update: fonts and vampires
the vampire part: look, I’m effortposting! There is a time-sensitive link in there – scoped to the next day, so I guess click through? Or don’t. You’re gonna be okay either way.
content warning: not caring about the distinction between fonts and typefaces
Fonts seem like they ought to be disposable. Substance over style, right? A heuristic of value I’ve been playing with lately, though, is how much people cared about something back when it was far more costly than today. Like: when one was writing on actual animal skin, having properly wide margins was far more costly - and yet people cared enough to have them. Type seems similar. It’s always shocking to see how “modern” something from the 1400s can look - and imagine how much harder it was to pay that attention to detail and consistency when you’re carving physical materials, not copying and pasting on a computer!
Another heuristic: paying a lot of attention to aura. I can’t really pretend to fully know the theory context because I’ve been too suspicious of theory to learn much (even while loving the prechewed bits I come across). So I’ll abuse the term freely: a lot of what we think we’re perceiving in an artwork or Thing is the part that can be flawlessly reproduced, but the way our minds grab onto it is all about its aura – the origin, the context, the situatedness that a mechanical reproduction wouldn’t duplicate.
I don’t know if this idea is right, but it’s very useful thinking about the applied arts and design particularly. Like: that 1475 typeface I linked is a “humanist serif”, a style that has had genuinely ideological associations built up around it over time, and those can be unknown to people even while they’re able to perceive some shadow of them. So a 90s design look is retroactively named and diagnosed, and people can pick the lettering out without any explicit knowledge of what makes a humanist serif a humanist serif or why. They’re identifying based on untrained visual resemblance, maybe, but importantly, they’re also feeling their way around the cultural context.
There’s something obviously manipulative about it, isn’t there? Fonts are really expensive. On the supply side, that reflects just how much work goes into them – a truly horrifying amount, jokes about carpal tunnel abound – but on the demand side, it also reflects how a Brand can use a font to say a lot about itself very quickly without exposing what it’s saying to conscious examination. That’s very valuable to them. That’s gross! But at the same time, there is absolutely no neutrality in these matters, so something extratextual was always going to be conveyed, whether someone strategized what it was to be or not. (Compare: clothes, very much the same. Scent, where people are extra untrained, but there are less communicative options for personal presentation.)
I like making much of these associations. So I really wanted a typeface to use that yells IT’S ME MAYA – not in the Brandy way of insisting on something custom to be subtly recognizable and to control consumer associations, but in the IT’S ME MAYA (AND THIS IS WHAT I’M ON ABOUT) way.
And you might think I’m making it all up, right? That this is deeply overblown and doesn’t reflect the subtlety of association I’m reading into it?
But also like wine.
There I was, hand-interpolating different letter forms from fonts that seemed Almost Right, trying to figure out how the associations I wanted (echoed aura!) translated into concrete replicable elements.
So then when I found the one, that matched the concrete aspects I was guessing at –
Of course it would be inspired by a semi-obscure Catholic mystic heresy.
I feel like I’ve identified the particular slope of a grape, the exact bit of trellis. Ha!
I wrote the above, links and all, in an email to my esteemed mother. And I thought, huh, that seems like something I should put on my site. And then I thought, you know, if the whole thing is winding up to a line that requires you know that a “semi-obscure Catholic mystic heresy” is particularly appropriate to me, I don’t know how many people that’s really going to land for.
And then, just now, I thought “I don’t know how many people that’s really going to land for” is probably the tagline of this site.
Anyway, I bought the fancy font from Michael Rafailyk, who has a number of other cool things you should look at if you’re font-minded. Piacere Text is very nice and as of writing only $30, for instance.
In order to use it, I came up with a new chunk of CSS you’re witnessing now1. I won’t be purging the site of the older styles, and I don’t think the new one is quite Zingy enough in total, yet, but the old one didn’t start out that way either.
We bought a house that has a very nice bottle shop nearby, so I split out some of alcohol into brews. It… has a lot of pumpkin beer listed.
I wrote up crude summaries of Olia Lialina essays but haven’t yet added my commentary.
I’m going to revamp my site advice soon inspired by this, I think. Is anyone reading who has anything they’d want to make sure I put in there?
I am putting together a list of takes, many of which should probably be real posts. It’s not meant to be a list of my opinions so much as a list of the things that I think are distinctively my opinions, the things that I fixate on a bit more than other people. Are there any worth expanding? How should I filter out the ordinary online thunderdome competitor takes?
Oh look scribal abbreviations! New words! A crappy hypothes.is dark mode! Robin Sloan’s experimental protocol! A blogrollroll (send me ones to add)!
Unless you’re reading via RSS or whatnot. Hello, RSSers! ↩