Flowchart: What football team should I root for?

Sports fans everywhere are thrilled to have their favorite football teams back on the field. But what if you don’t have a favorite team? How do you know who to root for? This handy flowchart will help you decide. (Click to embiggen.)

If you’re more into baseball, you can see our first flowchart here.

This was prepared by Paul Caputo and Shea Lewis for Interpretation By Design. Thanks to neurotic hypermiler Jeremy Soule for his consultation.

Odds and Ends: Jersey Shore Edition

I have recently returned from my annual family vacation to Ocean City, New Jersey, during which I consumed 39 consecutive cheese-based meals. (Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.) Here are some things:

I found this sign at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier (whose website is a wonderland of animated gifs) on the Ocean City boardwalk. I had just sent a handful of kids (not sure they were all with me—they start to look alike after a while) on their last ride of the day, and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this. The Really Cool Teenager working the ride gave me a bizarre look when I crouched down to take the photo, but I was not to be deterred. I liked the sign so much I added it to the rotating images in the header of this website (there’s a one-in-eight chance it’s at the top of this page as you read right now).

This sort of thing is one of the many reasons I always have a camera with me. (Another reason: the off chance that I might end up sitting next to Natalie Portman on a roller coaster at the boardwalk.)

Philly Birds
I have been a lot less productive since my co-worker Carrie told me that there are three free versions of the Angry Birds app. Also, my family has descended into a Lord of the Flies-style chaos in which the person who possesses the iPad is ruler of the tribe and the only one allowed to speak.

This T-shirt (which I received as a birthday gift while at the shore) from Cheesesteak Tees plays off the Angry Birds aesthetic and references the Philadelphia Eagles football team through the use of green. (Also, many naturalists will tell you that eagles are a kind of bird, so it’s a clever connection.)

I’d love to see an interpretive site promote a program through a “Friendly Birds” or “Happy Birds” campaign. (Please share it with us if you do!)

Everyday Peeves
I won’t tell you the name of the place where I saw these signs because I don’t want an angry flash grammar mob to descend on my favorite ice cream shop. But I will say that the deliciousness of my hot fudge sundaes (cheese sauce on the side) was tempered by these gross violations of two grammar pet peeves: 1. The unnecessary use of quotation marks (which make you wonder if they’re being sarcastic about something), and 2. The use of “everyday” (common, average) when they meant “every day” (how often I eat ice cream when I’m on vacation).

By the way, I didn’t notice until I posted this image here that my sister was peering out at me from the other side of the glass door while I took this photo.

Scriptwurst Hi
Last year, when I went to the shore, it was swarming with people wearing T-shirts with the word “ill” extracted from the Phillies logo. (I wrote about it here.) The next new fad, I hope, is this very friendly “hi” T-shirt, also extracted from the Phillies logo, from a company called Zoo With Roy. (The company’s name is explained in its tagline: “I want to go to the zoo with Roy Halladay.” They do another great T-shirt that says, “Ask me about my pitching staff.”)

This T-shirt (another birthday gift) accentuates how round and cheery the Phillies typeface, Scriptwurst, is. (I wrote about that back in 2009 here.) I particularly like this design because the single, tiny word “hi” in such a friendly typeface is an unexpected contrast to the somewhat negative national perception of the Philadelphia sports fan. (Note: People who say or think bad things about Philadelphia sports fans are morons and jerks who should be punched in the face.)

Mystery Message
Finally, this T-shirt was another birthday gift. I’ve included it here because some people do not understand the shirt’s meaning—and some have trouble simply identifying the typographic characters that make up the message. I’m curious what the IBD Nerd Herd thinks of it.

Now that I’m back from vacation, I’m off to the Fort Collins Cheese Detox Center. If you’re in town, please stop by. I’ll be the guy in the T-shirt.

Get to Know a Typeface! Minion

Normally, on this site, we write about expressive typefaces that evoke strong responses. And since Shea and I are bitter, unhappy people, we write about typefaces that are easy to hate like Comic Sans and Papyrus.

Minion, designed by Robert Slimbach in 1990, is one of those typefaces that only a typographer could love (not that other people dislike it; they just don’t notice it). If Minion were at a high school dance, it would sip punch with its back against the wall trying not to make any sudden movements while Curlz MT and Mistral breakdanced in the middle of the floor. Meanwhile, Comic Sans would try to make his friend Marker Felt laugh so hard that milk came out his nose and Papyrus would be smoking in the girls room. (This metaphor may be starting to break down.)

The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst is one of the most influential books on typography. It discusses everything from the anatomy of individual letterforms to how to choose and combine typefaces, from the basics of effective composition to the history of the field going back more than 500 years. Some designers call it the Typographer’s Bible, and it’s set in Minion. (The cover pictured here is from an old edition of the book; I used this one instead of the newer one because it’s the one I’ve had on my shelf for about 10 years.)

Minion is a serifed typeface designed in the “classical tradition,” which is designer code for “It was designed to look like pretty much every other serifed typeface out there.” What makes it so great is its flexibility. If it played high school sports, it would never make the football team, but I can guarantee you it would make varsity running cross country. (Meanwhile, Comic Sans would play sousaphone in the band and Papyrus would smoke in the parking lot and make snarky comments about how people who play team sports are such conformists.)

There is nothing to dislike about Minion. Sure, typographers who like to argue about the tiniest of details will say things like, “The slight upward angle of the cross-stroke of the lower-case e is too whimsical,” but it’s expertly designed to maximize legibility, and the practical advantages to most designers are immeasurable.

In short, the advantage of Minion, specifically Minion Pro, is that it contains more characters (called glyphs) than most other fonts. A small fraction of Minion’s glyphs are pictured here; you can see that it has a lot more versions of the letter O than you’re likely to ever use. When I laid out an article in Legacy magazine that required unique characters from the Hawaiian language, Minion Pro was the only typeface on my computer that had characters with the diacritical marks I needed. The cover of The Elements of Typographic Style pictured above pays homage to the importance of glyphs by featuring 11 of them based on a lower-case a in a row in red.

Minion Pro has multiple weights (bold, semi-bold, medium, roman) plus old-style letterforms and small caps. Most typefaces simply use small versions of upper-case letters for their small caps, while in high-end typefaces like Minion, small caps are upper-case letters specifically designed to be read at smaller sizes.

Beyond the practical benefits of a large character set, there are aesthetic applications as well. Suppose you were setting the word “Phlegm” at a display size and wanted give it that extra bit of flair we all know it deserves. Most classical typefaces don’t give you many options, but among Minion’s many glyphs are traditional characters that contain swashes. The swashed m in the top “Phlegm” is just that much more elegant than the traditional version underneath.

Another important feature of Minion is ligatures, where certain letters in sequence are joined. Most classical typefaces include “fi” and “fl” ligatures, but Minion Pro includes many more. The top example of “Office” here features an “ffi” ligature, while the example underneath does not. (Most of the time, your computer will default to any ligature included in the font you’re using when the appropriate letters appear in sequence. I had to trick the computer into not defaulting to the ligature on the second example.)

Some interesting typographic trivia (if there is such a thing): The ampersand (&) derives from a ligature of the letters E and T (et is Latin for and).

Like many who were scared to talk to girls and who were not that great at sports in high school, Minion found a niche in the grown-up world where it is appreciated for its strengths. These days, Comic Sans thinks about those high-school glory days while it goes to work on take-out menus and garage sale flyers, and Papyrus begrudgingly tries to make a living promoting massage therapists on business cards on coffee shop bulletin boards, but that nerd Minion is the one that finds itself on the pages of the book typographers call their Bible.

Logo Abuse

I have wasted too much brain space on pop-culture factoids. I have always been fascinated with elements of pop-culture. It probably has something to do with me primarily living outside pop-culture trends and my late-80s Dungeons and Dragons expertise. I have even been dubbed by one IBD reader as the “trend-guru.” I’m not sure if that is a compliment to me, an insult to Paul, or some sort of club that I unintentionally joined that has been charging $14.99 a month to my credit card. I like the idea of staying current, and I especially find it gratifying when I see something in popular culture that relates to my work or passions. 

A couple weeks back, I was really excited to watch the Academy Awards. Not because of the red carpet, a movie that made me cry that will go unnamed, or seeing what typeface the larger than life letterforms on the stage are set in, but because of a movie where design was at the premise behind the film.  The short film Logorama was up for Best Animated Short Film. Some of you may remember my post on the film Helvetica (by some of you I mean Paul) where I mentioned that “the 2007 release Helvetica brings recognition to a typeface that was created not to be noticed.” That’s right I just quoted myself.

The short film Logorama won Best Short Animated Film. If Helvetica was created to go unnoticed then the logos featured in Logorama were created to get noticed. The 16 minute French animated film does an excellent job of highlighting logos by taking them out of their context and pretty much abusing them. This is no different from me trying out for the football team as a freshman in high school.

Logorama deservingly won the Oscar.  It is worth watching from a design standpoint. Every time I watch it another logo stands out to me that I didn’t notice previously. It is amazing how many logos are involved in the film and it is great fun to see how many you can count. No wonder I didn’t make the football team. I have to give a disclaimer here, as much as I enjoy the artistic approach to the animated logos some of the content, violence, and language in the film is for adult audiences (not that kind of adult). Based on the amount of Disney films shown in my house, I was a little taken back by some of the violence and language especially coming from Ronald McDonald. You could mute the movie and just watch the visual scenery (the best part), download the French version to learn words they never taught you in French class, or make up your own story and act out the parts in funny voices. Really, no wonder I was the manager for the tennis team. Logorama can be downloaded for $1.99 on iTunes.

I also hope that in 2011 that another design-type movie is nominated for an Academy Award. I have yet to see it but based on the title alone, it’s awesome. Typeface the movie has to be great. Everything that I have heard about it echoes my enthusiasm, but I do have a small circle of friends. In a world of digital design Typeface focuses on a Wisconsin print shop where layout and design is still one element at a time.

From what I have read the Hamilton Print Shop and Museum is similar to Hatch Show Print Co. in Nashville, Tennessee. Some of you may remember my post on Hatch (by some of you I mean Paul, who am I kidding even Paul doesn’t remember that one) where I mentioned that “Hatch Show Print Co. is in operation today using the letterpress process in a world of desktop publishing, offset printing and computer processing.” Okay, two quotes from me, by me, is even too much for me in one post. The film is currently available in limited screenings but I hope to offer a full review in a future post. The film has a great website with the story of the movie, photos, video, and store. A DVD of Typeface is scheduled to be available later this spring.

Now I’ve got to explain to my wife how I failed to notice three months of $14.99 charges on the credit card to dnd.meetup.com.