Choose wisely (2020 edition)

Confidential to my readers in the United States

As a typog­ra­pher, my most impor­tant role during an esca­lating health / economic / climate cata­strophe is to help “A Shat­tered Nation … Care About Stupid Bull­shit Again”. We’ll get to that, as always.

But first: yet another reminder to please vote. Vote.org has a great guide to early voting (which is already open in certain states). If you’re mailing your ballot, do so as early as you can, because yes, the mail delays are real.

By the way, the Demo­c­ratic candi­date who had what I thought was the best 2020 campaign typog­raphy ended up getting the nomi­na­tion.

Equity in the Fifth Circuit

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit handles appeals from the federal district courts in Texas, Louisiana, and Missis­sippi. I’m hugely compli­mented that this summer, it became the first U.S. circuit court to adopt Equity as its offi­cial font for its opin­ions and orders.

Fifth Circuit Judge Don Willett—a long­time fan of typog­raphy—wrote about the process in the current issue of The Advo­cate (a publi­ca­tion only avail­able to members of the State Bar of Texas, I’m afraid). He describes Equity as “a Rolls-Royce (or better, a fully loaded Ford F-150)” (from a Texan jurist, high praise indeed). He also explains the broader ratio­nale for the restyling project:

[Why] did the circuit devote finite judicial energy to swapping typefaces and widening margins? Simple answer: Our job is not just to present clear opinions, but to present our opinions clearly. Getting the law right is, of course, our tip-top priority. Nothing matters more. … But good enough is never good enough. Our work is consequential, impacting the lives and livelihoods of real people walloped by real problems in the real world. The stakes are high, and we must present our best opinion, not merely a passable one. And that presentation begins before the first word is ever read.

I agree completely. As some of you know, when I started the Typog­raphy for Lawyers project in 2008 (as a website), I figured it would attract a small following of like-minded nerdy lawyers. It’s always been pleas­antly surprising and grat­i­fying to watch the snow­balling accep­tance of these ideas.

The Apple Extended Keyboard II

I don’t have any nostalgia for ’90s computer hard­ware, with one excep­tion. The Apple Extended Keyboard II, made from 1990–95, has never been surpassed.

After some years trying out modern approx­i­ma­tions—the Matias Tactile Pro came the closest—I got a couple vintage AEKs in 2017. The first one lasted three years before the shift key gave out recently. I had a spare. But I just got five more to hold in reserve, as their prices have doubled since then. (For enough money, you can still get one new in the box.) I plan to announce my retire­ment from computing the day after the last one breaks.

Font in progress: Heliotrope

It’s not quite done, but my next font release—one of two fami­lies I’ve designed during the pandemic so far—will be a part-sans part-serif family called Heliotrope. I’ve been using a proto­type on Beau­tiful Racket for body text.

Gentlemen Broncos

New Yorker film critic Richard Brody & I are appar­ently the only members of the Gentlemen Broncos army. But six months into the pandemic, if you’re looking for a left-field recom­men­da­tion now that you’ve binge-watched every­thing else—here it is. This is one of my favorite movies. Not least because of its amazing opening-credits montage of fake 1970s sci-fi novel covers, recre­ated with immac­u­late atten­tion to period typog­raphy. As a profes­sional typog­ra­pher and life­long nerd, it always pleases me to see this kind of relent­less commit­ment to irra­tional levels of accu­racy.

update, 549 days later

Even­tu­ally I caved and got one of those new-in-box Apple Extended Keyboards. I justi­fied it on the grounds that it’s the object my hands touch the most over the course of a year. I worried that I would open the box and out would drift nothing more than a small post-it note saying “sucker”. But no—it was just as adver­tised. It felt a little strange to break open the plastic seal on this beau­ti­fully preserved arti­fact. But having done so—it is fabu­lous.