Wow, it’s been awhile. I didn’t really intend to stop posting for two years, but that’s always how it goes. Between posting “content” elsewhere and working regularly on other WordPress sites, this place sort of became neglected. So, I’m getting this initial post out of the way (I’ve been avoiding it for awhile) and can return to posting quasi-random crap I find on the internet. There’s also a bunch of tinkering to do with the theme, but I can’t really let that be an excuse not to post.
I was chatting with Zach the other night and mentioned that I have a tendency to overthink things and never follow through on projects and whatnot. His reply was spot on, “You… overthink? Never”. It bothered me a bit, but the truth can hurt.
When I was younger, I had a tendency to put everything I did online… just didn’t think about it and posted whatever. As I aged, I started to worry more about my posting (relevancy, career suicide, whatever). I got older. And older. And I’ve reached the point where I’ve stopped giving a fuck.
This is my personal site, you don’t have to be here. If I feel like posting a ton of articles on some particular day and lose subscribers or hits or whatever, that’s fine. Don’t worry, this isn’t a crazy rant, just a pre-cursor to more regular content posting. Cheers!
Time to celebrate! The weblog is nine years old. It actually started on an old ISP with a tilde address, and migrated to eightface a few months later. Kind of hard to believe that it’s been around for about a third of my lifetime. I never had any sort of long-term plan — at the time it just seemed really cool that you could use blogger to update your site from any browser, rather than having to rely on FTP.
In other news, I’ll be starting a live redesign in the near future, it’s been awhile since I’ve done one. I liked the collage graphics in the most recent layout, but it bothers me that one of the main elements was the Morton Salt girl. Being Canadian, I had no idea that she was part of an iconic American brand. At the time, I was going for an early 1950s vibe, and it was just one image among many. Another reason for a redesign is that the overall look just doesn’t suit what I’m posting, the typography is a bit too serious. Nine years of posting has also produced a lot of legacy issues. I need to start going through my old posts to clean things up (tag the old entries, add titles and whatnot), before things get really out of hand.
Last year, I was contacted by Hans Lijklema about including my fonts in an archive of free fonts. His Free Font Index landed on my doorstep a couple weeks ago. I just got around to posting some photos now, there are some better spread shots over at The Fell Types.
What fonts you say? About ten years ago, I went on a font making kick, mostly hand-drawn stuff, and crappy erasure remixes. Some of them were drawn by my buddy Brian Stuparyk. People still download and use these in various projects, you can grab them here. They’re pretty rough and raw, no kerning, no nothing… didn’t really know what I was doing at the time. I should probably revisited the fonts and clean them up a bit.
If you get the chance, you should check out the book. There’s some great work in there by talented type designers, who created much more usable typefaces. There are also some cool interviews.
It’s been more than a year, since the last redesign of my site. I really had no intention of keeping it around that long. The previous version of eightface was mostly a reaction to the state of typography on the web and wanting to use a different typeface, I wasn’t particularly enamoured with it. I’ve attempted a few different redesigns since then, but they’ve all failed for various reasons. The latest version began life two months ago, but didn’t really get going until the middle of August. Since then, the design has come a long way but it still isn’t finished. So, feel free to poke around and kick the tires, but don’t be surprised if the axle falls off.
One of the driving factors behind the new design is the fact that I want to make my site a personal space again. I’m sick of templated personal sites and everything looking the same. I don’t want to become a crotchety old blogger man, but I’m headed in that direction. I don’t do this to make money, I do it for fun. I’ve had a website since 1995 (yea, Geocities!) and started writing HTML before that. Seriously, I memorized a bunch of tags from a brief magazine article, went home, coded a webpage (minus internet connection) and loaded it up in IE 2.0. I was a dork. I’m still a dork. The point is that I need to enjoy what I’m doing, I don’t want it to be a chore. Unfortunately, maintaining a popular WordPress plugin (as well as some others) is just that. I’m not knocking it, but the people visiting the site for plugins and themes have a different set of expectations. For that reason, the people who want WordPress related content will be getting a much more Spartan presentation with emphasis on finding what they need. The people visiting the rest of the site will get a much cooler presentation based on what I want to show them. It also lets me screw around without getting a bunch of angry emails.
The core weblog components are mostly finished, although the footer content is likely to receive a fair bit of tweaking. I’ve toyed around with a 1950’s motif before, but not to the same extent. I decided to focus solely on advertising from 1950–1955. Other than the grunge backgrounds, all of the graphics in the header and footer are composed of bits of advertisements from that time period. I’ve also attempted to replicate the typography of the era, the default typeface is Baskerville and the title font is Futura, both popular choices in advertising at the time. You’ll get the best viewing experience using a Mac with Futura installed, but it will likely look alright on Windows, although it hasn’t been tested. The Windows testing will come, but it’s not a priority (remember the personal site argument). Obviously, this iteration of the site is a better response to the state of typography on the web than the last layout. That said, it’s achieved by not caring that it doesn’t look right for anyone other than me, which isn’t always a viable option. To offset that potential lack of typographic coherency, there is a 840px wide grid underlying the disparate elements of the site.
Lastly, we come to comments. I’m getting rid of them. It’s not that I don’t care what you have to say, it’s that I want you to care about what I have to say (and dealing with comment spam sucks). In truth, comments on weblogs aren’t what they used to be. Back then, the community was a lot smaller and less likely to fall victim to Godwin’s law. Regardless of the lack of comments, it’s easy enough to offer a response via email, twitter, or your own weblog. And yes, I truly am turning into a crotchety old blogger man.
I’ve been meaning to post this for a week or two now, but have been putting it off in favour of working on a redesign of the site. I registered the domain eightface.com eight years ago on August 16th, 2000, just before heading off to university. I wanted to move the site away from a subdirectory on my local ISP, get some real hosting, and a much cooler domain name. I had a lot of trouble coming up with a cool name and ended up just throwing two random words together. In typographical hindsight, eightface is a bitch of a word to work with, and I probably could have made my design work easier without a descender or the kerning issues when it’s in all-caps.
Eight years is a relatively long time — a drop in the hat for some, but it’s almost a third of my lifetime. As always, much has changed and much has remained the same. When I started the site, the “leader of the free world” was an impeached philanderer and not a cheerleader from Yale, you could bring water onto planes and Britney Spears was still somewhat innocent.
I have been with one webhost the entire time. I signed up for the basic Dreamhost plan, received 30mb of storage, very little bandwidth and almost nothing in terms of dynamic scripting. Now I have 733gb of storage, terabytes of bandwidth, and access to all sorts of dynamic programming. The price has remained the same and for the most part, the hosting has been been reliable.
This site has always been a weblog, although their scope of weblogs has shifted over the years. I started off using Blogger, when posts had no titles, no comments and were basically what we now seem to be calling tumblelogs. Having achieved a similar effect with a scribble.nu journal in a frame, I was drawn to the fact that I could publish to my own site from anywhere without needing an FTP client. From there, I moved to Moveable Type when Dreamhost let us have a database and perl access. I switched over to WordPress, because Six Apart began to charge for MT. I’ve considered moving on from WordPress (particularly for Habari, Django or EE), but the eight years of legacy leaves a lot to contend with. I could throw it all out the window, or move it to an archival subdomain, but the inept high-school and college-age ramblings are a part of me.
After a few months (or years) of pseudo-inactivity on the weblog, it needs a jump start. I started taking myself too seriously a few years ago, it hampered my ability to post and have fun with the site. Basically, I need to make this space personal again.
This was originally posted at Helveti.ca on August 6th, 2006. I removed it to keep the focus on helvetica related news.
There’s something to be said for lusting after beautiful type. You’d be hard-pressed to find a designer that doesn’t have an unhealthy obsession with letterforms. As to what causes this affliction, it’s difficult to say. For some it was that overbearing professor in college, while others were bitching out their pre-school teachers for not properly kerning the flashcards.
My earliest experiences with typography were somewhat illicit. In the pre-PC days, my mom used Letraset transfers to avoid doing lettering work by hand. Of course, those sheets of characters were completely off-limits to me — in kidspeak that means I had to have them. There’s also something intensely gratifying about rubbing a sheet of wax paper and having fully formed letters appear on the paper below.
Further typographic growth was largely stunted until my exposure to the world of electronic publishing. In my last year of elementary school, I co-opted the newsletter from the Vice-Principal and organized a team of students to run it. The first issue ended up being a collage-style photocopy monstrosity. Three months later, Microsoft Publisher 2.0 was our bitch… justified text, clipart, you name it.
In high-school, it was more of the same. A couple of teacher’s strikes plus work-to-rule, left a small cabal of punks in charge of the school yearbook rather than the usual club. It was my first print-shop experience, we worked with a local outfit rather than a national organization. The end result consisted of two dirty grunge yearbooks designed in Photoshop.
University brought four more years of education and yet another publication take over. In the final year of my compsci degree, I ended up editing one of two large campus newspapers — Golden Words, the engineering society’s humour rag. Over my four years, I watched it progress from layout with wax and flats to a full-fledged Adobe CS workflow. The production process was daunting, but fun. We usually started around noon on Sunday and ended in the wee hours of Monday morning, whenever the paper was finished.
We bought our first family computer when I was in high-school. About a year later came dial-up, with its seedy underworld of Z’s and pirated software. The purchase of a spiffy cd-r, thrust me into the world of Photoshop, and weird Streamline-Illustrator-Fontographer workflows.
Around the time I was starting to screw around with the ill-gotten software, Swanky.org was hitting it’s heyday. For the uninitiated, Swanky was the ubercool collective of young designers, writers and typographers that everyone wanted to be part of. It was home to a variety of projects, including the Sound of Print and Final. Swanky ended up collapsing before I had the chops to become part of the Swankarmy. That said, the site had a large influence on my early artwork and motivated me to create a number of typefaces.
After the collapse of Swanky, I hooked up with another art group that formed in its wake at Suffocate.org. We produced regular theme-based issues, as well as a variety of side-projects. It exposed me to a lot of great artists and people who had a much better grasp of typographic principles.
At some point, I began to realize how much effort and work was involved in creating a usable typeface. To produce my crappy fonts, it generally took at least a couple days of good solid labour. I joined the crew at Fontmonster to distribute my creations, but it made me feel like a bit of a hack. So, I gave up on producing any typefaces until I had the time to do it properly. All-in-all, I have the utmost respect for typographers and can understand why they spend months, if not years, on a single character.