video Discussion of readable type for captions and subtitles from the Open & Closed Project. See, for instance, this critique of existing typefaces for HDTV captioning.
>  15 February 2008 | LINK | Filed in , , ,
The Open & Closed Project. “A new research project headquartered in Toronto. Our main goal is to improve quality by setting standards for the four fields of accessible media – captioning, audio description, subtitling, and dubbing. We’ll develop those standards through research and evidence-gathering. Where research or evidence is missing on a certain topic, we’ll carry it out ourselves. We’ll test the finished standards for a year in the real world, then publish them. Then we’ll develop training and certification programs for practitioners. ” Not much there yet, but I like this direct approach. I hope legislative advocacy will follow.
>  15 February 2008 | LINK | Filed in , , , ,
Changes. Excellent video montage of the 2008 U.S. presidential candidates pushing "change."
>  5 February 2008 | LINK | Filed in
Anti-War Films. A list on Wikipedia.
>  15 September 2007 | LINK | Filed in
Sands of Sorrow. Via YouTube, a 28 minute black-and-white documentary from 1950. “On the plight of Arab refugees from the Arab-Israeli war. Dorothy Thompson speaks on the refugee problem. Refugees live in tents in the Gaza Strip, are given blankets and food by Egyptian soldiers, and receive flour from UNICEF. A Lebanese priest conducts services. Refugees work as plumbers, carpenters, tailors, and shoemakers in the city of Jerusalem. Doctors vaccinate refugees against disease. Shows the squalid living conditions in refugee camps, starving children, and emphasizes the hopeless condition of the refugees. Producer: Council for the Relief of Palestine Arab Refugees”
>  25 August 2007 | LINK | Filed in , ,
There Are 12 Kinds of Ads in the World. Slate digs up a 1978 analysis of propaganda techniques by Donald Gunn an ad man for Leo Burnett. Posted as a slideshow with associated YouTube videos of recent ads.
>  29 July 2007 | LINK | Filed in


On Friday, I caught a screening Helvetica, the film at the New School.

The film is a breezy valentine to type, typography, graphic design, and designers. The editing puts a nice leisurely pace to it, and I thought the sound design, which could have been disastrous in other hands, was suitably sensitive. It’s not a bad first film.

It consists mostly of two types of shots: interviews with bold-face name designers and scenes of type on the street — interspersed with occasional animated renderings of famous posters. The designers talk about the type, its use and origin, and their relationship to it, love or hate. It certainly helps to know who the players are, though most of the personalities sparkle through regardless.

On top of the brief historical survey, the broader question raised by the film seems to be, “How does this typeface come to dominate our visual environment? How did it come to be seen as so ‘neutral’?”

The answer provided by the parade of talking heads is of mostly a matter of taste, period fashion, and eventually a response to the momentum of a critical mass of usage.

But a look at counter-examples might have been illustrative: why does Gil Sans dominate in the UK? Why does a more condensed gothic sans seem so popular in France? I think a clue is in the usage by the state and the power of its projection. This is alluded to by many shots of the Helvetica-like sans serif on New York City subway signage, and by Paula Scher’s association between the powers that use Helvetica and the powers behind the Viet Nam war.

But mentioned only in passing is, I think, the most important point: bundling. Before desktop publishing, the font was widely available for linotype, as presstype, and for other printing methods. But now the font (and its twisted cousin Arial) comes pre-installed on every new computer sold. The film never really investigates why or how this came to be, or the consequences of it. It’s just assumed that Helvetica was a sufficiently “classic” and popular face. I think this is another case of designers ignoring systemic and structural forces. Its power is invisible, and well, what’s “normal” is just taken for granted. Further evidence of this systemic short sightedness is the fact that of the 21 designers interviewed on screen, nineteen are white men and two are white women.

>  8 April 2007 | LINK | Filed in , , , ,
¡Gigante: Despierta! / Giant: Awake!. A DVD compilation of short films chronicling the historic immigrant rights marches of 2006 and the events that led up to them. See selected clips online.
>  22 March 2007 | LINK | Filed in ,

Meet Project Censored

Sociology Professors Andrew Roth and Peter Phillips from Project Censored were interviewed by Riz Kahn on Al Jazeera English on January 1, 2007. It’s a nice introduction and overview of Project Censored, its methodology, and some of the top stories from 2006. Here’s the video on YouTube:

>  28 January 2007 | LINK | Filed in
Take Back the Capitol. “An open source political video project and clip contest.” Anyone can submit a short video clip to the YouTube group, the best clips will be cut into a political music video by Sim Sadler, seen in these pages as the editor of Hard Working George.
>  8 August 2006 | LINK | Filed in

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