Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘typography’

28 FEBRUARY, 2011

The Almost True Story of NYC’s Subway Helvetica

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We have a soft spot for subway design and NYC urban typography. Not to mention Helvetica. So we’re all over Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story — an ambitious and fascinating survey of the distinctive lettering in NYC’s underground from MIT Press, telling the story of how typographic order triumphed over chaos.

The story begins with the ornate original mosaics, dating as far back as 1904, and their tangled mess of serifs, sans-serifs and various decorative elements that amounted to visual cacophony of the most overwhelming kind. So much so that in the 1960s, the city transit authority hired a design firm to overhaul the signage with more consistent typography, but the effort didn’t garner the public acclaim it had aimed for. In fact, iconic New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger famously wrote that the city would be better off if the signs weren’t there at all. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that Helvetica became ubiquitous, but what happened in those interim years has been the subject of much speculation and urban mythology.

Some images via MyFonts

In Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story, graphic designer and calligrapher Paul Shaw unravels this fascinating typographic changeover in an absorbing narrative augmented with over 250 photographs, sketches, type samples and original documents. As much a design treat as it is an exercise in understanding the fickleness of urbanism, the book is an esoteric gem of the shiniest kind.

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28 FEBRUARY, 2011

The Wisdom of TED in Kinetic Typography

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What cross-disciplinary self-actualization has to do with motion graphics remix.

Starting tomorrow, we’ll be reporting live from TED 2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder. Last week, we warmed up with 5 must-read books by some of this year’s TED speakers. Today, we’re revisiting a Brain Pickings remix culture original, part of the TEDify project, celebrating what we most love about TED: The incredible cross-pollination of ideas across different disciplines that radically alters how we see the world and what we make of our role in it.

 

Previously on TEDify: The secret of happiness, as articulated by a collage of TED perspectives.

For complete coverage of this year’s event, keep an eye on the Twitter feed and swing by here starting tomorrow for exclusive soundbites and photos.

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22 FEBRUARY, 2011

Inside the Mind of Kanye West: Typographic Phrenology

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Just when we think the world couldn’t possibly need another bit of Kanye “Overexposure” West, the fine folks at Column Five manage to prove us wrong with one of their signature infographic gems: A typographic phrenology of Kanye’s mind.

Though, not to be neuro-nitpickers, we have to point out that the little “Grow up, Kanye” voice is least likely to come from the cerebellum, the “little brain” responsible for our reptilian, primitive, most selfish impulses — the part that keeps us immature and self-centered. But then again, if phrenology itself is a pseudoscience, what do we expect of typo-phrenology?

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