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 Forbes.com, 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.

Ahem.

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.

The Good, the Bald, and the Ugly

I’ve had a week or so to reflect upon the NAI National Workshop in Las Vegas. And when I say reflect upon, I’m referring to the glare emanating from our newly bald heads. In a week that was full of highlights, a few moments stood out.

IBD Preworkshop
Before it was a blog, a book, or irritable bowel disease, IBD was a concurrent session at the 2003 NAI National Workshop in Reno. We’ve presented at every NAI Workshop since then, this year in the form of an all-day preworkshop with 30 terrific participants.

Meeting IBDers
As a member of the National Association for Interpretation staff, I’ve always loved the annual opportunity to meet and reconnect with the people I truly work for—the NAI members. (The people who I officially report to and who sign my paychecks are out of the country at the moment, and also do not read this blog, so I can get away with temporarily redefining who I work for.)

Since we’ve started writing this blog, Shea and I have particularly enjoyed getting to meet in person the people who contribute regularly through comments. Pictured here are prolific contributors Canadian Joan, Uber Jeff, and Ranger Amy, who just all happened to be in the exhibit hall at the same time.

Wait Wait..Don’t Tell Me!
If you’re a nerd—and you are a nerd if you’re reading this blog—then you likely are a fan of NPR’s weekly news quiz, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! I certainly am. It was an amazing confluence of luck that the show was being taped at the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas the week of the Workshop, that the taping took place the one night of the week that I was not obligated to be at a Workshop function (though I was sorry to miss seeing Friend of IBD Kelly Farrell receive her NAI Master Interpretive Manager award that evening), that Nemesis of IBD Phil Broder thought to write to NPR to ask for free tickets, that he got those tickets, and that he offered them to us.

There’s certainly nothing Phil could do to end this new era of good will.

The Comic Sans Bus
This thing tormented me the whole week. Every time I went out on the Strip, there it was, in all its outlined Comic Sans glory. Also, with those American flags, it looks like someone used a heavy dose of the Emotionator that came free with their Make My Logo Bigger cream.

Students Berating Me
As much as I like reconnecting with longtime friends at the Workshop, I try to meet as many new folks as possible. We had the opportunity to sit with a lively and fun group of students from Humboldt State University during the closing banquet. I knew right away that this would be no ordinary conversation when it started with, “Are you the guy who does Legacy? We have some ideas for you….”

Splitting 8s
There’s nothing better than splitting 8s against a dealer’s 7 and winning both hands when the next three cards shown are face cards. Am I right? Well, this did not happen to me.

Phil Broder Sticks it to Shea
When we were asked to participate in the annual scholarship auction as auctioneers, we jumped at the opportunity. We thought, we’ll have a microphone and a captive audience, what could go wrong? Then we thought, we’re going to have to do something really different, and by different we mean stupid.

So then we had the perfect idea: We’ll have a competition to raise money and the loser gets his head shaved. I can’t possibly lose! (Keep in mind, we’re both thinking this.) So we should have known that when the final results of the competition were announced (I forget what the final verdict was, it was so long ago), Nemesis of IBD Phil Broder would come storming to the front of the room with a fistful of cash yelling, “Whatever the difference is, I have enough here to make it a tie!” So much for the era of good will.

And we should have known, too, when we auctioned off the right to actually shave our heads, it would be the fine people at the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, who brought us to Los Angeles this past summer to present a two-day workshop, who would pony up the cash to do so.

Sarena Gill to the Rescue
And finally, in a display of the human kindness that makes interpretation so great, that last day of the Workshop and my first day of baldness, Sarena Gill showed up at the registration desk with argyle beanies for Shea and me to help keep us warm. And, of course, it was Phil Broder, moments later, who said, “I didn’t pay $69 and change to see you two wearing hats!”

Podcasting: What is it and how do you do it?

I recently tried to end a long relationship, and that’s always difficult. What’s worse is that while I was ready to end the relationship, the other party, whom I will not name, desperately wanted me to stay. But I had moved on to party #2—sexier, newer, and, most importantly, less expensive. We eventually arrived at a tentative agreement, wherein I would stick with party #1 while continuing to cultivate and explore my relationship with party #2, but only until the end of the baseball season—then it was really over.

Party #1, whom I have decided to name after all, was XM Radio. Party #2: podcasts.

I listen to the radio while I work. For a long time, I listened to exclusively to satellite radio, which has hundreds of channels (though I only listened to ESPN Radio because I’m a dope and was too lazy to change the station). Then, as ESPN Radio started to drop all of its interesting and unique personalities and replace them with a sports robot who hosts every show they air, I started to download the occasional podcast on my computer for variety.

Podcasts are digital media (audio or video) distributed online, usually through some kind of syndication service that allows an audience to subscribe. When I discovered podcasts, I was able to pick and choose the shows I cared to listen to, and I could listen to them whenever I wanted to—without commercials, no less. (One thing that XM offers that I cannot get through free podcasts is live radio broadcasts of baseball games, which why I’ve postponed severing ties with XM until November.)

Eventually, podcasts completely replaced satellite radio for me. One day not too long ago as I left work, I realized that I had not turned on my radio once. Instead, I had listened to podcasts of NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” (which I love but normally miss because it’s a weekend show), ESPN’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning” (in the afternoon for me!), “The Tony Kornheiser Show” from some local station in Washington DC, HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” “The Dan Patrick Radio Show,” and a must for all podcast fans, John Hodgman’s  “Today in the Past.”

Suddenly, there was a lot more diversity to my listening day, and all of it was completely free (unlike XM Radio). And I quickly learned that it’s not just national names and celebrities who can offer podcasts, but any joker with a recording device and access to the internet. Soon I was downloading weekly Phillies-related podcasts that seemed like they were recorded in the hosts’ basements.

I realized that those nerds in my high school’s AV club are the most powerful people in the world.

We’re in the midst of a nerd-powered age of enlightenment, with nerds writing blogs, making podcasts, and writing electronic and print-on-demand books that can be self-published and made available through sites like Amazon and the iPad book store. (NAI Executive Director Tim Merriman wrote a serious, grown-up post about NAI’s online book program on the NAI blog, so I won’t get into that here.)

At NAI, this got us to thinking, “Hey, we’re jokers with recording devices and access to the Internet. We should do a podcast!” We also have access to smart, interesting people like Sam Ham, author of the seminal book Environmental Interpretation (as if you don’t know who Sam Ham is). Sam is the first victim subject of NAI’s “Voices in Interpretation” podcast series, in which we videotape interviews with leaders in the field, edit out my snarky comments made from behind the camera, and post what’s left online. We’ll do one of these a month, starting here:

Obviously, the better the equipment, the better the final product will be. This was recorded with a hand-held, point-and-shoot video camera with a built-in microphone in a hotel ballroom, so it’s not exactly studio quality.

The original plan was just to post these on YouTube, which will still happen, but I’ve been curious about how difficult it would be to also create a free, subscription-based video podcast available on iTunes. It was surprisingly easy.

Creating a podcast can be accomplished in these steps, most of which can be circumvented with a tip I’ll divulge below:

  1. Create content. Be a joker with a device that records audio or video. Edit said audio or video in the software of your choice. I use iMovie to edit video because it’s simple and intuitive, and because it bugs Shea when I do fun, creative things on my Mac while he uses his PC to make spreadsheets and order bowties from www.dapperlads.com.
  2. Post the content somewhere online in the appropriate format. If you have a web host or server, you can post your files there. If not, you can upload them to a free source online, which I’ll get into below.
  3. Create an RSS feed. I’ll be honest: I had heard this term bandied about. I knew what it meant to subscribe to an RSS feed, but was not sure how to go about creating my own. So again, I circumvented this step. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and it’s very useful. If you have the wherewithal to create your own RSS feed, then bless your heart. If not, see below.
  4. Submit your podcast to iTunes. This is very simple. Go to the iTunes store, click on “Podcasts,” then “Submit a Podcast.” It will ask for your RSS feed, which you will plug into the one form field in that window.  (I know, simple and intuitive, right?)
  5. That’s it. You’re done.

As I mentioned above, to make NAI’s Voices in Interpretation video series available as a podcast on iTunes, I kept the fun, simple steps (1, 4, and 5), but circumvented the boring, technical steps (2 and 3). What I did for steps 2 and 3 was look for an online resource that would do those steps for me.

In this instance, the resource is Blip.TV. Blip.TV is great for this sort of thing for multiple reasons. First, if your video is posted on someone else’s server, it completely removes any concern over bandwidth. If your web host limits the amount of traffic on your website or charges extra if you exceed a certain amount, you don’t want a bunch of podcast subscribers downloading large video files from your server. With Blip.TV, you create a free account and post your media on their servers.

Second, and for me this was the important part, it creates an RSS feed for you. When you upload a video to Blip.TV, it gives you multiple distribution options, one of which is iTunes. When you click on that distribution option, it asks for some simple information about your video series (title, author, short description, etc.), then it says, in a big, blue box, “Your iTunes Podcast URL is….” Just copy and paste this into iTunes and you’re off an running. It takes a day or two for iTunes to sync up with your Blip.TV account, but once it does, all of that information you plugged into Blip.TV shows up in the iTunes store. When you upload a new episode, it shows up in iTunes shortly thereafter and subscribers will download the new episode automatically.

Podcasts are becoming increasingly popular at interpretive sites. They offer a way for visitors to learn about a site before or during a visit, and to stay connected after a visit. And most importantly, podcasts offer yet another avenue for those without a lot of resources to get their voice out there in the world.

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.