Thoughts on a Brief
Our first full week in the department has been lots of fun. I’m definitely seeing why Reading University is so highly regarded. Our teachers are really top class: enthusiastic, knowledgeable and fascinating. And it’s a sign of how fun the department is that there are so many ex-students still hanging around, doing research and working on projects, clearly showing no sign of getting bored even after such an intense year of study. There’s always going to be more to learn.
We’re starting to think about our practical projects — the bit where we have to design our typefaces based on a brief we write ourselves. In many ways studying type design is different to designing type professionally, and having to decide our own brief is one example of this. In the workplace, the designer has the client’s brief to stick to; here we are given the opportunity to try anything we fancy.
So how do we settle on a project that’s big enough to give us a broad and interesting learning experience, but small enough to submit by next June? Luckily, I’d heard from previous students it was a good idea to think about the project over the summer. For my project, I wanted to develop areas I’m already interested in, and learn new skills that will be valued in the workplace. That means I needed to pick something that has real-world applicability. The course encourages us to explore non-Latin scripts, so that was a starting point.
From living in Thailand and travelling extensively across Southeast Asia, I’ve become very interested in how the old Brahmi script sprang from northern India in the third century BC, and travelled with trade and religion to so many other parts of Asia, slowly evolving different letterforms as it settled into new cultures. It’s always a source of wonder to me to see commonalities between writing systems that superficially seem so different, and trace back their roots to a common ancestor.
For example, look how the ma is represented in these modern day Brahmic scripts:
The first five are clearly recognisable as the same letter, with the loop at the bottom left. Devanagari has a head-line, which is sort of vestigial in the Gujarati and Tibetan, and possibly in the looped head of the Thai form. The last two, Burmese and Khmer, flip the bottom left loop to the inside of the shape, but the two upward arms are still telltale signs of a common origin.
(An interesting side question is why these forms diverged at all. For the answer, we need to look at where the letters were written, as the environment of each script over time contributed to the conventional forms of letters. Burmese is often cited as being so circular because it was written on palm leaves, which are easily torn by straight lines. One can also imagine that a culture’s visual environment builds a repertoire of shapes that can then be reappropriated into its written language. The jagged peaks of the Tibetan landscape must have played a significant part in the styling of the alphabet.)
Although I can’t yet read it, I’m especially curious about the Burmese script, with its unique, circular forms. I’ve started learning how the writing system works and have found a serious lack of useable Burmese fonts available. So I’ve found an overlap of interest and specific need. My aim then is to create a Unicode font with Burmese and Latin scripts, something that can be used in dictionaries and/or textbooks.
From travelling in Burma, which is probably my favourite country, and meeting some of the different ethnic groups there, I was struck by how welcoming, cheerful and playful people living there are. I hope to be able to infuse some of their liveliness into my design. Keeping things light and fun is also probably a good idea to counteract my tendency to overanalyse and be too serious with things. Of course a dictionary typeface doesn’t want to be comical or silly, but it does want to be alive, so I’m keen to prevent the thing from being too restrained and dull. I’m keeping the words ‘bounce’ and ‘fluid’ (dictionaries tend to feel rather disjointed and staccato) on my sketchpad.
A dictionary also requires special variant styles: not just roman and italic, but usually a sans serif companion, light and black weights, and possibly IPA support. These possibilities should allow a great enough freedom to hold my interest for the next eight months.
I’m very much seeing this year as an opportunity to gain skills that are valuable in the workplace. One such skill is to develop a methodology for approaching unfamiliar scripts. On the other hand, much as I love the idea, Burmese fonts are not something that international type designers are going to find too many requests for. Career-wise, it would make much more sense to create in-demand fonts for Devanagari, Bengali or Arabic. Fiona Ross, our non-Latin expert, reminds me that the dearth of Bengali typefaces has resulted in a dozen Bengali newspapers using the same fonts, and they’re now queueing up to get their hands on new ones.
It’s at this point that I find another way that studying typeface design is different to designing typefaces professionally. Students would be well advised to try their hands at very different writing systems. Armenian, with its upright stems and squarish forms, would be a perfect counterbalance to Sinhala, with its extravagant florid swirls. Designing both scripts would be almost the broadest experience imaginable. However in the real world, what need is there for a font that can cover both languages? Is there likely to be an Armenian-Sinhala dictionary?
To resolve this question, I’m keeping my options open. Bengali or Tamil might be nice options as there is some logic to combining these with Burmese (there are significant populations of Bengalis and Tamils in Burma). Through the year, we’ll be looking at plenty of other scripts, and finding out new areas of interest. I’ll sample these and then decide which other script to work on.
So as I’m a very practical person, I can’t see that Thanksgiving should be that big of a deal. Why? Because as time goes by, and I get a little wiser every day, I’ve concluded that we should all be thankful for the people around us and things we have on a daily basis. If you’re even reading this right now, consider yourself priveleged, as there are many folks who don’t even have access to the internet.
If you’re like many folks out there right now, having a rough go of it, and perhaps not even knowing where your next meal is coming from, much less the next paycheck - I’m sure Thanksgiving is the farthest thing from your mind. I’ve been in your shoes, and I do sympathize, but consider all the things you could be thankful for right now, holiday or none:
1) As I stated above, you have access to the internet. You can thank Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn. If you don’t know who they are, Google it. If you don’t know how to use Google, I don’t know how you wound up here. If you do, there are a gazillion websites out there that may give you some insight on how to improve your current situation.
2) If you can read, first of all, thank your parents or whoever raised you. They loved you enough to either teach you themselves or send you to school, so the least you can do is give them a polite thank-you. And if they sent you to school,
3) Thank a teacher for your ability to read, write, perform simple math functions, tell time on an analog clock and use a calendar, and know the difference between cities, states, and countries. If you didn’t know these things, and had to rely on someone else for the information, your 10 am flight to London tomorrow could land you in the middle of the Sahara desert at 3 pm next Tuesday.
4) Be thankful that you live in a free country. Yes, my political friends, things are changing all the time, but as for now, you can come and go and say and do as you please,thanks to all the Veterans who fought and died defending your sorry, ungrateful asses. If you’ve never personally thanked a veteran for their time in service, I highly suggest you do so. It’s a very rewarding experience.
5) If you’ve bought food at a grocery store in the last 50 years, be thankful for three things: first, that there is still enough good land left on this tired Earth to grow vegetables and care for livestock; secondly, that there are farmers and field hands with the knowledge to grow vegetables and tend livestock; and thirdly, that there are plenty of people willing to sacrifice their time with spouses and children to drive trucks and haul our groceries to those stores. Since I don’t know of very many people who are completely self-sustainable, if you eat, thank a farmer, a grocer, or a truck driver.
6) If you’ve used a toilet, a bathtub or shower, or a sink in the last 2 hours, be thankful for the ability to have running water in your home. That’s simple enough, right? There are still many places around the world, some in our own backyards, that don’t have running, or even clean, water. Because we do, we live in a healthier, more sanitary environment - and that means you get sick less often.
7) If you’ve paid a bill of any kind ever, thank the people you owe. Why? Because they trusted you to pay for a service they offered you up front. THEY trusted YOU. If you don’t want to pay them, cancel your subscription, take your car back, cut up that credit card, and cancel your internet service. Be thankful that someone gave you an opportunity to better yourself.
8) If you are healthy, you should be thankful for that. There are many thousands of people in our own country that are very, very sick, sometimes with unimaginable pain, suffering, and bills to go along with it. I can almost guarantee, if you asked any one of those people what they wished for the most, they would tell you their health. When you don’t feel well, nothing else is more important than feeling better.
9) Unless you’re running off a bicycle-powered generator or sitting in the dark, be thankful you have electricity. This is another service we take for granted on a daily basis. At one time or another we’ve all been without power, even for a couple hours. Think about the things you normally do, and then try doing them with no electricity! Almost everything runs off some kind of generated electricity, even if that means using batteries. If you’re plugged in right now, thank an electrician, and maybe even Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein.
10) If you’re NOT addicted to ANYTHING, stand up and be thankful. I’m not just talking about drugs and alcohol, folks. I know plenty of people who are addicted to their smart phones, caffeine, cigarettes (as I puff on one), alcohol, taking a shower every day, adrenaline, using credit cards, and many other things. There’s even a show on tv now, My Strange Addiction, where people are addicted to eating laundry detergent, toilet paper, and sleeping with hair dryers. So if you don’t have any “have-to’s”, thank yourself for having the willpower to stay mentally, physically, and psychologically alert.
The moral of the story is, if you still don’t have anything or anyone to be thankful for, you are either brain-dead or a superhero. Thanksgiving is a time for us to recognize what we do have versus what we do not, and to be grateful for those people and things. We don’t need a special day to be thankful, no more than we need a national toothpick day. But if it makes you feel better to know that there’s a holiday dedicated to being grateful, then by all means celebrate, just don’t forget to celebrate the other 364 days a year as well.
Gift Ideas for Your Boyfriend
If the anniversary is coming up or your boyfriend is becoming a year older, you might need help finding the perect gift. Well, have no fear as this article contains various solutions to your delima. Common sense says It’s best to stick with gifts that match his personality so there really isn’t a cookie-cutter solution, but the ideas listed in this article should, if nothing else, will prove to be a starting ground or your gift shopping. So if you’re at a dead-end, sit back and read some of these suggestions to find your perfect gift for your boyfriend!
Amplify’d from thinkingofstuff.com
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