog in focus, but no permalinks for guests. The portfolio of the Swiss duo Fageta (via It’s Nice That) and the design & illustration of Tim Fishlock.

Felix Sockwell explains the design process behind his gorgeous icons for the New York Times on the iPhone (via Brand New). Meanwhile, some NYTimes Labs developers have launched ShifD, which could be an interesting player in the manage-your-notes-on-all-your-devices space. Old school GTD fans will probably be beside themselves at the mention of Beeswax, a curses based todo application based on Lotus Agenda. Those same people might also be interested in TwitVim, a Twitter client for Vim (of course).

Spook Country Cinema

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Steve McQueen and a Mustang: This car chase scene from Bullitt has long been regarded as one of the all time classics in cinema. Someone has taken the time to “geo-broadcast” that scene using a site called Seero. Seero lets you geocode timeframes within your videos, and view the route in real time via map overlays. The result is reminiscent, though less grand, than the VR installations of celebrity death scenes imagined by William Gibson in Spook Country. (via peterme)

More for the machine-aided-geography set: Polipoly, from the industrious Sunlight Labs, is a compact Python library for associating addresses with congressional districts. I’d missed it before, Sunlight Labs also created Capitol Words, a dead simple website that tracks the most popular word from the Congressional record each day. They have released an API as well.

Soak in the geometric color abstractions from both Owen Gildersleeve and Andy Gilmore. Gildersleeve created a set of unique posters in collaboration with artist Thomas Forsyth. Forsyth’s spinning top auto-drawing contraption creates ghost scribbles atop the circular fields designed by Gildersleeve. Courtesy of Matthew Buchanan, the color abstracts by Andy Gilmore remind me of this poster by Otl Aicher, from his collection for the 1972 Munich Olympics. Four years earlier: a graphic uprising in 1968.

Michael Agger explores how we read online, while fewer and fewer people read books offline. RIP Cody’s. Who needs books when you can purchase an abstraction artifact of your favorite product at Daniel Becker’s Barcode Plantage?

Visuals: Lovely portfolio of Wayne Daly (via It’s Nice That). The artwork of Sandra Kassenaar. The photography of Christian Wander. A gallery of sawn in half cameras (via DF). YouWorkForThem presents ZINETWO, a PDF magazine/design flyer. Raymond Biesinger drew the icons above this paragraph, and he has a striking portfolio of vintage-styled illustration that look plucked from a Boys Life issue from the 1950’s. Pin-Up a magazine for architectural entertainment (via EG).

Featured up top, Raymond Pettibon cover art for the Dim Stars 1992 EP. Not so grim as this caped crusader poster, but a bit more subversive.

Dæmonomania, Itself

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

“Well I’ve failed. I failed. Yes I think that’s evident now.” He said this with what seemed great anguish. “The conception was just too huge, the parts too many. No matter how long it was let to go on, it got no closer to being done.”

“It’s a corrupted text,” Pierce said. “I believe.” There was, he now saw, another bentwood chair beside the man, exactly like the one he sat in.

“I so much wanted it to knit,” the other said. He interlaced his own fingers. “Past and present, then and now. The story of the thing lost, and how it was found. More than anything I wanted it to resolve. And all it does is ramify.

 — John Crowley, Dæmonomania

Above, the title page from French jurist Jean Bodin’s 1693 handbook Dæmonomania, used by judges presiding over witch trials. (via BiblioOdyssey)