Why go to all that trouble, to do all this? [Talking about typographic niceties; dashes, quotes and the like.] Aesthetics… is not such a compelling argument for this. Or for anything. Because it is highly subjective. Furthermore, it is a function of time and space. At a larger level. What we, Indians consider to be beautiful, Americans might not consider to be beautiful. Aesthetics is also very infectious. In some senses, you can be trained to like certain things. If I faff a lot about this font [points to a screen showing various kinds of quote marks, dashes and an ellipsis and their HTML character codes], you will suddenly start liking it. Because I faffed about it. … These are the kind of questions we dabble in… [in] academics. … Ha… matlab, for whatever reasons.

— Girish Dalvi, Practical Web typography (1) on D’Source

I had the browser open to Girish’s homepage on the quirky and sane IDC website and one hyperlink lead to another and in no-time (in real time, though, it was thirty seven seconds into the first video), I was grinning at that lecture-series (in four parts). Outside of the video, he dabbles in teaching typography, books, sharing obscure and critical information—processed, and presented with deliberate commentary after being asked six times, being nice to people, commenting on excel-sheet course plans and helping young kids (…) testing teaching-waters, etc., when not putting together an impressive (intimidating) number of multilingual fonts with folks at EkType.

Classes were held in the local elementary school. Because the students had the summer off, we were able to [make] use of the cafeteria as a classroom, two students sitting at each of eleven large tables. Paul would go from desk to desk carrying a collapsible garden stool with him so that he could sit and talk to each student about his or her work. Each tête-à-tête went on as long as was necessary to set the student on the right track and was laced with stories from Paul’s vast career as they were appropriate to the issue at hand. When he worked with students, he poured his heart and soul into it.
Paul remained part of the core faculty of the Brissago program until it ended in 1996. It didn’t take long for him to be convinced that this kind of concentrated and intense interaction with individual students was the best way to teach graphic design. He tried to transplant the one-project/one-week arrangement to the Yale program but because of the academic and extracurricular demands placed on the students, it never quite worked.

— Philip Burton on Paul Rand, Paul Rand: Conversations with Students

Part of the fun in teaching is all the -related literature and films and songs and anecdotes one reads oneself to sleep with. The other part of the fun is vacuously imitating the not-so-important parts and hoping things unfold well. There is a txti in there somewhere—of all the ‘material’ on teaching, waiting to be put into HTML. Point being that nothing can replace this extended bakchodi with individuals (on their work), showing them related work, showing them seemingly unrelated texts that make sense, showing off some of one’s own work, etc.

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I started teaching typography and accoutrements (mostly accoutrements) in August 2018. This course has me really painted into a corner with the constant struggle with whether to preach the thin-stemmed crystal goblet or twirl a moustache a-la Victore. (Fuck your middle-path.)

It continues to be a process of getting paid for learning new stuff. And I think the learning equation is heavily tilted to the wrong right side. Here is the course-as-a-commentary HTML thingy. (Updated often; some useful links.)

The one on top is Miss. SJ’s attempt at subtly commenting on the course. (I kid.) The bottom one (I need a New Cubicle) is from Miss. AS. She’s repurposed an otherwise dry exercise real well as a back/fore ground.)

* An up+coming Indianie band with its roots firmly in place in the underbelly of a forgotten surgical procedure.

Part of the trouble with setting the blog in monospaced type and letting the browser decide what is best (the CSS reads ‘font-family: “Courier New”, courier, monospace;’) is that there is no guarantee the em dashes will be distinct enough to not have them mistaken for their shorter, less fancy cousins. There is an advanced typography course I’m tutoring soon and I was rereading Bringhurst this time with intent. I realise it is odd and all kinds of unprofessional to have left it run this way—without distinction—for four years. There are spaces around the em dashes now (see last sentence) for making sense’s sake and I don’t recommend it used this way otherwise. (A little piece of javascript runs at the end of each page to replace all instances of the dash with a space-dash-space string. So the ‘actual’ text in its editable form stays the right way, for when the monospace phase passes.) Bringhurst recommends an en dash flanked by two spaces over the em dash without spaces around (which [the actual em] is what the Chicago Manual prefers). The Practical Typography website has this to say on the matter. There is a beautiful bit of prose on the absence of an ebook version of the site, elsewhere.

I shouldn’t have used the word “content” to describe what writers make. Writers make writing. So let’s call it that. Because “content” isn’t a neutral word. It’s anesthetizing jargon that encourages us to see the best (and worst) parts of the web as fungible commodities, like soybeans. Writers are not content farmers. Recognizing that fact is a prerequisite to improving the economics of writing.

— Matthew Butterick

An overview of the publication design process. A3 sized poster format.

Process: Publication Design for Print is an overview of the print-publication-design process, condensed and appended with a tiny resources list mapped to the stages in the (publication-design-for-print) process. Please download a copy (PDF) from here, and let me know what needs to be improved and added and redacted and written over and edited for clarity, before I commit to print some copies.

This started life as a scribbled-on-an-A4-sheet diagram sent to a senior graphic designer a long-ish way northeast of the border seeking help with a print design project. The poster (if/when printed) measures A3 and is meant to be a two-colour screen printed affair (when printed, in PMS 805 C and black). It is somewhat self aware and the jokes are pointless and annoying as are expected. The rest is by no stretch of my rubbery imagination meant to be the final word on how things ought to be done. If you are a not-so-frequent designer of publications, this is a nice-to-have-by-the-softboard sheet of paper. If you aren’t, this may come in handy when you need to pretend to be one.

Up-hoot 1: Thanks to Miss. AB (product designer), I’ve fixed some stuff so the version up for download now is V1.2. Blame her for the updated post-title, some jokes being more elaborate, some diagrams finally making sense in context, etc. The image above remains that of the old version, since faking it all with a 3D render takes time, etc.

Do not misunderstand. I think that the computer is a marvelous instrument. I think the computer has nothing to do with creative work. You are not going to be a creative genius just because you have a computer. In fact the chances are you will be just the opposite. You just will be a computer operator. But the speed and the efficiency are simply incomparable. A comp in the old days consisted of type and artwork and color and Photostats and color prints. Can you imagine how long that took, and how much it cost to do? You do it in half an hour today; it used to take two weeks, literally two weeks. There is something wrong in that, too, because it does not give you time to be contemplative. You do not have time to sit and think about it, and it keeps kicking you in your rear end as you go along. You know it keeps kicking you. You cannot stop to think about it because it is just too damn fast.

Paul Rand, Conversations with Students (Michael Kroeger, Princeton Architectural Press, NY).

It is impossible to decide what to quote from the book full of gems. Wish I’d read it before the current courses I am helping the students with, started. (The Vijayawada Library is full of pleasant surprises.) I’ve been raving about the NID: Structure-Culture Document for weeks now, and the tail-end of Rand in Conversation is strangely reminiscent.

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The Course Abstract from Typography-1. PDF here.

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I’m really, really glad I agreed to talk letters for four agonising (I presumed), exciting (I still hope) and terrifying (so very true) weeks. The students, a decade younger, are already teaching me so much in so few words I come home to the unnecessary luxury of a double bed (wrapped in shades of baby blue, wrapped in eerily perfect, wrinkle-free solitude) and crash face-down for tens of minutes of ignorant bliss before V calls out with the day’s menu. It sounds all the more boring to listen to a list starting with chapaathi and always managing to segue its way into daal after a day of counter-spaces and anti-counter-spaces and minor introspections on the nature of form. It is Gurgaon all over again, sans the smiling people on the billboards and no signs of Miss K. The flat-builder’s misplaced sense of irony finds a moment of relief as I realise how sharp and depressingly ordinary all the longing these walls flush out come morning after smoky morning. We live in a building named after pine trees. There are others named after trees named after themselves. It rains on most mornings, except when I can’t be bothered to go out for a run.

The class is an amorphous being and refuses-outright and with more than a hint of absolute contempt-my pathetic attempts at well-worn jokes. Some students pour their heart and sufficient midnight oil out into sheets of straight lines after not-so-straight lines. Some of the faces fill my head with questions. Questions I would like them to ask (me, each other) and they never will, questions I should’ve asked someone long ago and never gathered the innards to and never did, questions to ask later to never be remembered off context.

As always, DFW drives the point home in slow, well-chosen words and well-placed shrugs. (Link)

I stare at a K drama all the way through the kisses and catch myself counting sheep. I do feel like a child.