@: The fulcrum of our digital identities

The Unlikely Evolution of  @ (@ Fast Company) 

Once a bookkeeper’s shorthand, @ has become the fulcrum of our digital identities. How did that happen?

“In Danish, the symbol is known as an “elephant’s trunk a”; the French call it an escargot. It’s a streudel in German, a monkey’s tail in Dutch, and a rose in Istanbul. In Italian, it’s named after a huge amphora of wine…

In 1971, a keyboard with a vestigial @ symbol inherited from its typewriter ancestors found itself hooked up to an ARPANET terminal manned by Ray Tomlinson…

“It’s difficult to imagine anyone in Tomlinson’s situation choosing anything other than the ‘@’ symbol, but his decision to do so at the time was inspired,” explains Houston on his blog. “Firstly, it was extremely unlikely to occur in any computer or user names; secondly, it had no other significant meaning for the operating system on which it would run, and lastly, it read intuitively–user ‘at’ host.”

READ THIS POST because it’s wonderful. I especially love the identification of @ as the fulcrum of an email address. Because it IS one!

And then if you can resist pre-ordering Keith Houston’s upcoming book you’re a stronger person than I. (Come on. It’s called Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation. How could I/you resist?) 

#$*&^! = Grawlix

>> A word for that: Grawlix

Until its OED entry is solemnized, we’ll have to settle for this definition on Wiktionary: “grawlixn. A string of typographical symbols used (especially in comic strips) to represent an obscenity or swear word.” I don’t think I’ll ever look at a character set quite the same way again.

%^&*@ing glorious!

Read the whole thing at Hoefler & Frere-Jones (via @GrammarMonkeys and @mental_floss)

Better than alphagetti*: edible gelatin typography

{ via Colossal }

Current distraction: wondering about the mouthfeel. Chewy? Sticky? Sans-serifs-y? Alphagetti?*

(Subsequent distraction: the curious difference between American “jelly”, which is Australian “jam”, and Australian “jelly”, which is American “jello”.)

 

*If it’s named after what it clearly IS named after, shouldn’t there be an H after that G?

Escape from Comic Sans: would you, if you could?

{ Design Work Life via FFFFOUND! }*

IF ONLY.

Online publishing prefers sans serifs fonts for legibility and general easiness on the eyes. So if one, for some reason, determined (or was forced) to operate solely in the digital realm, the risk of encountering Comic Sans would always exist. That most aesthetically base typeface would always hover in the infinitely nearby ether, waiting to leap out and insult one’s intelligence and sense of sincerity.

If, however, one decided (or, in fairness, was forced) to remain solely in the world of tangible readables, maintaining daily contact with printed matter**, excluding all online readables, one MIGHT, in theory, achieve said escape.

Personally, I’d rather risk potential exposure to abominable web-friendly fonts than miss out on all the glory of the interwebs. Who in their right mind would intentionally shelter from that font of caustic, truthful wit The Oatmeal; NASA’s always-humbling Astronomy Picture of the Day; or, at the more frivolous end of the online gamut, Women Laughing Alone With Salad?

The enjoyment of these wonders might render impossible a guaranteed escape from Comic Sans, but it’s worth it.

* Also, how BRILLIANT is this faux-retro image‽

** (Proper printed matter like books and newspapers and magazines, not printouts of documents typed in Comic Sans.)

A bouquet of alphabetically sharpened pencils

Alphabet sharpened pencils

{ by Dalton Ghetti, on Designers Go To Heaven, via FFFFOUND! }

“Don’t you just love New York in the Fall? Makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of alphabetically sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address…”  — (a slightly altered) Tom Hanks as Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail (which, I confess, I have seen at least 200 times).

I am going to New York in the Fall. Am very excited. Excited enough to buy a bouquet of pencils in celebration. If only I could get a set of 26 like this, it would certainly heighten the vacationary* stationery loveliness.

* No, not a real word.

Em dashes and En dashes: A breadth of difference

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An em dash (—) can be used for almost anything: instead of a colon (such as the preceding), to replace parentheses (such as the preceding, and current), or just to represent a sudden change of direction in logic*.

An en dash (–) is somewhat more limited in its utility. Limited to two uses, in fact: firstly, as shorthand for “from” and “to”, à la 9am–5pm; and secondly, to hyphenate two words where one is actually part of another word pairing. As in “post–afternoon tea“, or”anti–Tony Abbott“.

On the other hand, ordinary single pairings like “long, dark tea-time” and “anti-troglodyte” (respectively) require nothing wider than a hyphen.

Based on Mental Floss (where knowledge junkies get their fix). ]

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{ via ilovetypography }

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So the next time someone tries to tell you there’s no difference between an em dash and an en dash, might I suggest you draw their attention to the difference between forMication and forNication?


And if they STILL insist that the difference doesn’t matter, why not offer to release a bucket of crawling, gnashing ants in their general direction.


- – — – -


* But not all at once. Consider the absurdity of the following:

“Em dashes can be used for almost anything — instead of a colon — such as the preceding — to replace parentheses — such as the preceding, and current — or just to represent a sudden change of direction in logic.”

… THAT doesn’t work at all.

A (word) wall of fear

I know: isn’t this just great?

In 2008, Brian Rea began taking inventory of the things that worried him and the New Yorkers around him. Using chalk and white paint, he then spent 13 days compiling the accumulated fears onto a 7m x 3.5m blackboard wall, arranging them into categories of physical, political, and of course, supernatural… (more — and all images — at Fast Company).

Look: Brian Rea is a space nerd too! (‘cept he fears UFOs, whereas I just doubt them.)

Found at You Look Marvelous. Currently on display at Fundació Joan Miró… or on my desktop wallpaper.


I am SO tempted to do this in my own home. But with something rather less daunting than Fear.  Wallflower Words, perhaps…? Oh, except I live in a rented apartment. And probably will do for the foreseeable eternity. So perhaps not.

Loves: Books & Spiral staircases (all). Does Not Love: Eames (some).

I love books.

Love love love. Adore. Cherish. Worship. Covet & Lust after.

I also have a VERY strong aesthetic attraction to spiral staircases. [Aside: I once scared off a fellow theatre patron by waxing lyrical about the set design for Bell Shakespeare's Hamlet, and my "thing" for spiral staircases].

So to me, this image…


{ Casa Aquino by Augusto Fernandez Mas, on Freshome, via FFFFOUND! }

…is almost perfect.

Almost.

Why?

I just can’t abide the Eames Lounge Chair (670) and Ottoman(671). Look at it. ‘Tis a boring blot on an otherwise heavenly room.

This aversion, I think, is borne of 5 years working for an architecture & interior design magazine — where I chance upon an image of ‘The Eames’ at least three times a day, usually as prop-furniture in project promo photo shoots — in addition to a lifelong general disaffection for Stuff What Everyone’s Already Got.

Some people (okay, LOTS of people) adore 670 & 671. And I’mma let them finish… but I’m sorry, I think it ruins everything. See, That Chair can even turn this really sweet and interesting poster (full of good intent and fine advice):


{ Graphic-ExchanGE via FFFFOUND! }

…into “Oh. Another pretentious design poster”:


{ image credit: ditto }

Even the ineffable cuteness of Polaroid can’t save this from the Eames Lounge Instant Cliché Effect (patent pending).

It’s just so thoroughly and undeniably… beige (in the figurative sense… unless you buy this one, in which case it is also literally beige, and therefore the definitive definition OF beige).

But to prove that I’ve no deep-seated [oh. Oh that was BAD. Sorry] prejudice against Eames’ designs in general, I’d like to introduce a beautiful new acquaintance I made just this past weekend:


{ via eamesoffice.com. Take special note of the jaunty umbrella and hat. Very handsome; pure class. More chair-lust here. }

Everyone, I’d like you to meet the Eames Time-Life Executive Chair. Designed in 1960 for the Time-Life building in New York. The pair I had the pleasure of meeting — in a severely cool retro-antiques furniture store the quiet country streets of Milton, South Coast NSW — were upholstered in aqua-blue wool tweed, with the smoothest, buttery, faun-coloured suede back and armrests… I fawned over them. I thought they were truly lovely.

This fleeting encounter was an informative one. All this time I thought I was anti-Eames, yet all it took was 5 minutes with two darling retro chairs to prove that this dislike only applies to SOME Eames (Eameses? Eames’es?).

This is a happy discovery, for absolutist prejudice is never a pleasant thing.


Disclaimer: This does not change my feelings re: 670 & 671.

Don’t forget your [insert modern essential here]

.

This…

… is a brilliant idea. Before Leaving Check List vinyl wall decals by Hu2 Design.

If my mother has taught me anything (okay, she’s taught me a superfluity of things both useful and useless, but that’s beside the point) it’s that one ought never leave home without reciting the timeless mantra “Keys Wallet Phone. Keys Wallet Phone. Keys Wallet Phone.” … and actually checking to make sure you have all those items on your person, of course*.

Why, to avoid THIS awful feeling:

{ Public Poster Project by Egor Bashakov on Behance Network, via FFFFOUND! }

I abhor, loathe, and dread the niggling feeling that you’ve left something behind somewhere.  Even when it’s just a completely unjustified twinge at the back of your mind all day. But especially when it’s true!


*Things gets more complicated with music players and reading glasses of course. Though I have yet to encounter said technicality, because music lives in the eyePhone, thus killing two birds with one apple seed [it's worth your time clicking that last link, for technological comparison with this, for example]. And these young eyes are working perfectly well, thank heavens**.

**Although if they weren’t, I could always test them out on this awesome type-lovers’ Snellen Eye Chart).

*