I’ve long loved the weird mechanical purring of those flappy-letter signs one sees (or at least used to see) in train stations & similar venues, but I haven’t felt like throwing down the better part of three grand to own a Vestaboard. Now maker Scott Bezek is working on an open-source project for making such signs at home, combining simple materials and code. In case you’d never peeked inside such a mechanism (and really, why would you have?) and are curious, here’s how they work:
And here, for some reason, are six oddly satisfying minutes of a sign spelling out four-letter words:
Having a train-obsessed 11yo son who enjoys exclaiming things like, “Hey, that’s Cooper Black!,” this tour of railroad typography is 💯 up our family’s alley. (Tangential, but as it’s already on my clipboard: we’re keeping a running album of our train-related explorations along Route 66, and Henry’s been adding things like an atomic train tour to his YouTube channel.)
From the typesetting video description:
Ever since the first train services, a wide variety of guides have helped passengers understand the railways; supplementing the text with timetables, maps, views, and diagrams. Typographically speaking, the linear nature of railways and the modular nature of trains meant that successful diagrams could be designed economically by using typographic sorts. Various typographic trains and railways from the 1830s to present-day will be evaluated in terms of data visualization, decoration, and the economics of reproduction. Bringing things up to date, techniques for typesetting emoji and CSS trains are explored, and a railway-inspired layout model will be proposed for wider application in the typography of data visualization and ornamentation.
<Old Man Nack voice> In my day, it cost $2,500 to buy the Adobe Font Folio—but Kids These Days™ (and the rest of us) get fonts on demand, right through the air. I enjoyed the type & illustrations in this little promo piece:
While camping at the funky Sierra Circles sculpture garden/pottery studio/winery, this past weekend, we came across an old Linotype machine hanging out in a field—one of 40+ presses that once existed there, before most were sold to China for scrap. Here’s a tiny gallery I captured:
I’ve long, long been a fan of using brush strokes on paths to create interesting glyphs & lettering. I used to contort all kinds of vectors into Illustrator brushes, and as it happens, 11 years ago today I was sharing an interesting tutorial on creating smokey text:
Now Adobe engineers are looking to raise the game—a lot.
Combining users drawn stroke inputs, the choice of brush, and the typographic properties of the text object, Project Typographic Brushes brings paint style brushes and new-type families to life in seconds.
Man, who knew just how much cultural identity could be wrapped up in a style of printing?
This excellent 99% Invisible episode covers the origins of blackletter printing (faster & more reliable for medieval scribes), the culture wars (from Luther to Napoleon) in which it battled Roman faces, its association with (and revilement by!) Nazis, and more.
Bonus: stick around for a discussion of revanchist, Trumpian mandates around government architecture, featuring that delightful term of art, CHUD. *chef’s kiss*