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July 2007

Introducing Gina


Another deadline finished! We turned in our typeface files last week, and I just turned in the specimen booklet this morning. Next it's an essay on the development and production of the typefaces, and after that it's on to my research dissertation. Needless to say, there's no Summer vacation for me this year.

Even with the other deadlines looming, it's an incredible feeling to have finally "finished" the typeface. (I use the quotes because there are still problems to address, and I'll probably spend a lot more time fleshing out a real family of fonts instead of the two I have now.) This was an entirely new undertaking for me, and I wasn't sure I could pull it off. I look forward to getting better as time goes by, but I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done so far, and pretty grateful to everyone who helped it come together.

Before I spend the next week or so writing about the typefaces themselves, I’d really like to take a moment to say something about their namesake — my old friend/boss/mentor/inspiration Gina Brandt-Fall.

gina_sparky.jpgGina was an extraordinary woman who passed away in April 2001. Although she had been having an ugly, all-out battle with breast cancer for the previous two years, and knew her days were running out, I don't think she was prepared for the sudden liver failure that claimed her in the end. I know I wasn't. Gina, who I worked with for years, moved to California a few months prior, planning to start a new life in the wake of the cancer that she fought so aggressively. Her doctors discovered more cancer, though, burrowed further into her chest and lungs where they couldn't get to it without major surgery that would have left Gina in excruciating pain for her last months. She opted for more chemotherapy instead, so she could have a few good weeks out of each of those last months — time to enjoy the sun, to be with her friends, to be able to pull together the fragments of the wonderful book she had been working on for so long. Even during her illness, Gina was incredibly vibrant, emotionally and intellectually engaged, empathic, thoughtful, insightful. Gone, just like that.

Gina and I took to one another immediately went I first interviewed with her for some freelance typesetting work in about 1996 or so. From the very first day, I was taken by her enthusiasm, humor, and quick mind as our conversation went from typesetting to typography to books to literature to life, and that spark never faded during all the years we worked side-by-side. I learned an incredible amount of new things from her, and I was actively encouraged by her to take those new ideas to new levels, and to always leave myself the energy to do what I love. And I laughed with her. Oh my, how we laughed when we were together! Even when we started out bitching and moaning about the workplace and the larger world, we were able to put things in perspective and mix joy in with the righteous indignation. She was not only a friend and a colleague and a teacher, but also an inspiration. that’s cliché, I know, but true: I aspire to her level of passionate interest in life.

Once I knew I was going to set aside life as I knew it to follow a dream, it seemed like the perfect tribute to Gina to dedicate a part of that dream to her. Not only was she the one who made me learn how to typeset math (or rather, she was the one who made me realize how fascinating it could be, and who encouraged me to keep learning as much as I could), but she was the one who showed me that it's good to hang onto your dreams and jump at them when you have the chance.

Life Is a Journey

If you had told me when I was 16 that in twenty years I would be living in England and listening to a mix of Judas Priest, Shirley Bassey, random disco, and New Order while I drew thousands of letters I would have said you were a crazy person that should be put away for your safety.

But here I am. And it was totally the Judas Priest that pulled me out of my late afternoon slump.

What, Me Worry?

Next Tuesday morning I turn in all the digital files for my typeface design, and then I spend the next two weeks writing up documentation about how the design developed and was produced. All that accounts for half my overall grade for my degree. If I think about that in terms of my tuition and the cost of living over here all this year and stuff, that means I’m trying to finish up a $25,000 typeface. And, you know, set a new career in motion.

Pressure? What pressure?

Sweet Tooth

British candy

I was no stranger to the allure of British candy before I moved here, but after a year exploring the full range of what's available over here I don't think I could live without it. So for once, one of those fluffy New York Times lifestyle articles has me directly in its sights.

I’m glad that the article confirmed my deep suspicion that the Cadbury chocolate over here really is different than what is available in the States — not just the variety available, but the actual taste of the chocolate itself. I was thinking it was just my imagination, tinged by my overall anglophilia. Oh, but the variety, too! The range of Cadbury's product line in England puts Hershey to shame. I usually need to stop by Cyber Candy for some of the more exotic brands, but even the local Co-op or gas station carries a dazzling assortment.

I freely admit that this isn't the home of the world's best chocolate. Fine Belgian chocolates and gourmet truffles are a different breed altogether, however. I don't even think of that stuff as candy. You eat it and enjoy it in a totally different way than you enjoy the simple pedestrian perfection of a Mars bar.

That Times article doesn't belabor the point, but it touches on one of the most enduring mysteries of life over here. How can the candy be so good when overall the food is to wretched?

Ride in the Sky

Village Underground

A couple of months ago I spotted those awesome rooftop tube trains and figured there had to be a story behind them. Sure enough, there is. An organization called Village Underground snapped up some old tube cars and installed them on top of an old Victorian warehouse for conversion into "affordable workspace for creatives". (I put that in quotes not just because it's a quote, but thinking about the cost of space in London and what happened to all that affordable space for creative types in Williamsburg over the years I’m forced to wonder how affordable that really is, or will be.) Naturally, I desperately want office space in an old tube car.

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