The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Midweek Miscellany


The elegant new cover design for The Secret of Contentment by William B. Barclay, designed by Christopher Tobias.

Melancholy Technology — Tom McCarthy, whose novel C is on the long-list for the Man Booker Prize, on technology and the novel:

Technology and melancholia: an odd coupling, you might think. Yet it’s one that has deep conceptual roots. For Freud, all technology is a prosthesis: the telephone (originally conceived as a hearing aid) an artificial ear, the camera an artificial eye, and so on. Strapping his prosthetic organs on, as Freud writes in Civilisation and its Discontents, man becomes magnificent, “a kind of god with artificial limbs” – “but” (he continues) “those organs have not grown on to him and they still give him much trouble at times”. To put it another way: each technological appendage, to a large degree, embodies an absence, a loss.

There Might Be Typos On The Internet — Lori Fradkin on life as a copy editor for The Awl :

Once you train yourself to spot errors, you can’t not spot them. You can’t simply shut off the careful reading when you leave the office. You notice typos in novels, missing words in other magazines, incorrect punctuation on billboards… Another downside of the job is that only your mistakes are apparent. The catches are basically invisible. No one will look at an edited article and think, I am certain that, once upon a time, there was a double quote where there should have been a single, and a wise person fixed the issue for my benefit. But if you let a “their” slip through in the place of a “there,” you are a complete moron. And if you are working online, commenters will let you know so.

For Sur — The folks at We Made This on their contribution to the Penguin Great Ideas V series:

We did a bit of research into Borges’ writings, and learnt that he’d been one of the founding contributors to the Argentine literary journal Sur, which was published regularly from 1931 until around 1966… he magazine has a very distinctive (and typographically bonkers) masthead, and fortunately the name ‘Sur’ isn’t a million miles from the name ‘Borges’, so basing our design on it felt like a rather tasty solution.

Design Space — Design consultant Theo Rosendorf, author of  The Typographic Desk Reference, talks about his work and his office space with Herman Miller:

Typography plays a major role in the practice beyond simply picking a font or knowing a particular brand’s guidelines. Every typeface has unique requirements in that it has to be set just so. It’s up to the graphic designer to understand what a particular typeface wants. We work within those bounds to let type communicate as it was intended. Everything else follows.

And speaking of typography…

Brockmann in Motion —  Vít Zemčík animates a print design masterpiece. Zemčík made this beautiful 12 second short during the International Typography Workshop in Czieszyn.

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