Typeset in the Future

AKA My New Favourite Place On The Internet

There’s not much I can say about Typeset in the Future except that as soon as I found it I knew, completely and absolutely, that it was the most relevant-to-my-niche-interests place on the internet. It was like… mmmmagic.

There is even a Venn diagram to describe the target audience, and we know how much I love Venn diagrams*.


That overlap is my niche. It’s escapist and utopian, and the kerning is always perfect.

To illustrate, an excerpt from the end of the 2001: A Space Odyssey analysis:

This final part of the film is visually eclectic, aurally stunning and philosophically challenging. Many thousands of words have been penned over the decades to try and fathom the meaning of the monolith, and the genesis and future of the space-baby. However, none of this act contains typography, and it is therefore of no concern to us. Let’s skip to the end credits.


It’s Futura again, with an M borrowed from Gill Sans, and a W that I don’t recognize from anywhere. Goodnight!

*Remind me to update those images some time. Yeesh.

Tree alphabets: from Alpine Larch to Zelkova Serrata.

Despite Atlas Obscura reporting on both of these “arborbets”, it seems the latter was not informed by the much, much earlier iteration. How do you spell “convergent evolution” in tree?


An ancient Celtic tree alphabet:

“Each of its 20 characters, or ‘trees’ is made out of a reference line, or ‘stem’ crossed by one or more slashes, or ‘twigs.’ Depending on the number and direction of these twigs, the letter codes for a particular sound. To aid in memorization, each letter also has a name—often, though not always, a tree that starts with the sound the letter represents. The ‘B’ sound, for example, has one twig sticking out on the right, and is called ‘Beithe,’ or birch tree.”

– Cara Giaimo, Atlas Obscura


And a modern arborbet:

“For the Trees font, which was created especially for the book, Holten delved into her archive of New York City tree drawings, created 10 years earlier. ‘I wrote out the alphabet, A through Z, and then realized I could match a tree that had the same latter: A for apple, B for beech, C for cedar,’ she says. (V and X were a bit trickier, but Latin names came in handy.)

The numbers are represented as twigs, while the punctuation marks are shoots, leaves, and, in the case of the period, an acorn.”

– Ella Morton, Atlas Obscura


@: 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! }*


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.)