December 19th, 2016


Designs on you

In 2009 the British Royal Post issued a set of ten stamps to honor classics of British design. One of those was the original Penguin paperback: two broad orange stripes surrounding a white stripe, with the title and author in clear, readable text: elegant simplicity.

But design is an autoantonym, like oversight and sanction. It means clear thinking made visible, as Edward Tufte would say, but it also means what other designers like, with mere users not getting a vote.

Penguin is now looking back at the good old days and came up with two new kinds of Penguin Classics. One takes the original orange design and adds little things crawling around on it, which I guess is appropriate for the Lovecraft reprint but not the others. The other is worse: one fantasy and five sf books. The fantasy, The Once and Future King, merely violates the rule that Olde Englishe and all-caps don’t go together. The sf books look futuristic, if not readable, with the sort of approach that feels letters would be much better design elements if only they didn’t have to mean anything. Perhaps the best part is that the title of Frank Herbert’s interminable adventure classic looks like DUNG.


Facebook, in its continuing program of “Stir it some more; the folks in back can’t smell it yet,” suggested that we make lists of 10 unpopular nonpolitical opinions. The only one I could think of is one that I assume everyone who knows me has heard already: The music died somewhere around 1970. But in my more lucid moments I realize that there are still people making music that sounds like rock & roll; I’ve even heard some on occasion. One person who does that sort of thing, quite well, is Bruce Springsteen. I recently read and enjoyed his memoir, Born to Run, and now he’s done a Desert Island Discs list, none of which makes me want to puke and at least half of which I really like.

Thanx to Metafilter