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I’m searching for ‘green’ today. Let it pour like a visual remedy! I started the hunt this morning looking through photos of a recent journey to Spain, and by the end of the day I’ll eat all sorts of green things in a salad. The psychological effects of color can have great benefits, better than most meds. The 4 psychological primary colors are red, blue, yellow and green. They relate respectively to the body, mind, the emotions and the balance between these three. For me today it’s the need of green.

Green strikes the eye in such a way as to require no adjustment whatever and is, therefore, restful. Being in the center of the spectrum, it’s the color of balancea more important concept than many people realize. When the world about us contains plenty of green, this indicates the presence of water, and little danger of famine, so we are reassured by green, on a primitive level. Green shows us harmony, rest, peace, refreshment and love. But I want to give it to you straight… negatively, it can indicate stagnation and, incorrectly used can perceived as being too bland. Make your greens grow and you’ll be fine.

The spritzer bottle just makes me giggle, I have a passion for green plastic, and the chocolate wrapped in green makes me think of the evergreen cocoa tree, very exotic and dark. I have a new favorite artist who uses lots of it too, Matt Magee.


How do designers have fun? Make new worlds, design our own t-shirts, promote favorite causes… or perhaps go back to our typographic roots and create word pictures. We were instructed to do such things in design school. We learned about the type masters, from Giambattista Bodoni to Matthew Carter. We would get assignments to dissect and create typographic illusions. Our goal was to embody the fonts and be possessed by them. We were awed by each type font’s unique superhero powers.

Being empowered by typography, communication is enhanced and unique messages are possible. A logo and brand can become a beacon and almost nothing has to be said to fully understand its meaning.

And look, we’re still up to it today… going to the type-gym for our workouts. With these four illuminated screen-shots we’re using one font and turning it every which way. In this case we’re indebted to the font Bebas Neue created by Ryoichi Tsunekawa.

Design is reliant on new ideas. New talent is as valuable a resource as experience and mature talent. Students of design have tremendous insight… which in the real world sometimes is diminished and diluted. Not many of us find artistic inspiration from leg hair. But Mayuko Kanazawa, a 20-year-old student at Japan’s Tama Art University, decided black, coarse strands would make for a great type font.


As she was thinking of ideas, she happened to glance at her friend’s hairy limbs when he was complaining of leg pain. That’s when her light bulb went on. She then went on to manipulate the strands to create the letters of the alphabet, which I’m sure was a painful experience for the cooperative guy. Not only did Mayuko develop a full uppercase font, but also did a delightful lowercase. Can we conclude that this is an original fetish font?


I can’t help but post a few of these, they’re delicious and preposterous! Concoctions whipped up by Andy Warhol, his mom, and Suzie Frankfurt. I couldn’t resist and just located a used copy, it should be here in a few days… in time for the holidays. The book condition described a stain on the back cover… I wonder from which recipe.

I’ll will post a few drawings of my Thanksgiving feast. If you do a food drawing we’ll post it here and make our own collective visual feast.



Nutella was created in the 1940’s by Pietro Ferrero. War rationing meant that cocoa was in short supply across Europe, so Pietro Ferrero mixed cocoa with toasted hazelnuts, cocoa butter and vegetable oils to create an economical spread of chocolate. Reformulated in 1949, this variety was both inexpensive and spreadable, which was a great plus-point. It enjoyed enormous success and in 1964 was renamed ‘Nutella’ and marketed outside of Italy. Nutella comes in an oval-shaped jar. The bold label contains both black and red letters! The “N” is designed to draw attention to the nuts in Nutella! But look how this solution draws so much attention to the name and makes this mark memorable. So why is this on our mind today… well today is “World Nutella Day”.

From the studio where I have been working these past weeks, I could (and still can) hear the voices of tourists as they pass by the balcony window. When I first arrived in Civita it was quite hot, in the high nineties, and during the Italian pausa between 1:00 and 4:00 pm, it was a welcome relief to take shelter inside the cool tufo building. Now in October, there are far less visitors, but in late August and early September school children were still on holiday and families were squeezing in one last vacation trip.

The heat did not keep the tourists inside. So as I worked I could hear the mingling of languages as visitors passed by my window—mostly Italian, but always with a smattering of English, German, French and what I think was Japanese. The words drifted into my room like a cloud…a word cloud.

Word clouds or “tag clouds” as they are properly called, became all the rage in the late 1990s as a feature of early personal websites and blogs. The form was used widely to visualize the frequency distribution of keywords that describe website content, and as a navigation aid. Before long, word clouds were being used to editorialize and visualize everything from Biblical passages to presidential debate analysis.

But the idea behind word clouds is not new. It could be argued that traditional maps were the very first rudimentary “word clouds” since the type size of the name of a city, region, or feature is represented relative to its population or importance.

Then there are calligrams, type or handwriting arranged in a way that creates a visual image that expresses the content of the text. Visual designers and educators have used calligrams as a visual means of expression for decades.

During my stay in Civita, I was looking for a way to convey the rich mix of both “hearing” many languages and seeking a way to describe how people experience this place. A word cloud/calligram seemed like the perfect solution. So beginning from that first week in August, I decided to track what I could hear outside my studio window. And so began my “map” of the most common words heard during one hour of the daily pausa when most “sensible” Italians were indoors cooking the midday meal and resting.

Obviously, what I could catch was dependant on my limited Italian, college French, and zero understanding of any Asian language. English jumped out at me without my having any say in the matter, and so my resultant Civita word cloud may be a bit biased in that respect. Simple observation, however, was all that was needed to determine that there have been far more Italian tourists in Civita than any other group these past seven weeks. That should most certainly provide a hometown advantage.

A recent visit to our nation’s capital brought many design delights: the museums, the pleasing feel of the Mall, the human scale of the buildings. . . and the delightfully named streets. But after a week of walking and looking, we noticed something unusual—there is no J Street in DC.  In all four quadrants, the street that comes after I Street is K Street.  What happened to J Street?

A little sleuthing and research brought up one theory: some folks believe that the city’s planner, Pierre L’Enfant, left out J Street as a slight to John Jay, the American statesman and first president of the Continental Congress. Legend has it that L’Enfant hated Jay for his 1794 Jay Treaty, an unpopular agreement that settled some sticky issues between the new Americans and the British, which seemed to favor the British. The French were mad too because as allies during the Revolutionary War, they were now were fighting Great Britain on their own. L’Enfant, as a French-born American, must have been doubly upset.

The only problem to this theory is that L’Enfant’s plan was finalized in early 1792, and the Jay Treaty didn’t happen until 1794. Another myth proposes that John Jay stole Pierre L’Enfant’s wife or girlfriend, but that also falls apart when you learn that Pierre L’Enfant was gay.  So there’s really no truth about the omission of J Street as a slight to John Jay.

So…back to why all the quadrants skip from I Street to K Street. The answer appears to be typographic! Back then, “I” and “J” looked very similar when written and were largely interchangeable, so there would have been major issues having two streets named the same. So J was left out, along with X, Y, and Z Streets.

In fact, our nation’s capital is a typographic hotbed. The whole network of east-west streets in the District follows an alphabetical pattern. After single letters are exhausted, the streets are named alphabetically with two syllables, then after those, it changes to three syllable alphabetical names, and then finally (only in the upper reaches of the NW section) streets are named after plants and flowers alphabetically (Aspen, Butternut, Cedar, etc). Of course there are exceptions, but generally the rule is followed pretty closely.

So there you go, the real reason why there’s no J Street is the solution to a design issue.

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