Aptos vs Calibri

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Did you notice the change? Microsoft has made the typeface Aptos the new default for its Office programs, replacing the venerable Calibri after 17 years. Aptos has been rolled out to users since December, 2023, and, at least for me, finally made it to my versions of Office in February. I. like so many others, didn’t notice it right away. I do a lot of my writing online, like this blog, where other typefaces are used. I only twigged onto the change last week when … click below for more ↓

The Book of Knowledge: 2

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Last post I mentioned I had rescued a set of encyclopedias from the dumpster at the end of this year’s Mother Of All Yard Sales (MOAYS; an Optimist Club event). I didn’t explain what I saved and why, but I’m here to explain, and to show. Bear with me. First, let me give you some personal background. Aside from being a writer, in my career I have been a book editor for a Canadian publisher, a magazine editor for two Canadian magazines, and editor-designer-layout person … click below for more ↓

Bring Back the Yogh and the Thorn

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Ye Olde Shoppe. We’ve all seen the signs like this. Ever wonder why it says “ye” instead of “the”? Me, too, at least way back then. I’ve known the answer a long time now from decades of reading about English, about typography, Chaucer, and about Middle English orthography. Spoiler alert: It was pronounced “the.” Not “ye.” The “ye” was actually spelled “(thorn)e” — thorn was a letter in the Old and Middle English alphabets that stood for “th.” It started out looking like a lowercase … click below for more ↓

Juet’s Journal in Word format

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For those readers interested in the voyages of the late-16th-early-17th century adventurer, Henry Hudson, or in the European explorations of North America, I have recently scanned and edited a copy of Juet’s Journal into Word format and placed it online here. Here is my website on Henry Hudson, too. I haven’t done much with it of late, but that may be slowly changing as I find I have more time these days, during my recovery. The journal documents how Hudson and his crew ‘discovered’ parts … click below for more ↓

Books, writers, words, and competencies

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I have always believed that any good, competent and credible writer can be judged (if judge people we must, and yet we do) by the books on his or her desk. Yes, books: printed hardcopy, paper and ink. I’ll go into why books are vastly superior to online sources a bit later (although I suspect my readers already know why…). Although I am no longer in the media or much of an active writer these days, I believe I can still determine the craft, the … click below for more ↓

The magic of reading

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Can you make sense of those lines in the image to the right? Of course not. They’re deconstructed from the letters of a simple, one-syllable word and randomly re-arranged. It’s just four letters, but their component parts are not arranged in the proper order, so they seem like meaningless lines and squiggles. We’ve not been taught to assemble them into a structure that makes sense to our brains. Yet we’re quite capable of assigning meaning and context to abstract forms, if they’re assembled properly. The … click below for more ↓

Malory then and now

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I recently started reading Malory in the original – that is, the language that Caxton printed in. Not the typeface Caxton used, since that would be harder to read, but rendered in a modern serif face. Caxton initially used black letter type (aka gothic) – pretty much all the early printers used it, although each printer had his own dies and styles. However, he did move to a more easily-read, more-rounded typeface by around 1490, a few years after he printed Malory’s book. Still, the … click below for more ↓

Square words

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Writing has been described as the most significant human invention. We tend to think of inventions as mechanical things, like the wheel, or fire, or the printing press, the airplane, the internal combustion engine or cell phone. But without writing, few of them would exist. Writing allowed us to share the others, to improve them, to record them, to pass them along and record them. Writing allows us to share ideas, emotions, visions, beliefs, stories, poetry and music through a series of abstract squiggles. Without … click below for more ↓

Back to black

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I had noticed of late that several websites are more difficult to read, that they opted to use a lighter grey text instead of a more robust black. But it didn’t dawn on me that it wasn’t my aging eyes: this was a trend. That is, until I read an article on Backchannel called “How the Web Became Unreadable.” It’s a good read for anyone interested in typography, design and layout – and not just the Web, but print as well. It makes several good … click below for more ↓

Designing Type

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Karen Cheng’s 2005  book, Designing Type, is the third of the recent books on typography I have received*. Of the three, it is the most technical, appealing to the typophile and design geek more than the average reader. But it’s also a reference for layout and graphic artists looking to choose a specific font for a work. If your goal is to actually design a typeface, she helps appreciate the subtleties of design that differentiate and separate typefaces and letterforms. But it’s not a book about … click below for more ↓

Frutiger vs Palatino

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In a recent review of Sarah Hyndman’s book, Why Fonts Matter, I casually commented that, You can no more adequately comment on the relevance and impact on the viewer of, say, Frutiger versus Palatino, without discussing the design and layout in which it is set… The point of which was not to single out those two typefaces as much as to suggest the debate between how readers respond to sans-serif and serif faces (respectively). Fruitiger is a modern, humanist sans-serif type designed by Adrian Frutiger … click below for more ↓

Reading Letters: Designing for Legibility

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The human brain is truly a remarkable machine.* We can see a bunch of lines and in that same brain turn them into an M and know it’s not a V or an N or a K or W. Yet M isn’t a ‘thing’ – it’s an abstract representation of a sound that itself has no concrete meaning outside the Mmmmm of meditation. When you mentally assemble a bunch of other lines and sticks and squiggles, those sounds form a larger abstraction: a word: MOON. … click below for more ↓

Why Fonts Matter

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The first problem I have when receiving a new book on typography is that I spend far too much time looking up the typefaces described or sampled therein, and searching for them online, instead of reading. Then I start looking at (and critiquing) the typefaces chosen for the book itself. It’s a trees-not-the-forest kind of wonderment that comes over me. As I am wont to do, I sit back on my deck in the evening sun, glass of wine in hand, and a large pile … click below for more ↓

Uncommunicative again

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Did you receive your “spring” newsletter from the town? The one delivered on the first day of summer (or later), lacking any actual news… yes, that one. To me it appears as clumsily formatted and poorly written as all the previous issues. Another one that likely wouldn’t even get a passing grade in a high school art class. Since the town continues its race to the bottom of the design barrel, I won’t reiterate all the problems in detail, since they just repeat those already … click below for more ↓

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