Odds and Ends: Cleaning Out Shea’s Phone Edition

Okay, I’m still in the process of cleaning out the IBD Archives (which happens to be an old shoe box that I keep under my bed filled with top-secret IBD memorabilia, along with photos of old girlfriends) with this second installment of Odds and Ends. Much like anything with the title “Jersey Shore,” Paul’s Odds and Ends installment on Monday doesn’t officially count.

This time I was going through my phone, deleting photos of errant moments of friends that should have been deleted a long time ago, and I came across several photos that were worthy of sharing. Here are the images as well as some random thoughts associated with them.

Who doesn’t like fried chicken, or fried anything for that matter? I know KFC is not the best place to get fried chicken (a tie between Roscoe’s in Los Angeles and Gus’ in Memphis) but my main motivation when visiting this new KFC was directly related to these signs.

At least the signage is original. (Insert your own bad joke here about the Colonel’s original recipe of 11 herbs and spices, or bowties, or seersucker suits, or goatees on old men who sell chicken, or graphic designers in Colorado.)

This is from my neighborhood’s snowcone stand. I’ve been wanting to say something about the misspelling but who am I to judge spelling? And I can’t risk being banned from banana cream pie snow cones (which is not on the list, but it’s a custom flavor I invented that requires a delicate balance of banana, cake batter, and vanilla syrups).

This is one of the best self-guided trail markers I have ever seen. It’s painted right on the rocks found on the Golden-cheeked Warbler Trail in Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. I was tempted to steal one. On one shoulder, Don Simons encouraged it, and on the other shoulder, Jay Schneider said he would call the police. I took only pictures and left only footprints. Though I still think it would look great in my office. They were also concreted into place.

Again, who am I to judge? This comes from Mugs Coffee in Fort Collins, Colorado. At least they are trying to do the right thing. Much like me in college algebra. I still failed, though honorably.

If you have some pictures of funny signs or other odds and ends send them our way or post them on the IBD Facebook page.

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.

Knowing Your Audience is ILL

Last week, my family and I took our annual trip to the New Jersey shore, famous for its white-sand beaches, greasy food, and hairy backs. I grew up in the Philadelphia area (as I may have mentioned once or twice on this site) and spent at least two weeks at the Shore every summer as a child. These days, every summer, my wife and I take our children to the Shore for a little dose of the culture that made me who I am—boardwalk amusements, soft-serve ice cream, and a preponderance of Philadelphia sports paraphernalia.

At the Shore, I noticed people wearing the “ill” T-shirts pictured here. The designers of the shirts, which I found on a site called Philavania (official tagline: “Where porkroll egg & cheese is for breakfast, every damn day”), cleverly extracted the “ill” from the middle of the logo of Philadelphia’s Major League Baseball team, the Phillies, set in the typeface Scriptwurst. (Note that the product shot of the women’s shirt features a slender model, while the photo of the men’s shirt does not. I can only assume, based on my own week of eating cheese fries, cheese steaks, and fried cheese, that there are no men slender enough to fit the shirt in the photo left in the tri-state area.)

Of course, this raises the question, “Why would someone wear a shirt that says ‘ill’ on it?” Interestingly, this is exactly the question our mysterious and reclusive third author Lisa Brochu asked upon seeing these shirts on my computer screen (immediately followed by “Don’t you have work to do?”). Well, as Urban Dictionary tells us, the kids these days use “ill” to mean “cool, tight, or sweet,” as in “Dat ride iz ILL” (actual example shared by Urban Dictionary contributor Da Shizzle). I’m surprised Lisa didn’t know that.

So, the shirts are clever, provided that you are familiar enough with Philadelphia sports to recognize the Phillies logo typeface and your slang is current to at least 1997. If not, you may see someone wearing this shirt and assume that they are, as the word is traditionally defined by dictionary.com, “of unsound physical or mental health; unwell; sick [possibly from eating too many fried cheese products].”

But the folks at Philavania didn’t stop with just one clever twist on the Phillies logo.

On the Philavania website, you can find versions of the shirt not only in Phillies blue and red, but also the orange and black of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team and green and silver of the Philadelphia Eagles football team. Upon seeing these shirts, I had two simultaneous and equally strong reactions. I thought, “Why would you hybridize the identities of two different teams—the type and composition of one with the color scheme of another—that already have their own carefully constructed brands?” And I thought, “Those shirts are awesome.” (Oddly, I also thought, “I could use some cheese.”)

Finally, I thought, “There’s a lesson here.”

Interpreters and graphic designers talk a lot about knowing their audience. When I was in design school, any student who described his or her target audience as “general public” on any project was summarily dismissed from class and forced to work as an intern creating forms for the department of motor vehicles. Having a specific audience identified at the beginning of a project gives an interpreter or designer a significant head start towards success.

Look at the Phillies/Flyers “ill” shirt, for instance. You can identify the target audience as people who: 1. Like Philadelphia sports teams, 2. Are familiar enough with the Phillies’ logo to recognize it with five of its eight letters missing, 3. Are familiar enough with the Flyers’ team colors to recognize them on a shirt that contains the logo of a different team, 4. Speak 1997 slang, and 5. Want a shirt whose color will hide cheese drips.

At first, it seems that the folks at Philavania might have limited themselves by targeting such a specific market, but based on comments I’ve seen online and heard in person about the shirts, the people in that target audience overwhelmingly like the shirts. The shirt doesn’t resonate with everyone, but the people it does resonate with, it really resonates with them. As a communicator, I’d rather create a message that hits home with a specific audience than one that only marginally registers with a much larger audience.

Interpreters and designers stand a better chance to be successful by concentrating on a specific audience rather than trying to appeal to everyone all the time. Do a good enough job and before you know it, kids at your site will be saying things like, “Yo, that campfire program was ILL.” Do a bad job and they’ll be saying, “Yo, that campfire program made me ill.”

One final note, not entirely unrelated: In September of last year, I wrote a post called “Type and Branding: Lessons from the Phillies and the Jersey Shore,” in which I explain that the font the Phillies use in their logo, Scriptwurst, is proprietary and not available to the public. Nevertheless, Scriptwurst continues to be the most-searched term that drives readers to this website, presumably the result of people looking to find and download the font. A big IBD hello to all of those folks! Sorry we weren’t of more use to you.

Save Money with Typography!

In the face of tightening budgets, we’re all looking for ways to save money. Some people are eating at restaurants less or watching TV at home instead of going to the movies. Some organizations are going digital with publications to reduce printing and mailing costs. And the poor New York Yankees have started studding their practice cleats with 1.9-carat diamonds rather than the traditional two-carat variety.

So I was heartened to receive communications from three separate Friends of IBD in the last few weeks about how typography can not only save the world, but a little bit of money here and there, too. Friends of IBD Phil Sexton and Phil Broder, heretofore known as “The IBD Phils,” told me about a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay professor who has saved his school thousands of dollars by switching the default font on the school’s email systems from Arial to Century Gothic. It turns out, according to the story, that ink costs roughly $10,000 a gallon, and Century Gothic uses 30 percent less ink than Arial. (No word on how much ink Ariel the mermaid uses, but I hear she keeps a lengthy diary.)

The IBD Phils live on opposite sides of the country and heard about this story from different sources, so it’s clear that typography news has gone mainstream. Phil Broder was so excited when he heard it, he called me on his cell phone while he was driving. (I’m pretty sure that driving while distracted caused him to take out a few seagulls and possibly a Wife of the Jersey Shore or two, but it was worth it.)

On National Public Radio, the story was headlined “Changing Font to Save Ink,” which let’s be honest, is a little dry and could use an exclamation point or three. Nevertheless, it states:

A Wisconsin university has found a new way to cut costs with e-mail — by changing the font. The University of Wisconsin, Green Bay has switched the default font on its e-mail system from Arial to Century Gothic. The university says the change sounds minor, but it will save money on printer ink when students print out e-mails in the new font.

Personally, I’m shocked that University of Wisconsin-Green Bay students are printing emails at all. Don’t they see the “Consider the environment before printing this email” at the bottom of their emails? Green Bay Phoenix, defend yourselves!

Meanwhile, in Canada, Friend of IBD Joan sent a link to an article titled “Save Pens. Use Garamond Font,” which has a period, but still no exclamation points. It details the efforts of designers Matt Robinson and Tom Wrigglesworth, who compared the relative ink usage of popular typefaces by drawing them at a large scale and filling them in with ballpoint pens. It’s not exactly a scientific study, but it certainly serves the purpose of getting us to think about type this way. Per the illustration above, Garamond used the least ink and Impact used the most.

This whole notion of saving money through type may have originated with the so-called “Ecofont” developed by a Dutch firm called Spranq. This typeface uses less ink because it has holes distributed throughout its strokes. An article on the National Geographic blog from August 2009 has this to say about it:

Font scholar Frank Romano dismisses the Ecofont as a gimmick, unsuitable for serif typefaces and inexact ink-jet printers. He also thinks its cheeselike holes are an eyesore: “If I wanted Swiss type, I would use Helvetica.”

This, in my estimation, is the cleverest remark ever made because it involves three of my favorite things: humor, Helvetica, and cheese. Still, I think this sort of typeface is not meant for typographic purists producing professional media. If you’re using it at home or for internal business use, though, it seems like a great solution.

We already have a lot to think about when we select typefaces, but for sites and organizations that print a lot in house, perhaps the amount of ink you use should be a factor.