Letters and logos

September 16, 2012

I wrote a letter to the editor this morning. I haven’t done that in a very long time (7-10 years?). I was reading the iPad version of USA Today and came across a very sensible column inspired by the Chicago teacher strike that identified one of the biggest problems in our schools. I decided to chime in with a partial solution to the problem.

This is the fourth time I’ve written a letter to USA Today, and I’m risking lowering my percentage significantly if it doesn’t get selected. So far two of my three letters were printed;I can’t remember what the rejected on was about, but I remember the other two. I’ll keep you posted on the new letter’s status.

Meanwhile, USA Today has a new logo. The old logo was certainly in need of refreshing and was looking a bit dated (the paper was founded in 1982).

Before I critique the new one, let’s look at the old one. The “line screen” effect on the globe was very popular back in the day, and in the context of being used for a printed newspaper makes a lot of sense. It also transferred a sense of dependability to a new entity since AT&T used it at the time (on a sphere and in blue no less) as did IBM (and still does since it is less complex and therefore has held up better). But now that people read their news online and on tablets something new was in order.

The new logo is typically minimalist, following the latest fashion. In the “letterhead” form on white shown above I don’t like it much at all. It’s simple to the point of being generic. If I were putting the final touches on that design I would have aligned the baseline of “TODAY” with the equator of the circle for a bit more solidity and left to right flow. Note that the letter spacing is a bit loose, suggesting it is designed for smaller sizes (letter spacing should decrease as point size increases as a general rule). The old logo used mashed together letters  which was easily read in print since the logo was quite large on the printed newspaper.

Look at the website that is still using the old logo here and you can see why they felt the need to change. The “globe” is just mush. Moving to the beta of the new website and the new logo is a big improvement, especially since here it is on black instead of white, uses larger (in relation to the circle) one-line logotype lettering, and is vertically centered with the circle.

Dust, Labor and Grapes

September 15, 2012

My tour of the classics marches on. The latest box I’ve checked is Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (I’m still trying to figure out how I was never assigned to read any of these books in high school – what the heck were we doing in English class?) For those of you who also went to crappy high schools and never read it here’s an ultra-quick non-spoiler recap: A farming family flees the dust bowl in Oklahoma (see photo above), travels to California and tries to make ends meet.

I enjoyed the book very much, though not to the level of East of Eden, which I’m already itching to read again. East had a couple of characters (Sam Hamilton and Lee) who were more likeable and philosophical than anyone in Grapes. The preacher comes closest, but he’s not as prominent a character.

More than being about the characters, Grapes is about the time period. It’s historical fiction at its best, and I learned a lot about The Dust Bowl (caused by drought and a lack of crop rotation), old cars, discrimination (people moving west were called by the derogatory term “Okies” whether they came from Oklahoma or not), and the labor movement.

Those of you who know me and my libertarian ways are aware that I’m not a fan of labor unions. I spent two years as a member of one when I was teaching in Central Falls and saw firsthand how dysfunctional and counterproductive they can be. But I do realize that there was a time when they were necessary; a time when some employers would use malicious tactics to get ever-cheaper labor from a non-mobile and desperate workforce. For instance, luring 10 times as many workers as needed to a place by promising work, and then paying an absurdly low rate once they get there due to the high demand for the jobs.

Unions today are another story. The most prominent unions are in the public sector, which baffles me. The purpose of unions is to protect workers from unfair labor practices by unethical employers, with protections ensured by the government. But why would these workers need to be protected from the very same governments that are enforcing those protections? If Mitt or Barack want my vote in November all one of them has to do is promise to create an executive order disbanding public sector unions. It would be a visionary move, since those unions are going to be a major stumbling block for balancing budgets as our state and federal government face major budget shortfalls in the coming decades. I’m not holding my breath though.

Totally my type

September 9, 2012

As I’ve become older my interests have changed a bit. I’m not the least bit excited about the start of the NFL season today and couldn’t care less about the NASCAR Chase for the Cup. It goes beyond sports too; I’m also not prone to gadget lust anymore. I’m more than content with my original 1st generation iPad and only replaced by iPhone 3G because I dropped it and wasn’t able to repair/replace the screen (gave it a shot but did more damage to the phone while opening it up due to dust).

This week, however, I’m feeling drawn towards a new Amazon product… not the new Kindle Fire HD (though it does look nice), but their new e-ink reader, the Kindle Paperwhite. My old Kindle is broken (I put it i my bag without its case once and it must have taken a whack) and I would like to replace it since e-ink is so nice to read outdoors (it really does look like paper). But it’s not the advertised new features that are tempting me (a lighted screen for reading in bed and a higher resolution). No, it’s the new typefaces they’ve added, including my favorite serif face, Palatino. I’ve always disliked Times Roman, probably because of its omnipresence but also because it lacks elegance and solidity, two things which Palatino (in the image above) has in spades. It’s amazing to me how infrequently I see Palatino, despite the fact that it’s been a standard PostScript typeface for decades.