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Typographer’s bible

5 March, 2009

Many apologies for the rather erratic frequency in posting throughout this month and the last.  It comes as a result of two-timing (or four, rather) with other sites as a regular contributing writer. And alongside a likely impending move away from an increasingly weary London (all to be revealed soon), calibration of both overall work scheduling and correspondence has been far from finely tuned. So if the phrase ‘coming soon’ has cropped up here more often than usual about any given topic mentioned in passing, please bear with me until ‘soon’ eventually comes. I’ll also try to double-up whenever possible to compensate. In the meantime, here’s a little treat for fellow typophiles who can’t get enough of the eponymous online network and special features such as Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica. I had recommended a book for pre-order amongst other things in the Christmas gift round-up published back in December of last year. Surely enough, March is already here, and it’s time to celebrate the long-awaited first edition publication of The Typographic Desk Reference. To be honest, I’m more than a little excited about this, as I have a slightly if not bizarrely intense font fetish that has persisted since age five (though I suppose that would fit well with the job description).

It also helps if you have a thing for lovingly presented design reference and coffee-table art books. Published by Oak Knoll Books, it was written and designed by entrepreneur Theodore Rosendorf, who began his graphic design career with creating logos back in 1992. He is now the creative head of the Matador branding and communications company based in Decatur, Georgia. With clients as varied as Nintendo, CNN, the CDC and Coca-Cola, Rosendorf is obviously well-positioned to share his wisdom on the detailed world of kerning and foundaries. As such, the TDR has been broken down into the following sections for swift ease of use: ‘Terms (definitions of format, measurements, practice, standards, tools, and industry lingo), Glyphs (list of standard ISO and extended Latin characters, symbols, diacritics, marks, and various forms of typographic furniture), Anatomy & Form (letter stroke parts and the variations of impression and space used in Latin-based writing systems), and Classification & Specimens (historical line with examples of form from blackletter to contemporary sans serif types)’. These four will be preceded by a foreword written by designer and curator Ellen Lupton, who describes the book as ‘the ultimate tool for the type geek’.

Now I just wish I’d been closer to Atlanta’s (context) gallery to be able to attend the book release party on 20th March… The Typographic Desk Reference now available to order from Oak Knoll and Amazon, US$45.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Arabesque (pieces at random)

Ambient space (pieces at random)

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Parallel posting

2 March, 2009

In the wise words of David Ogilvy, ‘Imitation may be the sincerest form of plagiarism, but it is also the mark of an inferior person.’ What better example of this than the recent launch of Skittles’ new website, to the dismay of a public who sees it little more than a rip-off of the novel concept used over at the home of the Modernista! ad agency. With WordPress commentator Lorelle VanFossen having officially declared it ‘The Year of Original Content‘, it’s a relief to see that online creatives are becoming more vocal about the preservation of the integrity of their content. Because let’s be honest — it’s far from pleasant to find that despite taking the risk of appearing anally retentive by plastering your copyright policy in every corner of your site to curb wanton imposters from taking more than their fair share of your time and thought invested without permission or due attribution, there are individuals who persist to steal either directly or through the convenience of creepy crawly spambots. And it is unfortunate that in a world today where blogging provides grounds to help cultivate new and dynamic voices in an arena where politics, the sciences and arts may be explored and discussed freely, the infringement of one’s proprietary rights in relation to their content is as common as it is everywhere else in the media landscape.

And though complex the nature of copyright and ‘originality’ may be by definition, it baffles without fail every time to see that those either callous or inadvertently unaware of content protocol could have otherwise simply sent an e-mail to ask and clear up any doubt if site policy failed to convey the message with a level of clarity that they would appreciate and respect. In writing this, it will fast become obvious that I have dealt with the matter first-hand on numerous occasions, the inaugural moment being that which involved a derivative work of a creative (and personal) piece of mine, about which I was fortunate enough to be notified. But in the past couple of years, it has since continued much to my dismay, spanning all content in surprisingly unique ways that one begins to wonder whether or not content thieves know they would be better off directing their seeming ingenuity into creating their own work instead. In addition to this, the Fair Use and Creative Commons guidelines exist to provide an alternative more conducive to upholding a creative and inspirational forum and flow of information, so that content creators need not be confined only to a full blanket policy requiring the sort of policing that takes a great deal of one’s time.

And let’s not forget the grey area left in the wake of web conventions established amongst online creatives that develop far too quickly for official copyright legislation to instantaneously adapt and reflect real action on the ground. Already there has been considerable discussion regarding the acceptability of deep-linking and the excerpting (at varied lengths) of written content online. It’s not unheard of that trusted sites and bloggers repeatedly attribute content to the wrong individuals or forego on attribution entirely (this applies to video content especially). And yet it’s not much better when adamant bloggers intent on posting daily decide that every little thing they find of interest can be ‘excerpted’ with a sentence of their own tagged at the beginning of it to sell it off as a find worth reading on their page. Of course the incorporation of any advertising or commercial gain into this equation makes it all the more dubious; the same goes for SEO and the mere desire to increase traffic. But even without that, a website claiming to provide ‘news’, ‘thoughts’ and/or ‘opinions’ should not rest solely on what FriendFeed and Facebook Links ultimately amount to.

But equally disconcerting are the bloggers you know personally, who repeatedly dig up your old content to rework into their own, who perhaps believe that your blogging memory only goes as far back as a few weeks and thus they have some sort of licensed access to a smörgåsbord of your work to sell off for personal gain. Although not much can be done about this other than to tolerate it within the confines of non-commercial ShareAlike without attribution, it is when it’s a few words short of full-on plagiarism that it becomes difficult to ignore. Cyber-stalking (or what I like to call ‘parallel posting’) is behaviour more akin to Hirudo medicinalis, reflecting poor judgement on behalf of the parallel poster — though I would gladly stand corrected in the instance it all turns out to be one statistically implausible coincidence, nine times out of ten. Nevertheless, as I can’t emphasize this enough due to previous, more serious experience with having work taken through alteration and wrongful attribution, here is the license under which the written segments of this site operate (unless otherwise stated, i.e. non-applicable to creative non-fiction and original artwork featured, all of which require explicit permission). Internal documentation has also been updated to reflect as much.

But hopefully time spent monitoring suspected trackbacks, scraper sites and copycats will soon be decreased considerably. In celebration of The Year of Original Content, I’m currently beta-testing a fantastic new service called FairShare, which automatically provides a feed that updates in accordance to your site’s content and other content on the web that may have been taken from it. What makes it so convenient apart from sending all of the information to Google Reader is that it provides links to a page showing the exact site it has detected, the percentage of the work used, whether or not it is a derivative, if it complies with your registered license, whether advertising is present, how much traffic it receives, and the list goes on. There is also a content search available through the Copyscape services which have proved useful in the past. And Lorelle VanFossen has written extensively of her insights into how best to deal with one’s blogging and site content — including how to report theft, where to include one’s policy, when to send a cease and desist notice, etc. Most certainly worth checking out (as well as reading the Digital Millennium Copyright Act), regardless of if you’ve ever experienced anything of the above or not.

The important thing to remember in all of this is that it is not often easy to make clear distinction between harmless imitation and more serious plagiarism, theft, scraping, cyber-stalking and downright harassment. Whilst tiring with eyes plastered open through my studies of tort law, constitutional law and most things in-between, the one thing I have to hand to the mind-numbingly dry experience of it all is my respect for some of the well-meaning achievements in the written body of intellectual property law. Its applications are not always correct, consistent, nor apt to every given situation, but the underlying premise aiming to balance between creativity and commercial gain is one worth preserving. To preserve the integrity and relative originality (more on originality in an upcoming post) of one’s ideas, to allow for the recognition and endorsement of such work, all the while motivating the creator and conceiver to continue on with their fruitful endeavours in order to further drive development in the world of science, art, music and writing is no easy feat in an age when exact duplication, wrongly directed advertising, rampant profiteering, unwanted spamming and malicious scraping are all just one easy, mindless click away.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Creative Commons

Prevent Content Theft (WordPress)

10 Copyright Myths

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Beginning the end

28 February, 2009

I absolutely refuse for this to be the last time I write about Trent Reznor — and it won’t be. But what I’d like this to be is an open letter, less for protest, but rather more for clarification. Because the phrase ‘disappear for a while’ is certainly one of the last things you’d like to hear being spoken by the man responsible for producing the music you discovered you couldn’t not love the first time you watched Mark Romanek’s ‘Perfect Drug‘, then enamoured by its absinthe-coloured allusion. Indeed that was also the same year I had listened to Bowie’s ‘I’m Afraid of Americans‘ and eventually figured out the connection amongst others that bound NIN to the 1997 hit single as well as to Tool, Jane’s Addiction, Aphex Twin, Mötley Crüe and producer Bob Ezrin. But I know better than to plead, for as any fan of Nine Inch Nails would know, Reznor’s announcement at the end of last year doesn’t really come as a surprise. Any exacting musician has good sense of when a break is needed. And the ongoing decline resulting from the industry’s marginally adaptive 1990s MO further backfiring in the face of the tightening of fans’ purse-strings in difficult economic times hasn’t exactly made it easy to fill concert halls to the brim.

So the news of an impending and indefinite hiatus has again resurfaced lately, in preparation for what may be considered the final assembling of NIN on-stage, touring alongside resurrected fellow Alt-Nation legends Jane’s Addiction. In an earlier statement issued by Reznor on the band’s official site, he wrote ‘2009 marks the 20th anniversary of our first releases. I’ve been thinking for some time now it’s time to make NIN disappear for a while. Last year’s ‘Lights in the Sky’ tour was something I’m quite proud of and seems like the culmination of what I could pull off in terms of an elaborate production. It was also quite difficult to pull off technically and physically night after night and left us all a bit dazed. After some thought, we decided to book a last run of shows across the globe this year. The approach to these shows is quite different from last year — much more raw, spontaneous and less scripted. Fun for us and a different way for you to see us and wave goodbye.’ He asks, ‘Will it work? Will it resonate in the marketplace? Who knows. Is there big record label marketing dollars to convince you to attend? Nope. Does it feel right to us and does it seem like it will be fun for us and you? Yes it does.’

And perhaps he’s right. After all, the NIN canon has continued on strong since 1989, and the last few in particular have led to milestones that would be best kept untarnished in memory. The output of Reznor’s multifaceted genius coupled with his ever-changing team of musicians, engineers and producers has survived a spate of conflicts facing music corpocracy since as early as the 1990s with TVT Music up until Reznor’s decision to split with Interscope in 2007. As he puts it, ‘Corporate rock still sucks.’ That considered, an intimate tour allowing fans to remember and revel in the previous twenty-seven halos would be just the thing that’s needed at a time like this to celebrate all that’s been put forth since Pretty Hate Machine. As such, there’s a real chance that I may fork over a large sum of money I don’t yet have for a ticket when the tour schedule is announced. I had the opportunity to see NIN perform in Brixton back in October 2007 whilst on the European leg of their Live: With Teeth tour, and my memory of the performance which culminated in a profoundly moving keyboard solo for the very same ‘Hurt‘ that Johnny Cash himself later re-interpreted to great effect is reason enough to see them again. And the Beside You in Time DVD (clip below) provides additional incentive, though unlikely needed.

It may be worth mentioning that I respect Trent Reznor as much as I enjoy listening to NIN, for his understanding in the complexities of groundbreaking composition as much as for his having endured twenty years whilst making progress through well-made decisions rather than following a falsely lucrative spiral down. Having stood his ground in regards to both preserving his creative independence and being outspoken with his view of the previous US administration (to the extent of choosing not to perform), Reznor has come a long way in achieving the career he has whilst also evolving into the man he is today. He’s known for having told fans to ‘steal‘ his music. And upon finding out that the US Military had reportedly been using his music in the torture of detainees, he immediately issued the following statement: ‘It’s difficult for me to imagine anything more profoundly insulting, demeaning and enraging than discovering music you’ve put your heart and soul into creating has been used for purposes of torture. If there are any legal options that can be realistically taken they will be aggressively pursued, with any potential monetary gains donated to human rights charities. Thank God this country has appeared to side with reason and we can put the Bush administration’s reign of power, greed, lawlessness and madness behind us.’

But I must admit that I dislike to even think that the word ‘final’ fits into this equation. Deep down, I still have a sneaking suspicion that a special edition DVD will follow, alongside a greatest hits round-up and perhaps some more of that phenomenal instrumental dreamscape composition from Reznor as seen on Ghosts I-IV (the first to be released under a Creative Commons license under his independent imprint The Null Corporation, accompanied by a visually successful video competition about which I shall be posting shortly). Maybe Tapeworm will be brought out from under the dust and revived, or maybe Reznor will produce IDM under an alias, to be released on his own net-based label to continue the trend he helped to begin with Radiohead and that now Portishead is considering to follow (more on that soon). Or maybe he’ll help to turn-out a few more protégés to combat the increasingly uninspired ‘twee‘ sound of the industry mainstream. Or eventually (ideally) this would culminate in a reunion tour of sorts, five or so years down the line…Who knows? But I do know one thing: This is most definitely not the last time I will be writing about Nine Inch Nails.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

Nine Inch Nails – ‘Beside You in Time’, 12 of 19
North America, Winter 2006 (
Halo 22)

See also: The slip (pieces at random)

Downward spiral (pieces at random)

Rainbow revolution (pieces at random)

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Gallery — Last Time

27 February, 2009

(c) Sarah Badr. All Rights Reserved.

The Last Time I Saw You (29.97744,31.132318)
by Sarah Badr, 2009
60 x 40 cm matte giclée print

(c) Sarah Badr. All Rights Reserved.

The Last Time I Saw You (30.029444,31.261389)
by Sarah Badr, 2009
50 x 75 cm matte giclée print

(c) Sarah Badr. All Rights Reserved.

The Last Time I Saw You (30.0571,31.2272)
by Sarah Badr, 2009
60 x 40 cm matte giclée print

(c) Sarah Badr. All Rights Reserved.

The Last Time I Saw You (29.62095,31.25185)
by Sarah Badr, 2009
60 x 40 cm matte giclée print

Sarah Badr © MMIX

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Science machine

26 February, 2009

Who would’ve thought the Adobe Illustrator workspace could be such a winning backdrop for Portishead? That aside,  the hours of painstaking work and attention to detail that went into this beautiful piece by Brooklyn-based designer and illustrator Chad Pugh is inspired. In fact, it is this piece in particular that has helped in part to pave the way towards Vimeo‘s spotless interface and login illustration that we get to enjoy today. Commissioning the redesign earlier this year, the Vimeo team fronted by Jakob Lodwick and Zach Klein sought the expertise of the man whose portfolio has provided front-end output for the likes of Janet Jackson and Bon Jovi at the Fearless Concepts studio, and the success has been tremendous both for the site in terms of user feedback as well as for Pugh’s own career success. And seeing as I’ve spoken out considerably against YouTube‘s seeming lack of attention to image and general operation strategy in recent times (inevitably more to come soon), it goes without saying that a site like Vimeo provides much relief to the black-and-white eyesore that can be added to Twitter’s ‘#gfail‘ rap sheet.

Pugh’s filming of his Science Machine rendering in timelapse over several months totals approximately forty hours of working in depth on the elements featured in his landscape, with a screenshot taken every five seconds. Trimming the eighteen-minute total down to seven, it was set to Portishead‘s ‘We Carry On’ track (Third, 2008) for full dramatic effect. A truly incredible thing to behold when you know how much drive it takes to complete an illustration like this for personal enjoyment. And it’s obvious that that enjoyment has translated into Pugh’s work with Vimeo. On the two projects, he has said that ‘before working in-house at Vimeo I provided their login page illustration, which is used throughout the site in many different forms. It was inspired from some other personal illustration work I had just started pursuing and can be found at my store for purchase. I then had the opportunity to work with the staff on-site. Most of my time was spent exploring ideas for the sites interface, new sections, product branding and other features. My life has changed a lot since I started this.’

Unsurprisingly, the largest two prints are already sold-out. However ‘Afloat’ is still available, and it’s well worth checking back later at the The Big Pugh store to see if more becomes available.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: Speed painting (piece at random)

Content awareness (pieces at random)

Flash fantastic (pieces at random)

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Gallery — Hashtags

17 February, 2009

(c) Sarah Badr. All Rights Reserved.

#61eef7
by Sarah Badr, 2009
variable base-16 study

(c) Sarah Badr. All Rights Reserved.

#3f4bff
by Sarah Badr, 2009
variable base-16 study

Sarah Badr © MMIX

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Crush on you

14 February, 2009

Just in time for St. Valentine‘s day of reckoning and the launch of Virb 2.0: From the wonderful people who brought us Fifty People, One Question comes yet another inspired idea that aims to bring us together through the spirit of love and generosity. Only this time, the Crush + Lovely creative studio based between New York and San Francisco have narrowed the number down to two lucky winners in their offer of  a round-trip, all-expense-paid ‘nerd-core’ getaway very aptly dubbed ‘Crush on You‘. The designated destination? New York or San Francisco, for some webernet schmoozing and dining over a fourteen course ‘tasting’ menu (mezzes anyone?) with two of the six eligible bachelors and bachelorettes on show: Julia Allison ([non]society), Brad Smith (Virb), Dan Rubin (Sidebar Creative), Emily Doubilet (Sustainable Party), Kenneth Chu and Jina Bolton (both Crush + Lovely). Now basically what would have to happen in order to win this chance to, as they say, ‘meet them face to face to flirt, frolic, and make out to your heart’s content with mutual consent’ is to follow Crush + Lovely on Twitter (@crushlovely) in order to help them reach their 14,000 target.

The refreshingly not-so-small and rather people-friendly print for eligibility in this special rendezvous extravaganza is coordination of travel dates whenever most convenient for all those who will be involved (offer void where prohibited), whilst guaranteeing good fun, i.e. ‘not in any way creepy, sketchy, or oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-he/she-just-touched-me-there-y’. This is also ‘including but not limited to […] hay making, rick rolling, play faking, code doling, tongue lashing, hash tagging, the over under, the heart asunder, shotgun weddings, or the taking of toast and tea’. As I’ve already entered, fellow Twitterers next-door will already know who I’ve chosen (see reason for choice in tweet followed by #crushonyou) — though admittedly when the odds are 14,000+ to one, the chances of actually getting to meet one of these young and fetching web wizards is slim. It’s still a lovely idea, nonetheless — not to mention that congratulations are due for the launch of Crush + Lovely’s beautiful new site. And so it is on that note that I shall leave you with Édith Piaf‘s classic ‘À quoi ça sert l’amour ?’ featuring Theo Serapo.  Have a happy (preferably not sappy) Valentine’s!

Film by Louis Clichy and Cube Creative based in Paris.

Sarah Badr © MMIX

See also: To wake up… (pieces at random)

Parlement of foules (pieces at random)

Winter wrap-up v.1 (pieces at random)