Toucan play at this game

It’s been a busy couple weeks for graphic design and typography in the news. The thing is, I often miss the news because I’m busy watching baseball and old episodes of Battlestar Galactica, so I appreciate it when IBD readers send links to interesting stories. Here are a few items that landed in my in-box recently.

Maya Archeology Initiative vs. Toucan Sam
Personally, I am tired of Guatemalan nonprofit organizations using scare tactics and lawyers to bully defenseless multi-national food conglomerates. So I was glad to see Kellogg’s defend its signature Toucan Sam against the Maya Archeology Initiative’s logo’s blatant trademark infringement. (In case you can’t tell them apart because they’re so similar, the one on the left above represents an organization devoted to defending Mayan culture, the one on the right is Kellogg’s Toucan Sam.) According to news articles about the case, Kellogg’s objects not only to MAI’s use of a Toucan, but also its use of Mayan imagery, because, it turns out, Kellogg’s uses Mayan imagery, too.

Fight the good fight, Kellogg’s! Before you know it, MAI (which was *this close* to stealing the acronym of the association I work for) will be spelling fruit with two Os and trying to pass off high-fructose-corn-syrup styrofoam balls as cereal, just like you do.

Thanks to Friend of IBD Kirk Mona who alerted us on Twitter to this story on, and my co-worker Jamie King, who sent a link to this story on TechDirt.

A Book About Type
This story from NPR, sent to us by Friends of IBD Jeff Miller and Brent Erb, uses the words Font and Type in its headline, so it was pretty much guaranteed that I was going to hear about it.

The article is about a new book called Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield. (Simon is the really talented part of this author’s name. Garfield is just riding Simon’s coattails.) The book is about the history, trends, and cultural impact of certain fonts, and it is on my Amazon wish list.


Titling Gothic
New York City’s Central Park, a large urban nature area named after a coffee shop in the TV show “Friends,” made the news recently when it debuted its new identity on more than 1,500 signs (seen above in a New York Times photo by David W. Dunlap). And when it did, Friends of IBD Adrianne Johnson and Bob Brzuszek let us know about this article on the New York Times blog.

The new identity features a palette of warm green with red highlights, a heavy dose of pictograms, and a typeface called Titling Gothic. The story quotes the typeface’s designer, David Berlow of the Boston-based Font Bureau as saying, “None of the styles of Titling Gothic exude the kind of authoritarian insistence of Helvetica, which I’m sure was considered in the selection process.”

I love this for all sorts of reasons. I love the discussion of the nuances of type, the carefully considered decision-making process, and that New York City had to go all the way to the home of the hated Red Sox to find a type foundry with just the right typeface for their park.

Thanks to everyone who sends these stories! I’ll make you a deal: If you keep sending current, relevant news items, I will keep you apprised of developments in six-year-old episodes of Battlestar Galactica as I watch them.

Avoid New Verbs

On February 18, 2010 I wrote a post titled Unicorn Punching? where I highlighted new popular slang in an effort to seem relevant and in an attempt to be current. In that moment I was the hippest guy in the planet. Since I just typed the word “hippest” you can see how I have fallen. For the reader who implemented the use of the new nomenclature into their daily vocabulary, this post is for you (as well as your family who has been embarrassed by you trying to be cool). I’m trying to be subtle but that’s not always the best approach. What I’m trying to say is, Paul this post is for you.

In my daily search for news of the obscure online, I came across the latest list of words that are recommended for banishment from Lake Superior State Universityin Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. This was the 36th year the university has provided the masses with such a list.

According to their website,

“LSSU’s popular list began on Jan. 1, 1976, when former LSSU Public Relations Director Bill Rabe and a group of friends each contributed a few expressions that they disliked to form the first list. After that, the nominations stacked up for future lists and Rabe’s group, known then as The Unicorn Hunters, didn’t have to make up its own list again. LSSU receives well over 1,000 nominations annually through its website,”

Perhaps the IBD co-founders should consider a group name because the Unicorn Hunters is really cool name.  Maybe we could go as Captain Colon and the Funky Bunch or Brochu’s Coattails. We are open to suggestions. 

Anyway, I digress. Now back to why I wrote this post. In the Unicorn Punching? post several of the words that I recommended as being trendy or gaining steam in popular culture made the list. “Epic” and “Fail” are listed individually which makes their use together a true epic fail.  Dang it, I just can’t be cool. Here’s a few of the other words that went “Viral” in 2010. Again, I’m hopeless.

“Wow Factor” and “A-HA Moment” are listed as well and shouldn’t be used unless you were describing the wow factor that you had the moment you saw Morten Harket’s hair an a-ha concert in 1985.

For political reasons I will avoid making a comments about “Mama Grizzlies” and “Refudiate,” “I’m Just Sayin’.”

I have a few rules in life: 1.) When you don’t know what to do, walk fast and look worried. Carrying a clipboard helps. 2.) When confronted by a difficult problem, you can solve it more easily by reducing it to the question, “How would the A-Team Respond to this?” and 3.) Avoid new verbs. That’s why “Facebooking” and “Googling” (or is it “Googleing”) made the list.

The list reminds us that our interpretive texts should be written with time tested words and on a level that will appeal to our audiences. There are plenty of other elements that will make your exhibits dated. Writing in a way that can be viewed as timeless is no easy task but with careful thought and effort the words of non-personal media will long outlive the compressed laminate. 

LSSU’s list of banished words has a Facebook page (with 977 people who like their page at the time I wrote this post), where the conversations around the words makes the threads on IBD’s Facebook page (with 607 people who like their page at the time I wrote this post and great potential if Flipping the Pillow Over to Get to the Cold Side can get 4,568,563 followers) seem downright normal.