T$’s Two-Minute Guide to New Year’s Resolutions

Forget vague resolutions.

I've had many years where I come up with 2 or 3 resolutions to keep for the new year. It starts strong, you know, that first week back at work. Usually a few consecutive days of failing at the huge expectation I set for myself is enough motivation to just stop trying. Why did it fail? Maybe I didn't write them down, or they weren't measurable in any way, or it was too large of an assignment to tackle. Most importantly, it failed because they lacked details about how to accomplish them. It's much easier to accomplish a to-do list if the items are black and white, yes or no.

Just make goals instead.

I say forget vague resolutions about X, Y or Z. Start with going from A to B. I'd say 3 or 4 serious goals are enough. But, you have to list out the action items for it, in small, medium and large milestones. It's good to have big goals, but you need to have checkpoints along the way. Think of them as gas stations along the way. A destination on the way to the destination. Checking off the little items makes you realize you are making progress. I think a 'done' list is just as important as a 'to-do' list. If you saw my Creative Mornings talk, you know I'm a big fan of the micro goal concept. Accomplishing small goals keeps you motivated and on track.

Habits are tough SOBs.

Habits can be really sticky, either as a benefit or a detriment. If you are planning on changing a habit for the new year, I'd suggest just try to change one habit at a time. If you try to change your diet, exercise, sleep and TV habits all at once, you will burn through your finite willpower really fast.

Post it.

Make sure you write your goals down, because if you're like me, your memory sucks. I like to type up a nice looking copy, and post it in my office. It can also help to tell others about your goals, as they can help motivate you with accountability and encouragement. Either post it for yourself to see frequently, or post so many can see.

Time for review.

I like to spend an hour or two at the end of the month to check in on things. What progress have I made? What has prevented me from making progress? If you're stuck, don't panic. Switch it up, and try a different approach. Or break that sticky point into smaller, easier pieces.

The shop is open!

I just opened the shop here on typeterrance.com! The first product being my screen-printed Canton posters. Check it out, and let me know what you think.

On To The Next One

Blogs do that sometimes. They disappear for a few months while the author is busy doing other things. Here's an overview on my happenings over the last few months:

I contributed to the advent calendar put on by the Type Worship blog. I was honored to be included with so many great names. I ended up doing some cool icy caps for the 24th.

Volunteering for a Fashion Has Heart event in Grand Rapids was very rewarding. Artists are pared with a veteran and they collaborate on a graphic piece. More on that soon.

The Art Director's Club interviewed me when they celebrated Typography Month.

I spoke at the Game Developer's Conference about choosing typefaces for video games. I've also contributed to a curated list of typefaces for post-apocalyptic games published by Monotype.

The custom fonts that I designed for Domino's (with CP+B) were in a process exhibit in Grand Rapids during West Michigan Design Week

I'm gearing up for some big things coming in the next few months. Stay tuned. Follow me on Instagram to see some of my process, sketches and news.

A Metaphor for Letterspacing

I remember as a graphic design student—in my introduction to typography class—a metaphor for letter spacing that has stuck with me for years: imagine filing the negative space between letters with water. They should be about the same volume. If you forget the 3D metaphor, it's actually surface area.

I've recreated and expanded an illustration from Benson & Carey's book, The Elements of Lettering, pictured below.

Usually tight spacing creates more unevenness in the spacing, especially in all-cap settings, so that's why you'll see all-caps tracked out often. It can look more elegant, and the extra space helps smooth out the texture (of positive and negative space).

The shapes are too tight on the left, which causes uneven negative space. The middle column is balanced, and as you can see, the circular and triangular shapes have different adjustments. You can see how it translates to characters in the Latin script (i.e. writing system) on the right.


Being Productive While Working at Home

I've been working at home for the last year and a half, and I've come to notice some things that I do to stay productive. Working from home is not for everyone, but I think it fits for certain types of people. There are some pros and cons I've laid out, as well as a few tips I suggest. There is no right or wrong answer, you have to figure out your own setup, but maybe this will help.

Pros

  • No commute. Except for the stairs to my office. This saves time, money, and patience.
  • Attire. Unless you have a video conference, no one might see you. See suggestions below.
  • Flexible schedule. Depends on employer too. Although, I still find it best to work during average business hours.
  • Less interruptions. Maybe not less, but just different kinds of interruptions.

Cons

  • Isolation. It can get too quiet, and difficult to keep in touch with coworkers.
  • No IT Department. If the Wi-Fi goes out, you're up to bat.
  • Food. I still get stuck in food routines, and need to venture out for lunch occasionally. 

Suggestions

Space & Equipment

Assuming you need to use a computer all day, take a look at ergonomic diagrams to make sure your screen is the right height. And treat yourself to a nice screen, or ask your employer to buy one for you. This is the most important part, as your posture will be greatly influenced by where you need to look. Why torture yourself hunching over a 15 inch laptop? Would a cross-country truck driver skimp on their truck? Probably not, because they have to live in there. If you have to use a computer for 8 hours (or more) a day, you might as well make it as enjoyable as possible. Besides, a screen upgrade may last through 2 or 3 computers (on a 3 or 4 year cycle). I prefer to only have one screen as well, because two screens just encourages more multi-tasking, which deflates my productivity. 

I'm still using a pretty plain office chair, which is probably sub $200, but I'm planning on an upgrade. The difference between a $500 chair and a $2000 chair is probably negligible. I'm looking at task chairs from Herman Miller, Steelcase, and Haworth.

I prefer to have a room for an office that is separate from living areas. A sunny bedroom is perfect for me. Especially if it doesn't have carpet, like my current home. I recommend a space where you can go to concentrate, and not have that pile of dirty dishes in the corner of your eye. Having that physical separation helps my mind transition from resting to working, and back again.

I think making your work space a little bit comfortable is also important. So, I have my office garnished with comfortable seating (for the dog, meditation, or reviewing kerning proofs), a book case, and a plant. I also like to keep it as tidy as possible. It makes me feel uneasy and more anxious when it's too cluttered. Making a comfortable office is up to you, and comfortable may mean different things.

No Pajamas

People always ask me, "Do you wear pajamas all day?!" The answer is no, I don't wear pajamas. Wearing pajamas makes me feel lazy, so they are a no-go. The way you dress influences the way you feel. At least it does for me. When in doubt, just wear what you normally would to an office. If I need an extra mental boost, for an important conference call, I'll put on a collared dress shirt. It feels good, and might lift your confidence, even if no one sees you.

Mental Triggers

Actually, when I first started working at home, I still put my shoes on while I was working at my desk. It was a mental trigger. By putting on my work shoes, I felt more like I was at work. And that's what it's all about when changing the habit, making you get that feeling of “I'm at work, not at home.” I've moved on to slippers now. Yes, even with a dress shirt. Perfect balance.

Music

Music is a must for me. It helps me get into that zone of concentration. I prefer music without lyrics when I need to concentrate hard or while reading or writing. If I'm doing a pretty mindless repetitive task, like kerning, then I switch to spoken-word podcasts like This American Life or 99% Invisible

Turning it off

Having a dedicated space, hopefully with a door, makes it easier to step away and leave work in the office. It can be difficult to get away from work with the constant barrage of emails, notifications, and social networks to tend to. It can help to have scheduled time to respond to email, so I've read. I usually do most of it as my first task, a bit after lunch, and make sure it's pretty clear by the time I stop for the day. I think the best advice I could give is avoid the temptation to answer right away, if you are busy. Interrupting your priority task will only decrease your concentration and productivity. My wife and I also have pretty frequent 'gadget free' times, like a meal or a movie, so we can focus on spending time together.

It's all about getting into that work state of mind, finding things that will keep you there, and knowing when to turn it off. Do you have any other suggestions, tips, or traps to avoid? Leave a comment.

5 Years Ago

I'm constantly comparing myself to other people. Competitors, strangers, you name it. And it makes me feel like shit. This morning I decided to compare myself to myself and see how far I've come. For about five years, I've dedicated my professional life to type design and lettering. Just wait for the next five years.

My college senior project, Vikram, compared to my latest completion, Joanna Sans.

It appears I'm still interested in some of the same styles of lettering.

OK, this is a 10 year jump, but still.

T$'s Guide to Numbers in Adobe Apps

When designing with type, the use of numbers can take a layout from good to great. I'll detail the four main styles below, what they look like, and how to use them to the best of their ability. I'll add a few tidbits of related information as we go.

Numbers, actually, can be anything, 10, 200, 0.0125, whatever. So, when typographers talk about any one of those characters that make up numbers, we call them figures. 10 is a number, but 1 and 0 are figures. 

Historical interlude: Ever notice why figures don't always look that similar to the Latin script (what we use to write English)? That's because they are of Arabic origin. The Romans used Roman numerals, of course, up until about the 12th Century (1300 A.D.) when the Arabic style took over Europe.

There are four basic styles. Let's dive in.

1. Tabular Lining

Best for: Tables & Columns

The most common figures found in fonts are tabular lining figures. Tabular meaning for tables, of figures that are all the same advance width. Lining meaning the figures align horizontally with each other, usually around the height of the capitals. Think of an Excel spreadsheet, or a receipt. When the figures are aligned, it makes it easier to read the table and scan for information. Making something easy to read is one of the typographer's main goals.

Some typefaces have figures a little bit shorter than the caps to balance the color and weight with the rest of the typeface. In some cases, if the figures were as heavy (stroke width) as the caps, they would stand out as being too dark. It's an optical adjustment thing, and a stylistic option for the type designer. See Helvetica, as an example, of figures that are a little shorter than the caps.

The stand-out characteristic of tabular lining figures is usually a one with a lot of white space on both sides, sometimes compensated for with a flag and foot serifs to try to fill more of the white space.

This is a similar concept to monospaced fonts, where all of the glyphs are the same width, as seen in 'typewriter' designs.

Tabular lining figures all have the same width. Typeface: Joanna Sans Medium.

Tabular lining figures all have the same width. Typeface: Joanna Sans Medium.

Tabular lining figures, in a table. Typeface: Joanna Sans. Image credit: Jenn Contois.

Tabular lining figures, in a table. Typeface: Joanna Sans. Image credit: Jenn Contois.

 

2. Proportional Lining

Best for: Headlines, some text

Proportional lining is probably the second most common style. These are lining again, as above, similar to cap height. Instead of being tabular, they are proportionally spaced. The horizontal advance width is proportional to the shape of the figure. This means the one will be narrower than the five, for example. The proportional spacing allows for a more even appearance, a balance of black and white.

These can be preferable in text over tabular lining figures, and can improve headlines dramatically. 

Tabular lining figures on the top versus Proportional lining figures on the bottom. Typeface: Harmonia Sans Condensed Bold.

Tabular lining figures on the top versus Proportional lining figures on the bottom. Typeface: Harmonia Sans Condensed Bold.

 

3. Proportional Old Style

Best for: Text

Proportional old style figures are designed for text. They bounce up and down on the baseline, blending in with the lowercase, proportionally spaced for even typographic color. For a period of time, this was the way that figures were written. Later on, maybe 19th Century or so, we saw the introduction of lining figures, so the 'old style' moniker is referring to the dominant style before lining figures became popular. Everything is relative.

Old style figures might not align with the lowercase. It's commonly a bit higher, like small caps. Some designs are famous for using proportional old style figures by default, like Georgia and Adelle. This style can be used for stylistic purposes as well. For example, the headlines on TheVerge.com have old style figures, which make the tech news site feel more sophisticated.

Proportional old style figures, in this case are about small cap height. Typeface: Joanna Sans Medium

Proportional old style figures, in this case are about small cap height. Typeface: Joanna Sans Medium

Proportional old style figures fit nicely with the lowercase in body text. Typeface: Joanna Sans Book Italic.

Proportional old style figures fit nicely with the lowercase in body text. Typeface: Joanna Sans Book Italic.

 

4. Tabular Old Style

Best for: Tables & Columns, in that Old Style flavor

This is the odd man out. As the name describes, they are tabular yet with the old style shapes. This makes sense from a logical point of view, filling out the set: Lining in tabular and proportional varieties, and old style in tabular and proportional. I have yet to see these used in the wild (outside of the font design world). If you are setting a table that requires that old style mood, look no further.

Some new designs coming out are including small cap sized figures as well. Again, I haven't seen these in the wild, but I suppose they could be useful. A broader palette of styles to work with. But, pairing small caps with proportional old style is recommended as well.

Online Previews

It can be hard to tell if your favorite font has these options. First, you could check the menus shown below, trial and error. Some font packaging might give you a clue as well, something with 'Pro' in the name might have these extras. You could contact the type foundry or designer directly. Many font vendors, like MyFonts.com, will show details about the font, including OpenType features. So, have a look, either before or after you purchase a license.

MyFonts.com, and other vendors, have ways to preview OpenType features before you buy a license.

MyFonts.com, and other vendors, have ways to preview OpenType features before you buy a license.

How-To Use Figures With Adobe Applications

The OpenType options in the Adobe apps vary. They could sync that up better, and they are a little buried. This is what separates an amateur from a professional—details—and fine typography is all about details.

The menus controlling OpenType features haven't changed much in a long time, so these directions should be applicable to a few legacy versions. Of course, you can always check with Adobe's documentation, when in doubt. The easy part is flipping the switches in the app, the hard part is learning when and where to use the different styles. 

Illustrator

Start at the OpenType palette, and select the pop-up menu labeled Figure. Easy!

The OpenType palette in Adobe Illustrator CC has the options for figures.

The OpenType palette in Adobe Illustrator CC has the options for figures.

InDesign

Start at the Character palette, click on the little hamburger icon menu (three horizontal stripes), then OpenType, then at the bottom of the list is the figure options. There is also OpenType options under the powerful Character Style and Paragraph Style (under Type menu).

InDesign's Character palette has the OpenType menu kind of hidden, but once you're there, it's a goldmine.

InDesign's Character palette has the OpenType menu kind of hidden, but once you're there, it's a goldmine.

Up Next

That's it for now. Let me know if you want exposure on other features or styles.

Updated 1-24-14. Fixed a few typos.

Recent commentary on type

1. The folks organizing  Brand Perfect recently asked me to chime in on the differences between typography for print and the screen. The differences are substantial, but I think the similarities are important to point out. Read the article here: The Right Type by Julia Errens

2. A friend also passed this along to me, the Contrast Rebellion, and asked my thoughts on the topic of proper contrast when setting type on the web. My reply, summarized from a Facebook post: 

"Low contrast typesetting is a subjective, aesthetic choice. I personally don't mind it that much, but I have good eye sight and high-res screens. And it's more tolerable in shorter settings. I feel like low contrast type is a choice that has to do with hierarchy. Someone chooses to lessen the color contrast, instead of changing the hierarchy in different ways, like size, weight or style (italics, small caps, different face, etc.)

Interestingly, the 'black and white' on paper isn't as harsh or tiring as the black and white on an illuminated screen, to me. At Monotype, we go through a lot of trouble to make fonts look their best on screen, like hinting (to lessen the fuzzy greyness, and make it more black and clear, generally speaking) and also tuning fonts for inherently low-contrast environments like E-Ink screens. Also, remember, pure black and white bitmaps for type, like we used to see in the 90s, isn't as comfortable to read as the sub-pixel tech we have today (in Apple Quartz and MS DirectWrite).

The web (and screen typography in general) is catching up to the refinement we've had in print, and there are more people interested in typography today due to the web, I believe. With these guy's manifesto, case in point. We're living in a typographic renaissance and upheaval, largely in part to to the proliferation of screens, and it's exciting!"  - Terrance Weinzierl

 

AIGA WMI Lecture Video & Feature

I recently did a lecture—titled Fonts of Wisdom—on type designed for screen, font rendering in browsers, and web fonts. I did an introduction of the topics, and described how lessons in print history can help us design type for the screen, and embrace changes in technology.

• Check out the video, captured and edited by Parachute Productions. • Event Details on AIGA West Michigan • Photos on Facebook

They also did a feature where I talk about my work, the space I’m in, inspiration, and good habits. • Designer Spotlight: Terrance Weinzierl

Thanks again to the awesome, friendly people of AIGA West Michigan.

Model Train Graffiti

Recently, I rode an Amtrak train to Minneapolis, and had some idle time to think and allow myself to be bored. I thought, “Graffiti would be an interesting retirement hobby. That, and model trains.” I stumbled upon model train graffiti, which sits at a crossroad of a sub-genre of model train enthusiasts, and graffiti enthusiasts. Google it. Kind of weird. And awesome.

This was an experiment with simply drawing with paint markers, mostly because I didn’t have spray paint handy.

 

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Video Game Nostalgia & New Favorites

I’ve been playing video games since I can remember. Actually, my first memories of video games started in the 90′s, with the original NES and Sega Genesis. Of course, I played classics like Excitebike, Super Mario World, and Final Fantasy (rented tirelessly from a small shop in Watertown, Minnesota.) I got my ass kicked by my brother in NBA Jam, or the consolation of playing Pippen instead of Jordan.

 

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In middle school, I used a Playstation (PS1) to play that Spin Doctors album I had, along with Ridge Racer and the epic, Final Fantasy 7. I used AOL, and Mac OS 7. My brother and I watched Notorious BIG on BET while eating chocolate pudding.

The PS2 arrived when I was in high school, which I spent two entire ‘paychecks’ on. My friends and I played Grand Theft Auto III (GTA 3) for ever, coming so close to that coveted 100% completion.

I couldn’t play much in college, but the PS2 was along for the ride. I played a hack-n-slash, Lord of the Rings, something or other with my nephew. He made it to the peaks of the leader boards before moving on to the big guns, Call of Duty. I aced the Lego Star Wars trilogy around my senior year. As a long time fan of both Legos and Star Wars, it was delightful, easy, not stressful, and didn’t require 100 hours to complete like GTA or Final Fantasy. Anything to keep my mind off of the impending doom of graduating into the real world.

I quit smoking in 2009, buying a PS3 as a reward for myself. I was living alone for a while, so I had some time to dabble in shooters like Call of Duty, but it turned out to be too stressful, and I’m just not practiced in first person shooters. Although, I got hooked on Borderlands, because of the art style and the RPG elements. Such a good loot system. All kinds of treasure chests full of cash, ammo, and—most importantly—guns with randomly generated stats. Another action RPG that I loved was Valkyria Chronicles, which unfortunately, the sequel was only available on PSP. A PSP felt archaic next to an iPhone at the time. [Ed. Comparing a PSP 2000 to an iPhone 3G]

As an adult, I could never justify dedicating 100 hours to another title again. I don’t think I could. Maybe with multiple rounds of a Civilization title. I tried GameFly for a while, realizing that I just didn’t want to play any of the disc games around. No need to spend $60 on a disc-based game that you may or may not enjoy. It was dominated by Call of Duty, and I was sick of brutal, cursing, often racist, online battles. Being mocked and ridiculed for being a beginner is not fun. Rage quit. Done. Next.

The gaming world had changed, though, so quickly. Playstation had downloadable titles now, usually smaller, and usually less than $20 or so. In addition, with iOS offering as many snack-sized 99¢ games as I can handle, there is no shortage of availability and accessibility of games. I thrived in my own little gaming world with small puzzle games, and new indie games with better story, sound and creativity.

In 2010, I refurbished a NES with a new 30-pin connector. I indulged in my nostalgia for a while, but most games fell short of my memories. In my collection, only Tetris and Mario 3 gameplay held up well.

 

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I’m not sure how long the hobby will endure. It has lasted longer than I expected. Some people older than me don’t understand the appeal, but perhaps they don’t realize that I’ve grown up with video games. They are as much of a media influence on me as movies and music, sometimes more so.

Here’s a list of my current favorites for iOS and PS3, in no particular order.

iOS Favorites

  • Bastion (fantastic art, sound, and story. Adaptive narration is awesome.)
  • Kingdom Rush HD (tower defense with great art and sound)
  • Plants Vs. Zombies HD
  • The Font Game (for font enthusiasts only)
  • Tetris (with touch interface)
  • Colorbind (puzzle)
  • Star Defense (tower defense. Good setting and 3D is satisfying)
  • Tiny Tower (retro aesthetic)
  • Tiny Wings (creative)
  • Fruit Ninja (3D fruit slashing action. Good for a quick fix)
  • Monster Dash
  • The Oregon Trail (a classic, updated. Good for long flights, or Amtrak.)
  • Virtual Villagers 2: The Lost Children (unusual puzzle, simulation game)
  • Osmos for iPad
  • Space Station: Frontline
  • Eufloria HD (RTS, great art style)
  • Anomaly Warzone Earth HD (innovative controls)

Playstation 3 Favorites

  • Castle Crashers (beat ‘em up with great art, entertaining)
  • Scott Pilgram vs. The World (a new beat ‘em up with retro style, homage to classics. Great typography.)
  • PixelJunk Shooter (amazing soundtrack, great art, even the menus are cool.)
  • PixelJunk Tower (tower defense with solid PixelJunk flair)
  • Borderlands (cel shaded first-person shooter with RPG elements. Great loot, weapon, and level up system. Vehicles. Good character design.)
  • Valkyria Chronicles (Japanese Action RPG with water color aesthetic and comic book typography.)
  • Renegade Ops (vehicle arcade game with weapon upgrades)
  • Dead Nation (best zombie arcade shooter, ever)
  • Savage Moon (tower defense with a Starship Troopers style)
  • Critter Crunch (Tetris like puzzle, with great art and animation.)

 
Thanks for reading, and happy gaming.

Terrance