Gotham: the new Helvetica

Man, I love the typeface Gotham and the foundry that created it: Hoefler and Frere-Jones. Gotham’s a great design and has been used successfully for many companies and organizations since its release back in 2001.

The problem is that it’s just been overused — and yes, I’m guilty.

In a world where distinctiveness and originality is more important than ever, it’s hard to justify using a typestyle that is reaching Helvetica-like status. Typography trends come and go, and Gotham has had an amazing run. From my perspective, it’s just time to move on.

Collected Ephemera: for the love of print

For years, I’ve collected folders full of old ticket stubs, receipts, catalogs, booklets, invoices, postcards, labels and other printed pieces dating from 1900 – 1975. These items are best defined as “ephemera” — things that were created to serve a practical, short-term purpose — not really meant to be saved (or written about in a blog post some 50+ years later). But being a designer who loves history and design history, it comes as no surprise that these items interest me. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever met a designer that doesn’t like rummaging through shelves of thrift stores or antique malls looking for cool printed “stuff”. I believe that collecting and studying these artifacts is really important — we can learn from the past and can find inspiration for current work.

I realize that some may classify all of this “stuff” as trash, but I see it as treasure. I appreciate the printing process, the craftsmanship, the hand lettering, the attention to detail and the history behind each piece. So I’ll keep on colllecting — I’ll just have to add some more folders to the filing cabinet.

Here are just a few samples I’ve collected over the years:

What a great script — and the perfectly tracked Futura typestyle.

1900 self-promotional brochure for a Chicago architecture firm

Back of an old photo card showing amazing lettering and detail.

Sheet music with hand-drawn lettering

Camera brochure cover. I love the Pilot logo.

A great example of good design for everyday purpose.

Kodak box cover

Great numbering style on a receipt from my grandfather's hardware store (1968)

Citizens Radio cards.

Invoice from my grandfather's hardware store - I forgive the spacing (kerning) between the W and the A in "Hardware" but love the typographic choice.

Beautiful lettering style and attention to detail on the back of this photo card.


What a nice lettering style and a capital "F". c.1925

Converge SE 2012: web designers paradise

Friday and Saturday, I attended Converge SE 2012, a web design conference in Columbia, SC. The conference examined the intersection between design, development and marketing and is the brainchild of Gene Crawford and friends from unmatched and Period Three, a local web design firm. This year, the event coincided with Indie Grits, another wildly successful event that started in Columbia just a few years ago. This year, Converge SE sold out in just two days!

Converge SE attracts the design-conscious and the technically-savvy crowd from all over the country from a wide range of industries: education, government, small business, corporate, solo designers, and more. Experts and industry thought leaders conducted workshops and presentations that focused on topics ranging from the practical to the philosophical. Creativity, emerging technology discussions and the encouragement to push the boundaries of web design were common themes this year.

For the workshops, there were four different tracts attendees could participate in: Design; Development; Front-End Development; Marketing and Mobile. I participated in most of the Design workshops which covered everything from typography to design process to prototyping. I also participated in a lecture by J Cornelius who talked about the benefits of using HTML 5 markup language and why it’s so awesome.

And speaking of awesome, Leslie Jensen-Inman from UT-Chatanooga kicked us off Friday morning with an inspirational talk and encouraged everyone to follow their passion and to simply “make awesomeness.” Last year, Leslie spoke at Converge SE and discussed her involvement in CreateAthon On Campus at UT-C and how powerful the experience was for her and her students. Pretty cool to hear about the impact CreateAthon is making in other parts of the country. Yeah, shout out to CreateAthon!

A few notes and sidebars from some of the other speakers that I found interesting:

• From J Cornelius, a software/web developer:

- “IE7 is the new IE6″ (IE6 is a developers’ worst nightmare)

- 4.8 billion people have never seen the web

- HTML5 gives us the ability to do amazing things. Check out to see what’s possible.

- In the end, it’s our job {as web designers} to create an “experience” online.

- And lastly, J suggested that we “Go build some cool stuff.”

• Chandler Van De Water discussed typography and how he uses software to create original typeface designs. SIDEBAR: I won a typeface creation app for drawing a lowercase R! I’ll be using it to experiment with a new type family soon!

• Giovanno DiFeterici talked about historical and contemporary art and the psychology behind it. He discussed the importance of collaboration and talked about the process of creating the artwork for this year’s ConvergeSE marketing materials (which is amazing).

• Bermon Painter showed how he successfully eliminates wireframes and excessive documentation and jumps right into rapid prototyping by using sketches and actual content (as opposed to greek copy).

On Saturday, we heard from nine or ten more speakers who discussed topics ranging from mobile testing, building online communities and the importance of customer service, simplicity in design, coding for CSS, importance of social groupings and identity, design process and much more.

Overall, a great conference and a great venue to meet new people and to learn more about web design and development. Way to go Converge SE — I’ll be back next year!


See It Differently.

I will admit it. I have a bit of an obsession with Instagram. It’s a photo sharing app that allows you to snap a shot with your iPhone, add a cool filter, then share your image with the world via Facebook or Twitter, or via Instagram’s own publishing feed. The filters are cool, the square format is interesting, and the publishing is easy.

So much to love.

Still my commitment to Instagram goes deeper. This free little download has changed everything about the way I look at the world around me. Partly because it’s just fun to keep an eye out for an interesting something that might make a swell photo. But also because I am wildly inspired by the images that are delivered to me, right there in my Instagram feed. There is something fascinating about seeing ordinary, daily life transformed into magical crops, viewed through someone else’s life lens.

For example:

from Riggs Partners Design Director Ryon Edwards

from my friend, Karen Dukes

from my daughter, Eliza Ellis

What a gift it is to see the world differently; to be more aware simply because you are looking. 

Today is a great day to look around. Look for light and shapes and texture and color. Snap a shot or two and see if your view of the world doesn’t open up just a bit.

Beauty is all around us, every moment.

Just look.