Conjure me up a guy who talks science winningly, who shows you that everything is transparent, and does it in a self-help-y spirit,” [Gitlin] said. “In our age, a guy who looks cute and wonky is better positioned to get away with this than others.
Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia, said in an interview that not only had Mr. Lehrer carved out a career in the popular niche of brain science, but he had created a persona that is perfectly suited to a 21st-century media environment. (The New York Times)
Ignore the chick lit title — Just My Type is a wonderfully informative and gossipy exploration of fonts (thanks, Cesar). If you’re eager to learn why Garamond left an indelible mark on 16th century Paris, how Caslon cut the finest ampersand, or which master of the sans serif had a taste for ceaseless sexual experimentation, give it a go.
I started my career in textbook publishing at Houghton Mifflin, a company which back in the late eighties had a management approach oddly similar to Dunder Mifflin today. What it did have in its favor was passionate editors, mostly highly educated women who cared not only about the pedagogical value of the content but also about the painstaking review of page proofs. The editors led endless page reviews to ensure the accuracy of the fonts, point sizes, and line leading — and the absence of widows and orphans. For better or worse, I had a knack for spotting a stray serif, and gained a love for fonts just before an embarrassment of them appeared on all our dropdown menus.
Fast forward to Harvard in 2010, and to leading an effort to bring consistency to the University’s infamously decentralized visual identity. For the Harvard wordmark, the team settled on a modified version of Anziano Pro — striking a balance between Roman tradition and modern sensibility. It’s gratifying to see use of the wordmark spread as new digital properties are developed. Its success is partly driven by the desire for increased consistency, given the stark juxtapositions created by digital communications, and partly the recognition that fonts can reflect and amplify the nature of a message. It only takes one glimpse of Comic Sans on the side of an ambulance to understand the importance the right font.
Many a linguistic commentator would have us (misleadingly) believe that technology is ruining language. Every mangled text message and misspelled Facebook status update, they cry, is a dagger through the heart of proper usage. But such grousing ignores increasingly symbiotic ties between linguistics and technology: Some of the most exciting developments in the use and exploration of language have been occurring this year on the front lines of technology.
Voicing Concerns, The Economist
Greg Hoy has written a thoughtful piece over at A List Apart about client and vendor expectations. Like Greg, I’ve sat on both sides of the table as those expectations are defined through discovery phases, written requirements, and more multi-colored sticky exercises than I’d care to admit to.
I think Greg’s onto something when he talks about the importance of being vague at the initial contract phase — of listing all the tools in your arsenal, but not committing specifically to which ones will be used. It’s just too soon. Too often agencies have an inflexible one-size-fits-all methodology that the team frogmarches through. But we all know that clients (and their enterprise constraints) vary, as do specific project needs. Far better to take the counter-intuitive approach: “Instead of prematurely committing to a course of action that may or may not be appropriate for the project, we identify all of the possible artifacts we could produce in each phase. Then we commit to zero of them.”
Of course, this vague an approach only works if you have the same end result in mind — and that understanding has to be mutual and comprehensive before any SOW is drafted, let alone signed. The project has to have a client-led but ultimately shared understanding of the overarching business goals, and how the end product will satisfy, empower, and ideally delight the end user. The shared vision needs to be crystal clear, but the deliverables to get there can and should be re-visited as you go.
Photo credit: haagenjerrys