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.

What Designers Want

Professionals in any field have hang-ups and annoyances that they deal with every day. Bank tellers have to deal with customers who want to deposit hundreds of dollars in nickels, firefighters have to deal with cats stuck in trees, and swimsuit models have to deal with sand.

As a graphic designer, my second-least favorite part of any project is the very beginning—the moment when I get my first look at the materials that have been delivered to me before I get started. (My first-least favorite part of a project is the very end—the moment when I open the box of advance copies from the printer and notice for the first time, after missing it on countless proofs, that the word “Public” on the front cover is missing a letter and that spell check didn’t catch it because it created another word.)

It’s rare that a graphic designer generates all of the text and images that he or she incorporates into a given project, so the collaborative process usually begins in the hands of someone who is not the designer. Any time I work on a new project, I try to outline how I’d like materials delivered. The longer I work with a given freelance client or contact at work, the more smooth that process becomes.

I don’t like to generalize, but graphic designers are cynical jerks who spend all day stroking their goatees thinking about how great the world would be if everyone would just listen to them. Chapter 7 of the book Interpretation By Design is called “Making the Collaborative Process Work,” which is code for “How Normal People Can Get Along with Cynical Jerks Who Spend All Day Stroking Their Goatees Thinking About How Great the World Would Be if Everyone Would Just Listen to Them.” On page 89, the subhead “What to Provide the Designer” is code for “Designers Will Moan and Roll Their Eyes About Whatever You Give Them to Work With.”

With that in mind, here are some of the points I try to emphasize when I work with a new client regarding the delivery of materials:

Text: Don’t Tab
Most of the time, the problems designers have with working files are the result of good intentions. In crafting the text for a publication, writers will format it in word processing documents—they’ll create tables and columns, place photos, and worst of all, use the tab key to create alignments. There’s nothing I hate to see more when I open a Word file than a bibliography or a list of works cited that an author has formatted using returns and tabs.

More often than not, your designer will not use the same program for page layout that you use to create the content, which means that all of that formatting you did in Microsoft Word will have to be undone by the designer before it can be re-done in page-layout software like Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress. As a designer, I’m much happier to receive text with no formatting at all (except bold or italics to indicate hierarchy) that includes notes to me with instructions. I’d rather see a note that says “Designer: this is a sidebar” than have to copy and paste text out of a box in a Word file.

Images: Original Files, Please
Again, the path to annoyed designers is paved with good intentions. If you want a photo cropped or otherwise corrected, most designers prefer that you provide instructions to that effect rather than manipulating the image yourself. If you do manipulate an image yourself, provide the original version along with the corrected version.

Also, your designer will prefer images as separate files rather than embedded in a word processing document. Personally, if a client has a specific place where they want an image to be placed, I prefer to be alerted with a simple note to the effect of “Hey goatee-stroking jerk: Insert image_name.jpg here.”

Provide Final Files All at Once
This point is really two points rolled into one. The important word in the first part is final. Most designers working on a freelance basis will incorporate one round of corrections into a bid before they add hourly surcharges. Significant changes to text that should have been finalized before it went to the designer will usually alter the layout and result in charges that could have been avoided—not to mention emphatic goatee stroking and muttering behind your back on the part of the designer.

The second part, all at once, means that most designers don’t want partial delivery of a project. When you say to a designer, “I’m giving you half of the text and 13 of 50 photos so that you can started,” he or she will stroke his or her goatee and say, “Okay,” which really means, “I’m going to eat Ding Dongs and watch the Cartoon Network instead of working on your project.” This is not because designers are jerks (which, I reiterate, we are), but rather because having all of the materials in front of us will allow us to make decisions about how to lay out a project.

We strive to make IBD a bridge between the fields of interpretation and graphic design. If you’re an interpreter who works with designers, I hope this post will help make some aspects of your projects go a little more smoothly. If you’re a designer who works with interpreters, lighten up a little, would ya?

Designers Are Jerks


Designers are pompous, arrogant jerks—real loudmouths who feel they’re always right and that everyone else is an idiot. Well, luckily for everybody, there’s a website out there, www.design-police.org, that has taken it upon itself to formalize all of the hang-ups and attitudes that make people think this about us. Friend of IBD Brian Trosko turned us on to Design Police, which offers a free pdf for download with five pages of red tags meant to be cut out and applied to other people’s work. Each of the tags represents a common criticism in the design world.

Clearly, the folks responsible for this site have been through graduate school critiques and are lashing out at the world in response. I’ve included a few of my favorites with comments below.



When we present Interpretation By Design workshops, participants frequently bring projects for us to review. Almost without fail, the first step to improving a project is implementing some sort of grid.



First, this is funny because these tags themselves are set in Helvetica. Second, any chance we get to take a jab at Comic Sans, we take. Shea will have to make his own “Papyrus Does Not Communicate What You Think It Communicates” tags, as the Design Police make no mention of it.



Interpreters love words. Lots and lots of words. One of the hardest things for any writer to do is be concise, but it’s particularly important at interpretive sites, where visitors’ attention spans are limited.


This one is just for Shea, who is trying to shake the habit of double-spacing after periods, a practice that became obsolete with the advent of the personal computer. The reason that we no longer need to double space after periods is that most typographic character sets have that spacing built in already.



If Microsoft Word is to page layout what the microwave is to gourmet cooking, then Word Art is sugar-free, caramel-cheddar popcorn that was overcooked by about a minute. Word processors should not be used for page layout because they’re not designed for that purpose. Word Art should not be used for anything because pretty much every one of its features violates some tenet of good typography.


Sometimes you just can’t resist that last drop shadow, inner glow, blur more, craquelure, and ocean ripple effect. And if you can’t, you need some jerk designer to let you know that you’ve gone too far.



And finally, every once in a while, you get one of those criticisms that just cuts right to the bone. If you get a comment like “Bad logo” or “Over-designed,” all you can do is shake it off or start over. Designers really are jerks.

I’ve Got Problems: Too Much Text!

After my first I’ve Got Problems post, I was immediately contacted by a few readers with specific problems. Avoiding my problems with procrastination, I immediately began working to provide them with options for their problems. That is right after a long vacation in Chicago, some 23 other posts and much careful thought (note no serial comma, just for Paul). Sorry that I put it off until now. You more than likely have solved your problem by this point in time and should be writing this post yourself.

I was contacted by an interpreter who does a fair amount of design work. We will call her “Chris” for the purpose in this post in order to protect her from her co-workers who have created this problem. I will call myself “Mr. Shea” in this post in order to protect myself from the obviously girly name that my parents bestowed upon me and that has created many gender-confused emails and phone calls in the course of my life. It is true, I am a man.

Chris’ problem is related to the amount of text that she has been given to layout in a newsletter. She is unsure what to do with way too much text. Her supervisor (an interpreter) is providing her with the text and has not been receptive to her hints and suggestions to edit or cut copy. In fact Chris has been told that all of the text is “valuable and pertinent information for their museum’s membership and should be included in the newsletter.”

So, what can you do with all this text to make the newsletter inviting to read, mailable and visually appealing? My knee-jerk response would be to provide the proof to the supervisor with type in the smallest point size possible that would allow it all to fit on one page. This would illustrate the need for cutting copy. This is not the best way to ensure future employment, but could be personally satisfying. (Designers are jerks. Paul will take on this issue in a few weeks.)

Here are some legitimate options. The first step that I would take would be to layout a grid that allows plenty of room for vertical columns. Four columns on an 8 ½” x 11” sheet of paper is the max. Make sure the gutters are comfortably wide but not awkward. Think personal space. You know when that office acquaintance is standing just a little too close. Keep the text rag right (also called left justified). The shape provided by this type of margin will create counter space that will give the reader’s eye a break from time to time. You can also open up the line spacing or increase the leading to make it easier to read. Don’t go too crazy with the line spacing but follow the guidelines in chapter 4 of IBD. Dial down the point size on body type and dial up headlines or leading lines. I wouldn’t use anything smaller than an 8 point type, and 10 is preferred. Keep other page elements (page numbers, title bars and other newsletter stuff) as simple and small as possible. If the text is that important then the text should be the focus.

If you provide the best layout possible considering what you were given and the document is still too large, your supervisor may be more interested in revisiting it for an edit. If not then at least you know that you have maximized the text in the space allowed and made it legible. Whether or not it gets read is the real issue.

The next “I’ve Got Problems” post will deal with this confession: “I’ve been told I need to think outside the way I design things and that I should break some rules.” Being somewhat an expert on breaking rules, I feel comfortable taking on this problem so look for my confessions in future blogs.