Brain Pickings

Typography in 7 Minutes: A PBS Micro-Documentary

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Visibility, invisibility, and what the spirit of letters has to do with the meaning of text.

On Monday, we featured 10 essential books on typography. Today, we turn to this fantastic short documentary on, you guessed it, typography from the excellent Off Book series by PBS Arts. In just 7 minutes, the film explores type — ubiquitous yet often unnoticed and misunderstood — through the work of some of today’s most iconic type designers and freshest voices, from Brain Pickings favorite Paula Scher to our friends at Hyperakt, masters of the infographic form, as well as legendary duo Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, and Pentagram prodigy Eddie Opara.

Words have meaning and type has spirit, and the combination is spectacular.” ~ Paula Scher

From the selection and sometimes bespoke creation of fitting typefaces for every print publication, website, movie, ad and public message, to how computers have liberated and democratized typography, to the design decisions behind creating compelling infographics, the microdocumentary offers a succinct case for the power of typography as a communication medium and a storytelling device.

The most challenging part of working on an infographic is taking all the available data and deciding what is the most important bit of information that we need to communicate. Infographics are about typography getting out of the way of the message.” ~ Deroy Peraza

I determine how I design something based on the audience and what the audience would bear. Evoke the response you want while pushing the audience to see something perhaps in a new way.” ~ Paula Scher

For more, feast your type-loving heart on these 10 timeless books about typography.

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Seasons: A Meditation on Change by French Illustrator Blexbolex

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What spring fever has to do with stillness, surprise and the charisma of a passion project.

French artist Blexbolex has charmed the world with his playful cartoons and illustrations, to which he brings his wonderfully eclectic creative background — classically trained as a screen-printer in 1980s France, inspired by the whodunits of the 1950s and 60s, and having directed a German art studio in the 1990s, he blends elements of cartoons, graphic novels and soft watercolor painting into simple yet endlessly whimsical artwork.

In Seasons, he contemplates the fluctuations of seasonality with his signature retro-inspired minimalism. Four spreads depict the same landscape during each season, with a single word or phrase in bold block-letters on each page. But don’t breeze by the seeming simplicity of the concept — many of the thoughtful pairings on the beautiful double-page spreads give you pause and make you wonder why and how the two words go together, gently nudging you towards a philosophical meditation on the seasons, change and impermanence.

From the rich, textured colors to the creamy matte paper to the tactile fabric on the book’s spine, Seasons is a trifecta treat for the eyes, fingers and soul.

Image courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

Image courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

Image courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

Image courtesy of Enchanted Lion Press

Image courtesy of Enchanted Lion Press

Image courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

Image courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

Image courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

Seasons comes from Enchanted Lion Books — an utterly charming, as-indie-as-they-come, family-owned independent publisher of (mostly) children’s books, located right up the street from my studio in Brooklyn. It’s such heart-warming joy to see good people doing wonderful work, driven by nothing more than genuine passion for what they do — if every neighborhood could have more of that, the world would be a better place.

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Happy Birthday, Louis Armstrong: What a Wonderful World

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Celebrating a timeless voice with a timely message.

Just last month, we commemorated 40 years since the world lost the great Louis Armstrong with Satchmo, the fascinating documentary about his life and legacy. But there’s no reason not to also celebrate his birth, which happens to have taken place exactly 110 years ago today. And there’s hardly a better way to do that than by taking delight in one of his most iconic performances, his remarkable rendition of “What a Wonderful World” — with the added joy of serving up a simple reminder of optimism, amidst a particularly difficult year framed by news of every kind of global tragedy, from environmental disaster to large-scale violence to financial and political disillusionment. Sing it, Lou.

For more on the life and work of the iconic musician, look no further than Terry Teachout’s excellent Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.