Did we need a new Helvetica? No. Did we want a new Helvetica? Kind of…
The Monotype Type Foundry has released and updated version of Helvetica, called Helvetica now. At a glance it looks like Helvetica, but there have been a bunch of updates and additions, attempting to modernise the font for the current digital age.
Helvetica® Now is a new chapter in the story of perhaps the best-known typeface of all time. Available in three optical sizes—Micro, Text, and Display.
I haven’t been using Helvetica as a workhorse since my screen printing days about a decade ago. a few years ago, I came across Neue Haas Unica (also by Monotype), which I thought was a more interesting sans serif that had a bunch of weights and uses, and pretty much stuck with it for my everyday. Im tempted to get Helvetica Now, but I dont think I really need it.
The Verge has a pretty in depth behind the scenes interview about Helvetica Now.
I’m setting up a few zines in anticipation of the zine fair season down here in Sydney, and while looking at some other zines for inspiration I came across my new favourite zine.
A zine is usually a small DIY publication, zine being short for and pronounced like magazine. I have been making zines for years, and even ran a class on zine making at a university about a decade ago. They are an interesting, evolving and free form of publication that is accessible to anyone.
This zine, Hand Job, is particularly interesting as they have been cataloging mistakes from the mass digitisation of printed materials. I love that these digitisation mistakes are now being reprinted in zine form. It is absurd. It is interesting. It is also a bit voyeuristic, and I love it.
Hand Job currently has 4 issues available digitally, but the author – Aliza Elkin – who works as an archivist and librarian is open to sell physical copies, or trade for the right zine.
Recently I have been getting way into kei cars, kei vans and kei trucks. I used to love cars, and always wanted to have a drift car of my own. Then I realised that it was prohibitively expensive to do that in Australia, so I turned my attention to Remote Control drift cars. Then I went to art school and had no money for a very long time, and my love of cars was all but forgotten.
Recently, I have had the time, money and energy to get back into cars. I got a Nissan Cube3, a rad little Japanese minivan, which isnt classes as a kei car, but by Australian standards is a very small car.
So, with my newfound enthusiasm for cars, I have been looking into Kei Cars. Kei Cars, short for keijidōsha, literally translates to Light Car. Since the middle of the 20th century, kei cars have had small engine restrictions, currently limited to 660cc, equivalent of a mid ranged motorbike. They are often very simple, small and cheap, and also attract much lower taxes and registration fees. There are kei cars, kei vans ( my current favourite, more on that at a later date) and Kei Trucks.
Whilst doing some research into kei vans and trucks, I came across the Japan Federation of Landscape Contractors who just happen to host a yearly garden competition. A competition where the garden has to fit into the bed of a Kei Truck.
This contest is apparently held every year, and while I couldn’t find much details on it, I am super happy it exists. From what I understand, none of these installations are permanent and are made only for the competition, but the amount of effort these various landscaping companies go through is amazing.
I love kei vans and trucks, and enough to attend the launch of Chris Loutfy’s Zine – Small & Mighty, which was held out the side of his 1980s Suzuki Carry Van. Super appropriate as the zine features photos of all sorts of small and mighty kei vans and trucks.
And of course, the JFLC also has a mascot called Niwa-Maru
20 years after The Matrix first graced our screens, an interesting tidbit has come to my attention. Thanks to Wired for doing a deep dive into The Matrix for there 20 year anniversary, where they have a lot of coverage featuring various aspect of the films you can check out here.
One of the most interesting and memorable parts of the films design was the source code. scrolling green characters that made up The Matrix. I always just thought they would be gibberish, but it turns out that the code is actually Sushi recipes, taken from one of the designers wife’s cookbooks.
“The Wachowskis didn’t feel like the design was old-fashioned and traditional enough. They wanted something that was more Japanese, more manga,” Whiteley says. “They asked me if I’d like to have a go working at the code, mainly because my wife is Japanese and she could help me work out the characters and give me insight into which characters were good and which weren’t.”
So Whiteley went home and began browsing through the “stacks of Japanese cookbooks” owned by his wife, looking for inspiration. One recipe book in particular caught his eye and the recipes therein served as the basis for what would eventually become the film’s iconic falling code. Over the following weeks, Whiteley painstakingly designed and painted each Japanese letter by hand. These were then delivered to Justin Marshall, now a visual effects artist at Animal Logic, who digitized them and wrote the code to make them cascade across the screen. Originally, Whiteley says, the letters were supposed to flow across the screen from left to right, but when he saw the animation he says it “wasn’t evoking any emotion for me.”
Whiteley returned to the source. Like most Japanese texts, the recipe books were written “back to front” and sentences were read top to bottom. So Whiteley asked Marshall if he could flip the code so it flowed down from the top of the screen—and the rest is history.
If you are feeling nostalgic, you can grab a screensaver based on the scrolling code of The Matrix here.
Its hard to not get excited about the olympics. There is so much happening, and the build up to each event grows as the years go by.
I remember being super excited for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, because I was in high school, and we would get extended holidays. But thinking back on it, there was a buzz in the air for a long time leading up to the Olympics. These days I prefer the Winter Olympics, but with the addition of the Skateboarding to the Tokyo 2020 sports list, I felt like I would be excited for these games for a whole new reason.
But it is not the skateboarding that is getting me excited. It wasn’t the massive works being undertaken to the infrastructure in Japan when I was living there. Its not even the fact that the Olympics are in Japan. Its the design. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are the first games in as long as I can remember where the design components that we are seeing are very exciting, and seemingly well thought out.
I do remember there was some controversy revolving around the original logo being plagiarised. I won’t go into it, but you can read about it here. It does seem though that following the feedback from that initial unveiling, every part of the design for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has been explored to its fullest, and the results I am seeing are super rad. The pictograms for the sports were released a few weeks ago, I have a better look at them here – Tokyo 2020 Pictograms.
Recently though, whooo weee, the Olympic Torch was unveiled, and I have to say that it is an object that I now hope to own one day.
It looks luxurious. It looks light. It looks futuristic. It looks like it is supposed to.
Designed by Tokujin Yoshioka, who also designed some of my favourite mobile phones ever, which often use translucent materials to show the inner workings of the phones.
I designed the TOKYO 2020 Olympic Torch in the wishes for peace and healing of hearts in the disaster-hit area.
The cherry blossom emblems I drew with children in the recovering area inspired me. Those cherry blossoms were all vibrant, as if they symbolize the spirit of the people trying to overcome and restart from the disaster. I aimed to convey this power to the world through my design.
What I designed is not merely the form of the TOKYO 2020 Olympic Torch, but the form of Olympic flame itself. The five flames surrounded by the petals become one Olympic flame to give hope to all the people in the world to live in peace.
In 2020, the Olympic flame will traverse throughout Japan like cherry blossoms blooming, and lights our way to hope.
It is inspired by the Sakura, the Japanese carry blossom that is synonymous for both beauty and fragility. The sakura is one of the most beautiful things you can experience in Japan, when you are in an area that is in Full Bloom, there is a buzz in the air. People stop in their tracks to admire the beauty of the blossoms. Busy salarymen pause on the way to the office to breathe deep the sweet air circling the city. Its an amazing time, and I’m very glad for the Sakura to feature so prominently in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Aesthetic.
Its interesting to note that the body of the torch is made from some recycled materials, including aluminium from temporary shelters that were used after the 2011 Tsunami. The recycled materials of the torch are mirrored in the medals, which will be including electronic waste materials that have been upcycled in the various medals.
Length: 710mm Total weight: 1.2kg (the torch weighs 1kg, while the combustion component weighs 0.2kg). Colours: Sakura and gold Main materials: aluminium (approx. 30% of the torch is made from recycled aluminium originally used in temporary housing units after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that devastated Japan’s Tohoku region)
You can see more of the torch on the Tokyo 2020 website or on the Tokujin Yoshioka website.
Im a bit slow to the game these days. I have been laying low in the Australian creative sphere after spending almost a decade hosting art exhibitions and publishing books filled to the brim with local talent.
But today, when I had some extra time to go around and see what other Australian creative websites have been up to, I found that 2 of my favourite, longest living design blogs have closed down.
Design is Kinky shut up shop back in 2018, and Australian Infront has just closed in the last month or so.
Admittedly, since living in Japan I haven’t really participated in the local creative sphere (I am working on that again, and thats why you are reading this now), but this is super sad for me. Having worked personally with the founders of both of these sites, its hard to think of a time where I can’t just log in and see whats been happening.
Best of luck to all.
(this reminds me that I might have an archive of WATIM around somewhere… I will see if I can dig it out)
The Pictograms for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been officially released, and they are some of the most dynamic and interesting pictograms of recent times.
Its a nice full circle as the Pictograms to represent different sports were most broadly used first at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.
It is generally agreed that Olympic Games pictograms were really first introduced in 1964, in Tokyo. But Osterwalder explains: “Creating symbols which are not letters but graphic illustrations that everyone can understand goes back much further than that. I’ve found small pictograms that were at the Games in Stockholm in 1912, Paris in 1924, and other Games after that; but they did not yet offer that very simple and clear view that we know today. They were complicated illustrations, but not verbal elements, describing sports, art competitions or other things. For example, for the art competitions in Paris in 1924, there was a symbol, an illustration, which may be considered a pictogram.”
Its cool to see more sports being added to the Olympics that will broaden the events appeal. I know I was stoked when snowboarding was added to the Winter Olympics, and though I haven’t snowboarded in years, I still watch every snowboarding event I can manage (as well as the curling).
The pictograms for Surfing and Skateboarding, two other board sports, are being added to the Olympic Games this year, and it is so rad to see their pictograms amongst some of the most dynamic and exciting in the line up.
Im excited for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. It will open up Tokyo and broader Japan to a whole host of tourists from all over the world. When I was living in Japan a couple of years ago, you could already see the changes happening for the Olympics. Stations were getting upgraded, signage was getting English additions, airports and tourist centres were becoming even more tourist friendly. Its going to be great to be able to share my love of Japan with so many more people.