Font Founders #5: Max Miedinger

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As a young man, Max Miedinger (1910-1980) was trained as a typesetter in Zurich, Switzerland. He became a typographer for Globus department store’s advertising studio in 1936. From 1947-56 he was a customer counselor and typeface sales representative for the Haas’sche Schriftgießerei in Münchenstein near Basle. In 1956 Miedinger went freelance when Eduard Hoffmann, the director of the Haas’sche Schriftgießerei, commissioned him to develop a new sans-serif typeface. His typeface Haas-Grotesk was introduced in 1957. But in 1960, the name of the typeface was changed—to Helvetica.

Cool font, Max.

maxmiedinger-dealwithit


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How many emojis do you use on a daily basis? If you’re like us, you generally rely on a small number that you feel best convey your particular attitude, style, or tone. They can be used for punctuation, or for anything that the written word doesn’t quite convey.

apple-gun-emoji-2-1By now the new iPhone emoji, which come with iOS 10, are old news. Many publications have reported on the changes to emoji that came with the new iPhone operating system, from more gender equality among the professions to more options for different skin tones, and the controversial replacement of a handgun with a squirt gun (reportedly due to lobbying by the group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence). And the response has not been 100% positive.

Emoji, of course, were originally derived from emoticons. And emoticons were originally designed specifically not to be ambiguous. Rather, they were meant to clarify the tone of written language. If you know something about the history of the Internet, you may know that the computer scientist Scott Fahlman was the first documented person to use typographic symbols to express specific emotions. His original proposal was posted on the computer science general board at Carnegie Mellon back in 1982:

19-Sep-82 11:44

From: Scott E  Fahlman <Fahlman at Cmu-20c>

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers: : – ) 

Read it sideways. 

Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends.  For this, use : – (

Within a few months, those smile and frown emoticons had spread to the ARPANET and Usenet. Variations quickly followed. It was useful for people who were communicating primarily through text, rather than speech, to have a way to convey tone, in addition to simple information.

bn-cc138_emotic_d_20140326032830The first real emoji were created by Shigetaka Kurita, a developer on the team that created the mobile internet platform NTT Docomo. Kurita and his team’s 176 pixelated symbols include faces that not only expressed happiness and anger or frustration, but also worry, surprise, goofiness (winking with a tongue out), a music note, an umbrella, a penguin, phases of the moon, astrological symbols, and more.

By bringing in symbols that do more than convey the tone of a written statement, Kurita created a new role for images to play in written communication. As linguist and cognitive scientist Neil Cohn says, Kurita’s emoji filled “a very effective role for communication that’s natural,” but separate, from the role of language itself. “Because of that, they aren’t really going to be a (passing) fad.”

This may help to explain why the general reaction to iOS’s new predictive emoji is less than enthusiastic. The vast majority of people who text don’t actually use emoji to replace specific nouns and verbs, as the new iOS would have us do. Said another way, we’re not replacing words so much as adding an extra layer to our communications.

Zoe Mendelson of Slate is of the opinion that the new, bigger, shinier, simpler, predictive emojis of iOS 10 have ruined emojis altogether. The way the images have been simplified, she points out, makes them less flexible. Take the grin-grimace emoji, for example, which used to convey a “slightly-guilty-slightly-pleased-slightly-embarrassed-but-still-excited expression.” In the new operating system, it has become a much simpler smile. For Mendelson, the ambiguity of the original “made it a favorite, I suspect, because we often experience this dynamic maelstrom of feelings in real life.”

The evolution of the grin-grimace, image courtesy of Emojipedia.

The evolution of the grin-grimace, image courtesy of Emojipedia.

She also argues that the new predictive functionality ruins all the original fun of finding a funny image that added new meaning to one’s written communication, rather than just illustrating it. “More cultural fetish than a tool,” she writes, the emojis of iOS 9 were great because they were so random and decontextualized. “They were extremely unlikely everyday vocal candidates. Floppy disk. Fishcake. Space invader. Old-school mailboxes. Barely recognizable houseplant cactus. It was deliciously random.” For an English-speaker, because “emoji effectively did not have fixed meanings,” they invited testers to play with ambiguity, and with the element of interpretative surprise.

Like them or hate them, it seems that the new emoji are here to stay. But it seems to us that most people don’t have quite the passionate response that Mendelson and others have. According to a Twitter poll we posted this month, the response of the vast majority of folks to the new predictive emojis is… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.


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On April 21st, the world mourned the loss of Prince Rogers Nelson, one of the most prolific and successful musicians in history. Prince sold over 100 million albums during his remarkable career that spanned four decades. Though he was clearly influenced by legends like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix, and James Brown, Prince was always completely unique and creative in his artistic expression as well as the way he chose to live his life. There will never be another Prince.

You might be familiar with Prince because of his long list of hit songs like When Doves Cry, Kiss, or Let’s Go Crazy. Or maybe you first became aware of his genius during his breathtaking performance at the Super Bowl. Though he achieved mainstream success, he never conformed to trends or pandered to his fans. His music was complex, moody, and singular—much like the man himself.

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 1.53.54 PM

I’m not a woman, I’m not a man, I am something that you’ll never understand.

In 1993, Prince legally changed his name to this symbol to protest what he believed was a Draconian clause in his contract with Warner Brothers. The Love Symbol, as he called it, was a combination of the male and female symbols and represented liberation from corporate control as well as societal norms regarding sexuality and gender.

“The only acceptable replacement for my name, and my identity, was the Love Symbol, a symbol with no pronunciation, that is a representation of me and what my music is about.” -Prince,1993

2000px-Venus_symbol.svg

Prince_logo.svg

2000px-Mars_symbol.svg

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A Lifetime of Logos: MTV

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This Sunday is the annual MTV Movie Awards. You can vote for Best Kiss, Best Villain, Best Virtual Performance, and more here, but over at Extensis we’re more interested in Best Logo Design.

Hope you enjoy these vintage MTV logos as much as we do:

  1. MTV-Moon-Landing
  2. MTV-factory
  3. trojan
  4. MTV-sandwich
  5. Franken-MTV

What movie category are you most excited for?


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The Golden Globes are upon us! This American accolade is known for being a precursor to the Oscars and this year, the Hollywood Foreign Press’ picks are diverse and surprising—making for a murky season.

Confession: surveying the nominees, and waiting for winner announcements is much less interesting to us than noting logo design, title screens, poster design, typography treatments, creative inspiration and who the creators are. Maybe we’re still a bit offended that a film that won Best Drama Motion Picture used Papyrus as its primary font (cough, Avatar, cough).

Either way, we’ve put each of the 2016 nominees in our version of the hot seat, and have doled out fake awards to honor excellence in typography and graphic design.

The Typography & Design Award Goes To…

Before we got to any of this year’s nominees, we dissected the Golden Globe logo. Avant Garde is a font family based on the logo font used for the Avant Garde magazine, which was originally designed by Herb Lubalin. It was purportedly created to capture “the advanced, the innovative, and the creative”—and proved a natural choice for an awards event that honors the same things. We think it’s got some weird imbalance. What are your thoughts?

Now on to the main event.

 

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Political Campaign Logos and the Designers Who Hate Them

Meredith Post, Author at LPK Taking Brands to Extraordinary

Wired recently ran a piece entitled Typography is Why Jeb’s Logo is Worse Than a Piece of Crap. I say this in a non-partisan way, but it’s one of those headlines that kind of says it all.

Even though Bush has been using a variation on this logo since 1993, the recently unveiled 2015 version unleashed a new barrage of snark from the design community, with pundits criticizing everything from the typeface (Baskerville) to the exclamation point (“I don’t want to be told to get excited”) to the baseline of the exclamation point. AdWeek fed the flames of the controversy by reposting a bunch of mostly negatively “humorous” takes from the twittersphere.

Political Campaign Logos and the Designers Who Hate Them; Jeb Bush logo Continue Reading »


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Finding fresh fonts—an endless effort

If you’re a designer and you’re reading this blog, chances are you love typography and fresh new fonts. If you’re like me, you call out fonts you like and dislike in everyday use for your loved ones (They love this, trust me… just ask my wife). You bookmark good “new free fonts” lists. You hoard way too many on your hard drive.

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How popular culture swings the pendulum of design.

We’re rounding out our series on type trends of the past century. It’s been quite the journey exploring the days of letter setting and hand-drawn fonts of the early twentieth century. We wandered through the eccentric assortment of mid century type. For this post we’re focusing on the triumphs of the past thirty years. Let’s stir up some inspiration with a look at everything from Adobe Garamond to grunge type!

 

1980s: Digital Revolution and Materialism 

Technology began its reign during this decade. From personal computers and video games to VCRs and Walkman, the digital revolution was on the rise. This brought wealth in many forms. The middle class began to grow all over the world, giving the average person more money to burn.

The number of televisions in the world doubled during the 80’s, meaning more advertisements than ever. Bigger was better and fashion became more bold. The modern women began to wear power suits with shoulder pads and extra hairspray. Michael Jackson and Madonna redefined the music industry and MTV was there to document. NASA continued to explore space, while AIDS shocked the planet back home.

Type Trends & Pop Culture: Part 3—Apple Adobe Garamond

Apple’s Think Different advertisement using Adobe Garamond.

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Past phenomena that defined design. 

Looking to the past for inspiration is always a great way to jumpstart creativity. During this three-part blog series, we’re traveling down the rabbit hole of popular culture to explore the fads and events that defined the design world. Whether our society craves luxury or experimentation, typography has always reacted to what’s in fashion. Let’s pick up where we left off from our previous post.

 

Type Trends & Pop Culture: Part 2 1950s-1970s

Explore type trends in pop culture from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s

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Historical happenings that defined design.

One of my favorite ways to jumpstart creativity is to look into the past for inspiration. Whether I’m starting a new design or experimenting with a color palette, popular trends are a great place to explore. From Coco Chanel in trousers to the days of disco to the Brat Pack, it’s entertaining to see how our collective consciousness influences what we view as aesthetically pleasing. During this three-part blog series, let’s peer into the colorful kaleidoscope of popular culture to explore the fads and events that defined the design world.

 

Type Trends & Pop Culture: Part 1, Coco Chanel, The Wright Brothers

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