Relevance for the Irrelevant

I was one of the millions of people who tuned into the Superbowl last Sunday afternoon. I didn’t really have a team that I felt strongly about winning so I was pulling for the Green Bay Packers to lose since they knocked out the Chicago Bears. I have pulled for the Bears ever since the 1986 Superbowl Shuffling team beat the New England Patriots (a team from the Boston, that for obvious reasons as a New York Yankees fan, I love to see lose). Of course, as you now know, me pulling for the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t help their cause.

Just like most of our readers, for some reason, I felt obligated to tune in. Perhaps that has something to do with football and the NFL becoming more and more the national pastime. As a baseball fan, deep down inside, this bothers me. In semi-silent protest, I watched the game while hanging out on Facebook and paid more attention to the commercials than the game, all while trying to forget about Christina Aguilera’s butchering of the National Anthem. I wasn’t the only one on Facebook during the game.  It was interesting to see how Facebook responded to plays, calls from referees, and commercials.

After the commercial (posted above for your viewing pleasure) from Volkswagen played during the Superbowl, friend of IBD Joel Frey made the following comment: “It’s pretty amazing that Star Wars is still relevant 30+ years after its debut.” Of course I loved the commercial, which had nothing to do with the Darth Vader costume that I was wearing at the time, but Joel’s statement got me thinking.

I had to watch the game because I’m a sports fan and baseball hasn’t started yet but also because football is part of the American culture. The NFL has been responsive to changing times and changed the game to better meet the needs of modern audiences. Baseball has been slow to change. The NFL has worked towards parity amongst teams leading to better competition. In the meantime MLB has imposed no salary cap which in turn has allowed the Yankees to dominate the league (not that there is anything wrong with that). The NFL has taken on challenges such as steroids while MLB has avoided them. NFL ratings are at an all time high and MLB ratings are suffering. For the record, baseball is the best sport.

Star Wars has managed to stay relevant by offering new sequels/prequels, cartoons, toys, games, websites, licenses, and many other products/media to stay relevant as well as capitalize on. The success is partly based on a great product to begin with. The other part is planned and purposeful.

So this isn’t why you tuned in today, but it is why I wrote this post. Paul and I want to stay relevant to you and your work. We are about to begin our third year writing this blog, and we realize that there are millions of better things that you could be doing with your time. Writing frankly, we are not really sure why you aren’t doing those things. Writing honestly, Paul and I have not been very successful at staying interesting or relevant to anyone ever. Our wives stay with us because they feel sorry for us and still think they can help us. We are their ultimate project.

We could continue at this blog’s current pace for a lifetime. The internet could be long gone and we may continue to write these posts to simply entertain each other (which is how this blog really came to be). If you have ever spent time with either of us alone, you now know how much socialization we need. Based on what we have learned (here on IBD and in high school) is that it is much better with you here. As numbers, readers, comments and hits have grown so has our desire to stay relevant.

Through several conversations we are planning on shaking things up a bit this next year but before we do, we would like your input. We don’t want this blog to turn into a six-hour read, written by two guys hopped up on HGH who spit all of the time, without any possibility of instant replay, and who don’t ever change the rules.

We love baseball and could easily let IBD become steeped in tradition (a strange tradition of comments in parenthesis). So, here’s your chance to tell us which type of posts you like. Let us know what topics you would like us to write about. Tell us who has the best shaped head? What series (Ask A Nerd, Get to Know a Color, I’ve Got Problems, Get to Know a Typeface) do you like best? Would you like more or fewer posts? Do you like longer or shorter posts? All friendly comments are welcome all mean comments pointed towards me will be deleted, those directed towards Paul will be accepted. If there are no comments we are going to move forward with some plans, that you may or may not notice but we want you to be a part of the process.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention we need some ideas too.

Star Vader: Tapping into Your Inner Nerd through Type

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Warning: The nerd factor on IBD is about to reach an all time high. If you are not a certified member of the nerd herd slowly step away from your computer.

I would like to be able to blame Paul’s snarky comment (“Tune in next week when Shea sings the praises of Wal-Mart, Darth Vader, and the New York Yankees…”) made on June 18, 2009 (in reference to my post on PC vs. Mac (Hint: PC Wins!)) for this geeky post. My last post (Wal-Mart’s Makeover) was to serve as evidence to Paul that he shouldn’t encourage me. This post was bound to come from me sooner or later, and more like this one will come in the future.

It was just a matter of time before you found out that I’m a huge fan of Star Wars. Okay, so now that we’ve got that out of the way I will proceed.

As a Star Wars fan, I have always been drawn to the typeface Star Vader (available for free download here). For me the romantic allure of the classic movies is conveyed through the type. Some of the earliest Star Wars artwork includes Star Vader in its raw, unaltered state. The modern yet rustic letterforms are as beautiful, though less functional, as Helvetica. Through the years modernized versions of Star Vader have evolved to what many recognize as the more current “Star Wars” font.

The problem with Star Vader is that besides personal correspondence between one equally geeky friend (Joel Andrew Frey of El Paso, Texas, author of Two Sides of a Cypress Wall, in which I am a key character), a temporary website that I created in college, and invitations to my bachelor party, I have had little excuse to use it.

But what’s not to like about this futuristic sans serif that has held up to the test of time by still looking futuristic 32 years after it hit the mainstream? I have gone to the trouble to download it to various personal computers and work computers and for some reason I find myself wanting to use it though I seldom have the occasion.

There are plenty of typefaces like Star Vader that only can be used sparingly and for the specific purpose of evoking an emotional connection to reader’s memories of a movie, time period, genre, or style that may or may not be connected to the work at hand. Websites such as David Occhino Design offer new stylized versions of classic fonts like Star Vader as well as other movie, art deco, Halloween, theme park, and sci-fi fonts.

I have seen mimic work done well and poorly. Use caution when creating a look that looks like “a look.” If you are going to use this approach make sure that every detail from color, composition, and scale are appropriately and respectfully recreated.  Many of these typefaces could be well used in a thematic interpretive program.

There is an interesting sub-culture of folks out there who take typography to an entirely different level and use fonts for an entirely different purpose than most typographers and designers. The effort they put into accurately re-creating costumes, communicating in the native languages of Star Wars characters, or creating fonts to evoke moments from the Star Wars films is “impressive, most impressive.”

What impresses me most is the amount of effort placed in perfecting the unique letterforms found in the various typefaces (or even entirely fictional character sets). I have only dressed in Star Wars garb a limited number of times. But some of the folks I know take it very seriously. For more information, contact Joel Frey directly or visit Wookieepdia (I’m not kidding), a Star Wars wiki for the proper use of typefaces/languages like Aurebesh.

I did have the opportunity to meet Darth Vader (Dave Prowse, the actor who portrayed Darth Vader, not James Earl Jones who was the voice of Darth Vader) in the fall of 1993 (11.07.1993, to be exact). Here’s a picture of Joel, me, and Darth (left to right) and a copy of the autographed picture I received that day.

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