Graphic Design

5ive on Friday: Just My Type Excerpts

Every Friday, a list of five things: 5ive on Friday. Quickly bashed out, designed to start not finish conversations. 95% of these will be inspired by the week’s social media conversations.

Just My Type Excerpts

There’s an independent bookstore about a block from my new office space. Danger danger! I’ve managed to only buy one book there so far, and I think I had good justification: I needed something small to read on the bus. I grabbed Just My Type by Simon Garfield, which is a relatively breezy journey through the history of typefaces and fonts, with digressions about specific faces, designers, and events. There’s some very interesting stuff about the design of typefaces for road signs, and the competitions between them!

Here’s five little fun excerpts:

  1. “In Manhattan, we can stroll into the reassuring chaos of the Strand Bookstore on Twelfth Street and Broadway, and find that their popular T-shirts and mugs (
    ’18 Miles of Books’) are in Helvetica. But you will find no better example of the diversity of type than by touring the tables and stacks. The text choices favour the digitized traditionals, the Bembos and Baskervilles and Times New Romas, but the jackets display the full roster, the fluid scripts for those intimate heartrending memoirs, the all-lower-case for the comic novels, the no-nonsense bold capitals for the business books, the wimpy scrawls for the kids stuff. Of course you can judge a book by its cover; moreover, we are obligated to.” (Hell yes. If you don’t judge a book by the cover, why the hell do you think a publisher puts a cover on a book? To attract people! To be judged! To indicate what it contains and the style of the book! To be judged! A cover shows a publisher’s priorities and intentions! Judge it!)
  2. [Vincent] Connare can sometimes be elliptical about his fame. ‘If you love Comic Sans, you don’t know much about typography. If you hate it, you really don’t much about typography, either, and you should get another hobby.”
  3. “This is one difference between legibility and readability: at small sizes, Cooper Black is legible but not very readable. But some type is meant to be seen rather than read (a type designer once compared this attribute to a dress designed to look great on the catwalk but provide no protection against the elements). Font-as-couture is a common analogy. Adrian Frutiger, designer of one of the most popular modern fonts, Univers, had another: ‘The work of a type designer is just like that of a dressmaker,’ he noted. ‘Clothing the constant, human form.’ Or as the graphic designer Alan Fletcher put it. ‘a typeface is an alphabet in a straitjacket.'”
  4. “Much of what one needs to know about the history and beauty of a font may be found in its ampersand. Done well, an & is not so much a character as a creature, an animal from the deep. Or it is a character in the other sense of the word, usually a tirelessly entertaining one, perhaps an uncle with too many magic tricks.”
  5. “The alphabet as a free-for-all is an appealing concept, not least for lawmakers who fear the restriction of free speech (and the complex possibilities of distinguishing one lowercase ‘g’ from another). Zapf argued his case at a time when he believed there were 7,000 to 8,000 different typefaces, and he claimed, ‘I hold the world record for the most type designs copied without permission.’ In 2010, with the number of faces rather greater, and Zapf into his nineties and no longer designing, the title may still be his.” (Hermann Zapf has since passed, in 2015.)

Just My Type is worth checking out as a light summary of the history of type, or just a fun read that will give you a bunch of jumping-off points to research in depth later, such as a the delicious Adobe Systems, Inc. v. Southern Software, Inc. lawsuit.

InDesign PDF Export Preset for Digital Publishing

A million years ago, I cooked up an InDesign PDF Export Preset to handle exporting PDFs that worked well on the then-brand-new iPad while maintaining relatively small file sizes.

I still use that preset basically every day, having published dozens of books with it. You can download it here.

Adobe has instructions for loading PDF presets.

A few notes:

  • This preset turns all the Layers in your InDesign document into Acrobat layers; so users can hide backgrounds, art boxes, etc. (depending on how you use Layers in InDesign, of course.) You can untick this if you don’t want layered documents.
  • “Embed Page Thumbnails” is disabled because the thumbnails that InDesign creates are lower quality than the ones than Acrobat creates on the fly the first time it loads a PDF.
  • You can safely change the PPI and Image Quality in the Compression tab.
  • If your document includes spot colors, you probably should go to Output -> Ink Manager and tick “All Spots to Process.” (I almost never use spots, so this advice may be inadequate for your needs.)
  • There are no security settings set, because I want my customers to be able to hack the documents they buy, and PDF security is trivially cracked.

If you have any comments or questions, drop me a line!

Recent & Future Releases

I’ve been buried under a log jam of production work for the past several months, and my lumberjack class skill of +4 (+2 when I wear that sweet lumberjacky shirt) has finally worked parts of the jam loose!

First off is The Devotees, a new adventure for Eclipse Phase. It’s available in both print and PDF.

PS21810 The Devotees 400px

We also just reprinted Gatecrashing, the Eclipse Phase core rulebook is at the printers for a fourth(!) printing, and our first card game, Shinobi Clans, is also at the printers. Our next release, Zone Stalkers, is imminent.

Outside of Posthuman Studios is the Atomic Robo Roleplaying Game, from Evil Hat Productions. It’s an action-science romp, powered by the Fate rules. I worked with an awesome team including Mike Olson and Jeremy Keller for this title, and it’s a great game and a gorgeous book. Pre-ordering the print book gets you the PDF copy immediately.

Robo Cover 400px

Beyond Atomic Robo, I’m working on the Designers & Dragons book series for Evil Hat. An extensive preview of the Designers & Dragons: The ’70s has been released, going over TSR’s history in detail.

And I’ve been diving into Accursed by Melior Via, as I have a one-sheet adventure to write for them!

As this logjam continues to get unjammed, please stay clear of rolling and falling logs. And by logs, I mean games!

Speaking at PePcon in Chicago: June 15-18

I’m going to speaking at PePcon in Chicago this summer. This is the fifth Print + ePublishing Conference, hosted by the fine people that run InDesignSecrets and CreativePro. I’ve attended three of the four previous PePcons, and it’s always a smoothly-run show with great speakers and a collaborative, sharing atmosphere. It attracts a pretty wide variety of designers and designer-related people: from government employees trying to efficiently make hundreds of forms that are accessible and meet up with tons of standards, to small newspaper people still working on bridging the paper/digital worlds, to automation experts, typeface designers, and more.

This year’s Speakers List is a great one — including Chris Kitchener, the lead product manager for InDesign; Deke McClelland, trainer extraordinaire (and a fine singer,, too…), and keynote speaker Lynda Weinman, co-founder of Lynda.com.

And me? I’ll be jamming out 20 minutes on automated production InDesign: from spreadsheets to InDesign to the printed page. I’ll probably cover this talking about card game design, with a side trip to the fun of automating contracts (Everyone loves contracts!). And bonus, aside from InDesign, we’ll only use free and/or Open Source tools.

If you’re interested in attending PePcon, let me slide you this nice discount code to save $50: CH23B

NewImage

I hope to see you there!

New Skin Deep texture: Happy Distress!

SD TEXT003 HappyDistress 900px

Happy Distress! is the newest Skin Deep texture; it’s available on DriveThruRPG for only $3, and it contains 12 different files: eleven 8.5×11 300DPI distressed textures, and one larger 600DPI file that is a scan of the various pieces of duct tape that were used to create the analog textures. I thought they looked cool so I included them—they’ll do some nice work making distressed type or edge work!

All of these graphics are Creative Commons licensed, so you can use them in commercial projects as long as you credit me. There is no limit on how you can use them or what medium (print, web, iPad app, etc.)

I also made a quick video that outlines the contents and has a quick demo on how these textures can be used to help quickly enhance a book cover:

SD TEXT004 HappyDistress stack

I’ve also made a Skin Deep Sample Pack available, with 120DPI graphics from each pack available for free (not CC-licensed.)

Posthuman Textures become Skin Deep!

In late 2011 Posthuman Studios’ released 3 texture packs that I designed under the name Posthuman Textures. Today, I have pulled them under my own control and renamed them Skin Deep. I will be devoting more time in the near future to releasing new texture packs and other graphic design resources.

By pulling these under my own wing, I’m able to devote more time to them — as niche projects, devoting Posthuman Studios’ time to them didn’t make sense.

Three texture sets are currently available:

Battered and Blasted

SD TEXT000 BatteredAndBlasted stack

Dead Television Explosion

SD TEXT001 DeadTelevisionExplosion stack

Something Died

SD TEXT002 SomethingDied stack

Each set is $3 and available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license, which means you can use them in and modify them for commercial projects (Books, electronic books, websites, no limitations!) as long as you attribute me as the original creator.

Kickstart Narosia: Sea of Tears, one of my upcoming projects!

One of my projects this fall is the HERO System fantasy game, Narosia: Sea of Tears. The Kickstarter launched on August 1st and closes on August 31st!

Narosia is a gritty fantasy RPG, designed by Shane Harsch of Legendsmiths and Marc Tassin, with artwork from Universe M, and contributions from Kenneth Hite. I’m especially excited because this is actually the first project where I’ll get to work with Ken!

I’m also excited about seeing what sort of new graphical takes I can do on a HERO System game, without alienating the diehard HERO fan base … I do suspect some samples will end up hitting this blog over the next couple months!

Narosia: Sea of Tears will be published by Silverback Press, the new publishing company run by ex-HERO Darren Watts. The core rulebook will be complete with HERO System rules and setting information, not requiring a distinct HERO System core rulebook to use!

Thousand Suns is Available!

Just before the holidays, PDF, softcover, and hardcover versions of Thousand Suns Rulebook are now available. I did the cover and interior design on this project, and all the production.

It’s been interesting working on a sci-fi game that is so different from Eclipse Phase, and also working on such a setting-light game. I think we did a sweet job of showing the setting style through art, captions, and examples without being too heavy-handed.

This is the first new release for James Maliszewski’s Grognardia Games, and I’m excited to see it live!

There is a nice preview—including the first chapter and the entire Table of Contents—available via OneBookShelf, so check it out!

TS Softcover Softcover Final

It is a time of wonder.

Humanity has reached the stars and created a society of glittering sophistication and diversity on hundreds of planets. Poets declaim, lovers rendezvous, and rakes duel with wits and monoblades. Colonists settle virgin worlds, merchant princes vie for emerging markets, and free traders hawk their exotic wares. The Navy rules the jumplines, putting down pirates and charting new star systems. Scientists uncover startling new truths on long-dead worlds and posit revolutionary theories dizzying in their implications. Technology advances at a rapid pace, each year improving the lot of all who accept its boons. None dare deny the bright destiny Man has seized for himself.

It is a time of upheaval.

The inhabited galaxy-the Thousand Suns-teeters on the brink of chaos. Half a millennium since the Concord, and a generation since the bloody Civil War, the dynamism that ended the Age of Warring States is sorely tested. Diplomats try new gambits, shifting their ground for an unknown future. On dozens of worlds across known space, the lights are going out again and the process of decivilization begins anew. Despots and tyrants who would rather lord it over benighted backwaters than bend their knee to even a distant authority, arise once more. At the edges of explored space, rivals-both human and alien-watch and wait.

It is a time of glory.

Victorious fleets smash enemy armadas in distant star systems. Soldiers parade through liberated planets to alien cheers. Sector governors draw up breathtaking visions of terraforming and orbital cities. New jumplines open to the heart of unex- plored space, daring the bold to venture into the unknown for profit and peril. Surveyors stumble upon lost colonies and puzzle out the mysteries of inscrutable clades. Captains with blazing eyes save worlds from barbarism-and rule them as gods. Daring thieves turn new technologies to unexpected ends or sell them to shadowy cartels on the fringes of known space.

Meanwhile, bold operatives seek out these criminal plans for reprisal. Everything is possible with enough beauty, brains, or blasters, and it’s all within reach of a single jump.

It is a time of adventure.

Thousand Suns Rulebook Cover

James Maliszewski posted up the cover of the new Thousand Suns Rulebook today, and it’s already received some nice praise. We’ve been working on this project for a long time, and I’m super-pleased to help take Thousand Suns to the next level, and to help launch James’ new company Grognardia Games with it.

James describes Thousand Suns thus: Thousand Suns is basically Poul Anderson and H. Beam Piper the Roleplaying Game, but with 21st century special effects.

The PDF and POD editions (hardcover and softcover) of Thousand Suns will be rocking out soon, and when more preview material is available I’ll be sure to let you know!

TS Softcover Softcover Final