Monday, April 28, 2008

Fun with Dick and ... whomever

Viewing the news from every angle, the Telegraph reports on a titillating hazard of typographic design. They've also assembled a small but excellent gallery of other examples (sorry, link expired; you're too late).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

May but May not

I noted in passing not quite a year ago, on May Day 2007, that the following trees and shrubs were all in full bloom in my yard:
  • Bradford pear
  • Magnolia
  • Weeping cherry
  • Forsythia
  • Azalea
  • Quince
  • Andromeda
Today is April 23, and all of the same plants are again in full bloom, with the wisteria again hot on their heels. I would not suggest that spring has advanced eight days in the course of a single year: obviously, there is normal variation in weather from year to year that does not measure an equivalent change in climate. Nonetheless, this year it is March showers that have brought forth April flowers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Free fonts

If you’re not a professional designer, you may be under the impression that all fonts are free. In fact, fonts are licensed intellectual property. Some individual or team of individuals put a significant amount of time into designing and implementing every glyph of every font, and those people generally want to be paid for their work. The reason you have many fonts on your computer that you don’t recall purchasing is that they were licensed in bulk by the company that published software you did buy—your operating system, your office suite, your graphic arts applications—and those licenses are included in what you purchased. Nonetheless, despite the widespread availability of pirated fonts, giving copies of your fonts to friends is a violation of the license terms; and professional designers don’t do that—nor do they accept gifts of fonts from friends—lest they find themselves on the wrong end of an enforcement action by a font company.

Jessica Hupp has assembled a collection of 101 fonts that she says are legally available at no cost or, in some cases, with a small charge for commercial use. These are display fonts, not text fonts. They might be useful in web design, advertising design, or for book covers, however. While her links all look the same on her page, you should know that some lead to pages on other sites; some download zip archives directly; and some need to be right-clicked so that you can download a naked font file. I didn’t check all the links, but some may turn out to be Mac-only fonts.

I am not vouching for the accuracy of the claim that all of these fonts are legitimately free. You should verify that yourself for any font you intend to use.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Gatekeeper vs. team member

You are likely aware at some level of the grand battle line undulating across the hyperplain of terra cognita, with the forces of light arrayed on one side and those of darkness arrayed in opposition.

I refer of course to those who celebrate the ability of anyone, anywhere, to publish anything at all, unmediated by any filters, whether on the Internet or in book form, as the dawn of the age of true freedom, on one side, and those who decry this same phenomenon as auguring the end of culture, on the other side. As to which side constitute the forces of light and which side constitute the forces of darkness, I’ll let you pick sides. I’m just sitting in the stands watching the battle unfold. I’ve brought along field glasses and a picnic basket and hope you’ll sit with me a moment to enjoy some wine and cheese.

This battle has been going on for some time now, and it will continue long into the future. What I find most interesting about it is not the ultimate outcome, over which I have little or no influence, but the way the rhetoric of the combatants filters down to the individual author.

An author is someone with something to say to the world—a story to tell, an opinion on a controversial subject, knowledge to share—who now confronts the question of how to reach an audience. Shall we look to the large publishing houses? The small presses? The subsidy presses? A self-published book? Or just blurt it out on a web page?

Interesting question. I think the personality type of the author has a lot to do with the initial answer.

There is all this talk floating over the battlefield about gatekeepers—people who assert their expertise to judge the validity of what the author wants to say and to prevent publication of what they, in their narrow, elitist view, consider wrong in some way. There is the whole gauntlet of agents, acquisition editors, executive committees, lawyers, development editors, copyeditors, production editors, marketing people, distributors, and retailers whose sole purpose is to quash freedom of speech and maintain the cultural and financial domination of a wealthy elite.

On the other hand, there is talk floating over the same battlefield of this great network of agents, acquisition editors, executive committees, lawyers, development editors, copyeditors, production editors, marketing people, distributors, and retailers whose sole purpose is to help the author produce the best book possible and achieve broad success with it.

And the only difference between the gauntlet of gatekeepers and network of team members is the perception of the author, which is influenced by the author’s personality type.

So some authors, trusting no one but themselves, will put out what they have to say, untouched by any other person. Sometimes this works. Usually it doesn’t. Others will reject the criticism of experts but accept the flattery of a subsidy publisher. Others will embrace the traditional publishing process and accept the input of those who have more publishing experience than they. Others fall along the full spectrum in between.

The ones who are skeptical of the deal offered by traditional publishers or not up to the challenge of gaining access to that world but who still want input from others may end up self-publishing. Some of those people find their way to me.

It’s all good.

Have a bit of Brie. It’s just right today.