Walls closing in & more letters from the future
I’m writing this dispatch with hands cracked and dried from washing them too much.
So far at least one friend has been diagnosed with COVID-19, but she’s relatively young and healthy and says her symptoms are mild. Two friends have been exposed and, last I heard, are awaiting testing. One is immuno-compromised and suffering respiratory symptoms.
Bars, restaurants, and schools are already closed in Oregon and all large gatherings are banned. We’ve seen mass layoffs here, and it seems everyone in the city who can work from home is working from home. I’ve worked at home for the past decade. I’m used to spending days on end where I only leave the house to go for a walk or a run or to buy food. The beer store my wife works for is still open, so she’s still going into work. And my brother-in-law/roommate, who works construction, is still working as well. We don’t have kids. So our day-to-day life is eerily normal, even as the world around us melts down.
That illusion of normalcy will probably evaporate soon. Oregon is expected to announce a “shelter in place” policy Monday, last I checked, but call it something else. That will likely mean that my wife gets laid off, which will likely mean us losing our health insurance. Conde Nast misclassifies me as an independent contractor, so I have no health insurance through the company and if I get laid off I won’t be eligible for unemployment.
Fortunately, we’re in a better position than many. We’re still working and even if she loses her job, we’ll be able to afford to buy a new plan through the Obamacare market, so long as I can work as well. It feels like the walls are closing in, but we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to sock money away so that even if we both get laid off, it won’t be an immediate crisis. We’re still in a comfortable position and a position to help other people out.
Meanwhile, I’m just plugging away on work and trying to do what I can to get out while keeping my distance. I went for a nice hike yesterday and for a run this morning. Staving off the cabin fever and, with any luck, the actual fever as well.
Writing Elsewhere, COVID-19
I wrote about Nextstrain, the open source platform for tracking the evolution of COVID-19 and other diseases, and the challenges posed by the rush to analyze the massive amounts of COVID-19 data being released.
Writing Else, non-COVID-19
And the experimental font vendor Future Fonts, which sells fonts that are still in progress.
I’ve also got a story on open source typography in the works.
Letters from the Future, Addendum
Dave Addey’s book Typeset in the Future does indeed have some information about the history of Microgramma/Eurostile, the perennially futuristic typefaces designed by Alessandro Butti and Aldo Novarese not included on Addey’s website. Specifically it has an interview with former Apple type designer Antonio Cavedoni about the typefaces. Some of what I learned:
Butti and Novarese were trying to make an extremely modern typeface, as opposed to something futuristic.
Architecture was perhaps a bigger influence on them than television sets, but the designers were very conscious of the centrality of the squared-off corners to their designs.
Butti did a few other similarly squared off typefaces in very different styles, including the serif Quirinus and the script-style Fluidium. Giulio da Milano, who was a teacher of Novarese at the Scuola Viglianai-Paravoa of Turin, where Butti also taught, designed a squared-off art deco san serif font called Neon way back in 1935.
Butti suggested that typefaces based on these shapes represented an entirely new category of Maximilien Vox’s classification system for typefaces. Butti called the category “Quarres.”
Novarese suggested in his 1971 textbook for graphic design students Il segno alfabetico that these “Quarres” designs represented the modern era, arguing that letter designs followed the architectural trends of their time. For example, blackletter resembles gothic architecture, while roman letters resemble Roman architecture, and Eurostile looks like modern buildings.
Microgramma was originally meant for small sizes, hence the “micro” part of the name. Bank Gothic, an even older perennial futuristic favorite, was also originally intended for small sizes.
Well, I’ll just leave it here for now. I had some other things I’d been thinking about sharing, but I’ve been putting off wrapping this up and getting it into your inbox.
Let me know how you’re holding up during all of this. We may be distant, but we’re all in this together, now more than ever.