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Bonus Post!

The wailing, rending of garments, and gnashing of teeth continues at length over the dearth of posting of late. I blame CK; the truth is, we’ve all been busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.

Or is it simply another sign that the apocalypse is upon us?

Either way, it’s the first time we here at AMD Headquarters have offered two blog posts in one day. So you’ve got that going for you. Which is nice.

Nobody’s Prefect

Joseph Epstein writes about one of my favorite pastimes: finding typos in published work.

Apart from the smug self-satisfaction that comes when I catch the vaunted copy editors at The New Yorker asleep at their style guides, it’s a sobering reminder that mistakes often do, in fact, get printed—despite the best efforts of people a lot smarter than I. (Or is it “me”?)

“Planes are shifted off the orthogonal…”

Because it’s Thursday, I bring you Couch Cushion Architecture: A Critical Analysis.

Print Is Dead! (Or…is it?)

All of us in the design profession have heard about the eventual, slow death of print. It began in earnest in the 1990s, and, according to some folks, it already has a tombstone. This is what keeps printers up at night.

So I was pleasantly surprised as my oldest daughter—a senior in high school—began searching for a university to attend a little over a year ago. Upon visiting several colleges, our mailbox has been inundated with print promotions, one after the other, not only from the schools we visited but also from unknown colleges around the country.

Having worked with college admissions departments, I can attest to the fact that these groups are typically very sophisticated in their approach to recruiting high school students (and their parents). So it must work very well to mail nicely designed brochures, post cards, and letters. Given that print still has far fewer restrictions than online design, higher-ed print pieces are often more visually pleasing that their websites. And in the case of my daughter, even after she committed to a university, they’ve kept sending her beautiful print pieces.

Print may be slower that it use to be, but it’s far from being on life support. In fact, I’d suggest that, given society’s appetite for all things online, print has become even more relevant: as a tangible, tactile, near-novelty that communicates emotions distinct from any click of the mouse.

3.5″ Floppy, RIP

Something tells me that approximately 93 percent of those who read this story will be shocked to learn that someone—anyone—is still manufacturing these things. (And will continue to do so until 2011!)

Lowest Prices EVER on Embarrassing Musical Genres

It’s one thing when you see a misplaced comma or apostrophe in a hand-lettered sign. But this cryptic announcement is something else entirely. The missus found it in the frozen foods section at Super 1 Foods on 29th.

Imagine, if you will, a giant icebox with the likes of Donna Summer, Rick James, and every member of the Love Unlimited Orchestra slumbering away in cryostasis, their prices slashed on accounta their sell-by dates have long since passed, and you have a pretty good idea of how my mind works when I see this sort of thing.

Fonts and Money

Recently, our very own Spokesman-Review ran an AP article on how fonts can actually save you money.

Yes, it’s true. As the article suggests, “because different fonts require different amounts of ink to print, you could be buying new printer cartridges less often if you wrote in, say, Century Gothic rather than Arial. Schools and businesses could save thousands of dollars with font changes.”

The article goes on to list the fonts that use “different volumes of ink to print”. Does this mean that even a dull, plain-vanilla font like Times New Roman actually has an advantage over say, the more classic sans serif font, Franklin Gothic Medium?

Now, no doubt the printing savings is real. But in these recessionary times, when every marketing dollar is being scrutinized—if not reduced or removed—do we designers now have to contend with clients expecting to squeeze a little more out of our font choices? Let’s hope not.

I suppose the good news is that nobody is reading newspapers these days anyway (which, coincidentally, use quite a lot of that dull, plain-vanilla font). So until then, I’ll continue to select fonts that provide the personality required, rather than less volume.

Proofers of the World, Untie!

Proofreading is one of those under-appreciated skills that people too often dismiss as mere pedantry. But it’s not easy. Evelyn Waugh, in fact, wryly noted that “now that they no longer defrock priests for sexual perversities, one can no longer get any decent proofreading.”

Waugh’s quote came to mind when I read this story about “freshly ground black people.”

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

I took part in a presentation today, and…I wore a tie. Not exactly blog-worthy news for most folks, granted, but anyone who knows me understands that they’re far more likely to catch a glimpse of Bigfoot than they are to see me in a tie. Or a button-down shirt, for that matter.

So there were a dozen people in the room, nearly two-thirds of whom were men, and I was the only one wearing a tie.

@#$%&!

Stop What You’re Doing and Watch This Movie. Right Now.

Finally got around to seeing the 2006 German film The Lives of Others. It’s a beautiful movie—engaging in a way that, for me anyway, has been replicated precisely two other times over the last ten years or so: Into the Wild and The Wrestler.

Just…wow.

Teachers Matter

Upon winning the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, Kathleen Parker thanks her high school English teacher. Nice touch.

If I ever win the Pulitzer, Mr. Miller, you can be sure I’ll invite you to the ceremony.

Posted without Further Comment

A Recommendation

Following up on a previous post, there’s another great resource out there for writers of all stripes—even if the very mention of the word “grammar” makes your eye twitch.

Paul Brians, Emeritus Professor of English at WSU, is the author of Common Errors in English Usage, a book I turn to more often than I care to admit. He also generously maintains a companion website (which actually preceded the book).

Brians’s advice is always sensible—and sometimes quite funny. Here’s one of my favorites, taken from his website:

Feminists eager to remove references to sexuality from discussions of females and males not involving mating or reproduction revived an older meaning of “gender,” which had come to refer in modern times chiefly to language, as a synonym for “sex” in phrases such as “Our goal is to achieve gender equality.” Americans, always nervous about sex, eagerly embraced this usage, which is now standard. In some scholarly fields, “sex” is now used to label biologically determined aspects of maleness and femaleness (reproduction, etc.) while “gender” refers to their socially determined aspects (behavior, attitudes, etc.); but in ordinary speech this distinction is not always maintained. It is disingenuous to pretend that people who use “gender” in the new senses are making an error, just as it is disingenuous to maintain that “Ms.” means “manuscript” (that’s “MS”). Nevertheless, I must admit I was startled to discover that the tag on my new trousers describes not only their size and color, but their “gender.”

You can purchase the good professor’s book at Auntie’s.

On Spec Work

The best description we’ve ever come across about the bane that is spec work, from Jeffrey Zeldman:

“Spec = asking the world to have sex with you and promising a dinner date to one lucky winner.”

When You Really Have to Watch Your Bottom Line…

Color me dubious, but it appears that a simple font change could save your organization big bucks.

But then, if this study helps to put the final nail in the coffin of Comic Sans, I’m all for it.

What’s in Your Library?

As a celebrated writer of no small renown, I’m often asked by those who would imitate my astonishing career trajectory what writing references I keep within easy reach of my Mac (apart, I presume, from the vast resources that reside in my head).

For a quick roundup of writing basics, it’s hard to beat Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Sure, it has its detractors (or, what we in the business call “stupid whining pedants”), but commandments like “be clear” and “omit needless words” are sorely needed these days.

If you’re looking for Elements, try to find a used copy of the second (1972) or third (1979) editions, both of which can be had for around $3. It’s the best investment a writer can make.

On “Good” Literature

Last night, my mom and I were discussing the relative merits of Louis L’Amour; somewhat fortuitously, today I came across a letter from Edgar Rice Burroughs to a 14-year-old kid whose teacher had some rather unkind things to say about Mr. Burroughs’s oeuvre. Here’s the money paragraph:

My stories will do you no harm. If they have helped to inculcate in you a love of books, they have done you much good. No fiction is worth reading except for entertainment. If it entertains and is clean, it is good literature, or its kind. If it forms the habit of reading, in people who might not read otherwise, it is the best literature.

Hard to disagree with that.

Worshiping Design

A recent trip to Seattle offered up yet another encouraging ray of hope: that good architectural design can truly inspire. While the Seattle Public Library (a must-see, by the way) does indeed fit into this category, I’m referring to the Chapel of St. Ignatius. Located on the campus of Seattle University, this 1997 effort by Steven Holl Architects out of NYC is worth the side trip.

And speaking of chapels, if you’re ever in Portland, take time to visit the Marilyn Moyer Meditation Chapel (sometimes referred to as the Grotto Meditation Chapel). Designed by TVA Architects and completed in 1992, it’s equally impressive.

The Island of Flesh-Melting Snakes

Because it’s Friday—and because I can—I bring you: Ilha de Queimada Grande!

An Online Repository of Virtues

In Character has been one of my favorite magazines of the past couple of years. An odd publication, it was published three times a year, each issue focusing on a particular “everyday virtue,” like modesty, compassion, and wisdom.

While the print version ended with the recent “humility” issue, all back issues—along with new content—can be read online. Free. To get a taste for what you can find there, check out this short essay that’s sure to raise the blood pressure of at least one of my college professors.

Bonfire of the Inanities, part II

Speaking of writing habits that chafe me, I’d like to say a word or two about the comma. As many of you know, one of its many glorious uses is to separate items in a series: “lions, tigers, and bears.” The second comma in this example is what’s called a “serial comma,” and the only thing you need to know about it is that anyone who tells you it’s unnecessary (like, say, The Associated Press Stylebook) is both a scoundrel and a villain. To wit:

Strunk & White: “In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last.”

Fowler: “The only rule that will obviate uncertainties is that after every item…the comma should be used.”

Chicago Manual of Style: “Chicago strongly recommends this widely practiced usage…since it prevents ambiguity.”

And finally, Paul Brians: “Follow the style recommended by your teacher, editor, or boss when you have to please them; but if you are on your own, I suggest you use the final comma.”

Why, you might ask, does the AP eschew the serial comma? To save space. Get rid of a couple thousand commas throughout a newspaper, and that frees up ad space—at the expense, however, of clarity.

I ♥ Milton Glaser

I’m a huge fan of Milton Glaser, one of America’s most influential designers. Now 81 years of age, Glaser continues to produce beautiful and relevant work. In 1975 he was asked to create a pro-bono logo for the New York Commerce Commission’s public relations campaign. It was intended to soften New York City’s crime-ridden and dirty reputation. He was given the slogan “I Love New York.” He quickly came up with a solution that was immediately approved by Bill Doyle, the assistant commissioner of commerce.

While doodling in a cab a week later he had a better idea, so he pleaded with Mr. Doyle to come by his studio and take a look at it. As Glaser recalls, Doyle first reaction was “Oh please! Forget it. Do you know how complicated it would be to approve it again?” Apparently Doyle agreed to take a peek at Glazer’s new logo and quietly took the sketch with him. Eventually the commission approved the new logo and the “INY” symbol became an instant tourist favorite.

On February 25, 2010, Glaser was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the first graphic designer to be recognized as such. In President Obama’s introduction, Glaser was honored for “a lifetime devoted to improving the way people communicate through innovation in graphic design, and for memorable visual artifacts that challenge contemporary artists and delight all Americans.” And that’s exactly what Milton Glaser did 35 years ago.

Wolfgang Wagner, RIP

The grandson of Richard Wagner died Sunday at the age of 90. Alex Ross points to something almost beyond belief: that the grandson of a man born in 1813 should survive well into the 21st century.

So what’s that got to do with design? Nothing, really—unless you subscribe to the notion, as many do, that Grandpa’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is the greatest work of art ever created. High praise, to be sure. Not to mention controversial. But I’m inclined to agree.

Bonfire of the Inanities, part I

In this, the first in an ongoing series devoted to shining the clear light of reason on bad English (that is to say, unpleasant writing and speaking, not the lame 1980s band), I draw your attention to one of the most heinous of practices: using nouns as verbs.

An example that really sets my teeth on edge is “reference”—you know, “Excuse me while I reference my notes,” or “We’ll need to reference our expertise in this proposal.” AAAUUUGGGHHH!!! Whatever happened to “refer to”?

Here’s why you should care: When you deliberately flout the quite reasonable rules of English syntax, you come across not as a refined and sophisticated raconteur, but as someone who simply doesn’t know any better.

Challenge

There’s a $10 bill here at AMD corporate headquarters for the first person who can name one—just one—advantage of Daylight Savings Time. I’m not talking about how much everyone enjoys the extra light at the end of the workday; I’m talking about a tested, proven, and verifiable benefit to humanity.

Stumped? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Do People Read Anymore?

I’m a reader. Always have been. When I was a kid, while my friends were doing whatever it is normal kids do, I’d spend my Saturdays in the basement reading room at the John Steinbeck Library. Finding out as an adult that there are, in fact, people who don’t read was difficult for me to understand. You may as well have told me that there exist people who choose not to breathe.

It’s become an unassailable fact in the minds of many that not just some, but most people don’t read anymore. No time. No interest. Too much competition from the Internet, satellite television, and the golf course. While it’s certainly not the last word on the subject, this study begs to differ.

Perhaps the apocalypse is not yet upon us.

I’d Rather Be Stripped Naked, Smeared with Peanut Butter, and Locked in a Cage with Angry Wolverines

That’s pretty much what I told the suits here at AMD when I was asked to contribute to our official blog. (“Contribute,” of course, means “become the chief architect of,” “manage,” and “do all the heavy lifting.”)

Turns out it’s not as bad as it sounds. I get to write about stuff that interests me and, I hope, whoever accidentally stumbles upon the site. Plus, I get to keep my job—a “win-win,” according to the suits.

So. Welcome to our blog. We hope it’s everything you imagined and more.

From My Perspective

grammostola rosea

iNid climbing the front of her iMac

As I go about my day, working on design files, sorting through numerous emails, answering technical support questions, talking on the phone, etc., I wonder if life would be more satisfying staring out from the inside of an iMac vs staring at the iMac?

About AMD

Anderson Mraz Design, formed in 1988 in Spokane, Washington, is a communications design group operating in local, regional, and national markets. Our expertise includes brand strategy, corporate identity, print, collateral, packaging, website development, and environmental graphic design across a diverse and wide-ranging client base.

The embodiment of everything a company stands for, a brand is the sum of our perceptions of product, service, experience, and organization. The art – and science – of branding is about creating positive associations and expectations; about making an emotional connection between consumer and product while providing clarity through differentiation.

Embracing a host of disciplines that includes graphic, architectural, interior, and landscape design, environmental graphic design is the arrangement of three-dimensional space to communicate emotions and ideas. It’s the combination of words, images, and sound to stimulate or soothe; to inform, educate, and inspire.

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