All posts by Samuel John Klein

Blog Of Interest: Show Off Your Maps!

Just noted today: an adventurous map blogger makes the following bold statement:

For a while now, we’ve thought to ourselves: wouldn’t it be great if there was some place on the web where map collectors could get together to compare their collections and discuss map collecting? We decided to stop thinking and start doing! Show Off Your Maps is a website by map collectors, for map collectors. We’re here to give collectors everywhere a place to discuss the wonderful world of antique maps and to show off what they’ve got. There’s only one rule: have fun!

That was from the (so-far) one and only post; it apparently has just been opened, so if anyone’s of the mind, this is something one can get in on the ground floor of.

Northern European Geography 101

R. Stevens, in the Diesel Sweeties Newsblog, realized he couldn’t come up with ten differences between Norway and Sweden.

We don’t really know why either, but he got some of his LiveJournal buddies together and hashed it out. The findings are organized into a nifty (and just plain funny) cartogram:

Norway VS Denmark by dieselweeties

Diagram copyright R. Stevens, Diesel Sweeties Newsblog

Link to the article (incuding full size illo which can actually be read) here.

Via BoingBoing.

Site To See: Historic City Maps

The site at, simply titled Historic Cities, endeavors to digitize and mount for online display historic maps of historic cities for all to access, enjoy, and use.

From the site’s About Us page:

This site is a joint project of the Historic Cities Center of the Department of Geography, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Jewish National and University Library. The project was made possible by a generous grant of the Council for Higher Education in Israel – Planning & Budgeting committee (VATAT).

The site is intended to contain maps, literature, documents, books and other relevant material concerning the past, present and future of historic cities and to facilitate the location of similar content on the web.

The site is well-organized and intuitive to browse. Maps from as early as the 15th Century are available, and the list of countries covered include Albania and Yemen, Belarus and Germany, even one from the US (Saint Augustine).

The site also solicits contributions from visitors.

It’s all available now at Historic Cities.

You Suck At Photoshop

The first sign that you’re not in Kansas, anymore, Toto, comes right from the first. Delivered in a monotonic voice that mixes despair and put-uponness, Donnie Hoyle welcomes you to the show:

My name is Donnie and … you suck at Photoshop. You do. You’re awful, and that’s why you’re here. All right, let’s get started.

The series, You Suck At Photoshop, seems to endeavor to tread some of your basic hints and tips territory. But Donnie seems to be having, as Arthur Dent might have said, “a great deal of difficulty with his lifestyle”, and it seems to be playing out mostly in the background as he diligently attempts to tutor the viewer through the grim maelstrom that his life seems to be.

The result is something we didn’t before think possible – a darkly humorous tutorial that teaches you quite nifty PS tricks that will actually stick with you.

Job’s Tale

It would be gilding the lily to say that the character of Donnie as portrayed in the tutorials has issues: it would be more correct to say he has possibly a lifetime subscription. His marriage is falling apart, he has fertility issues, he’s dismally unhappy in his job, his co-workers don’t respect him, and he has a friend who’s constantly Skypeing him to go on an MMORPG raid.

Yet he soldiers on, through (so far) five chapters of video tutorials, so far covering very clever things you can do to simplify your PS work with layer effects, warping, manual sampling of areas to cover other areas, and a dead clever thing in which he aptly demonstrates why you should use Color Range for Magic Wand selecting for complex background areas. I’ve used some of the knowledge to up my own PS game just a bit.

Savage Humor

The humor might not be for the sensitive. All the character’s demons are on full display, many of which attack him while he’s trying to perform the tutorial. His wife berates him while he’s doing them. His co-workers at the his apparently-fictional employer Phebco (which appears to have been gloriously hacked at this writing) treat him with thinly-veiled hostility, and his supervisors treat him with almost open disrespect. It’s PS tutorials via The Office. It might make you squirm in a place or two.

Donnie’s attitude toward his viewers are summed up in the series title, but you’ll also be berated by Donnie for using clone stamp and magic wand when he has a better way for you to do it. But it will leave you laughing; in chapter 5 he advises those who were offended by his demand not to use the magic wand tool that it’s okay – it’s actually awesome; go ahead and grab a juice box and a fruit rollup and he’ll check you out in about six hours.

But, if the feedback the videos get at MyDamnChannel are any indication, YSAP has a loyal following, and many are waiting for the sixth installment in the series.

You’ll come for the humor, and you stay for the information.

How To View ‘Em

The videos debut at MyDamnChannel in the Big Fat Brain Channel; they can also be found on YouTube by doing a search for “You Suck at Photoshop”.

Be warned of the adult humor, but if you’re brave, dive and and be prepared to laugh your side off, and learn something. In the end, you might not suck at Photoshop so much.

Identity Crisis! Has Broad Appeal

We imagine most organizations approach the idea of remaking their public faces via routes that are as individual and unique as the organizations themselves. This thought stayed with us as we devoured the latest book from Jeff Fisher, Identity Crisis!: 50 Redesigns That Transformed Stale Identities Into Successful Brands (HOW Books, 216pp, ISBN-13: 978-1-58180-939-8, ISBN-10: 1-58180-939-8, US Street Price $35).

The redesign needs came from a variety of sources: tired logos, dated logos, no logos, and took a variety of routes to their eventual destination–50 new, fresh identities that took the look of the brands they represented and brought creative rebirth to each.

One good example is that of Ruby Receptionists. Prior to 2005, it was a firm known as WorkSource Inc., whose remit then (as now) was to provide virtual receptionists to small and medium-sized businesses who didn’t need to (or didn’t want to) kit out with a full-time receptionist. Through the case study we are shown that the firm doing the re-id, Portland’s Sockeye Creative, identified the bigger picture–WorkSource didn’t merely need a new logo, but a new ID approach, because the old one didn’t really fit the way the company plied their trade. Sockeye nailed it with a name that tugs classic societal heartstrings, evoking an era when front-line employees served the customer with precision and pride, and the image of the crackerjack front desk secretary from those days.

Each example of the 50 (covering a wide range of companies serviced by a wide array of professional creatives) delves into the concerns, process, and perils of traversing the re-ID journey in just such detail, providing interest as well as illumination. While not a ‘how to’ book, a professional will see this as a ‘how might I/we’ book; Fisher shows a touch, as he did in his previous HOW book(The Savvy Designer’s Guide to Success) for lively prose that makes you feel as though you are being talked to, and the enthusiasm of a passionate, expert explainer. He also provides a valuable ‘setting of the table’ in the prelude section “Identity Crises In Public”, which is a short, delightfully-opinionated view of some recent rebrandings, including Sprint, Intel, Nextel, AT&T, and even the new Quark, Inc.

One thing we found in showing the book to some of our non-design-oriented friends was how popular it became amongst them. When they saw us reading it, they though maybe it was yet another design book for designers; when they got a chance to look into it, they couldn’t put it down–we had to pry it out of their hands just to get it back!

We’ve long felt that the public at large is more interested in design than they think they are, and for us, Identity Crisis! serves as evidence, aided and abetted by Jeff Fisher’s friendly style. This book will find a home not only on designer’s shelves but also the bookshelves of those who just plain like design and good writing.

Ork Posters – Neighborhoods As Typographic Art

There is not a lot of neighborhood information in the maps published as posters by Ork Posters–just lines, cities divided into compartments filled with DIN Engschrift type. They sort of ask you to create your own truth for them … or at least get lost in the play of plain type and shapes.

Ork Designs Chicago

A section of the Ork Poster neighborhood map of Chicago, from screenshot (design copyright Ork Posters)

According to the press info, the designer, Jenny Boerkrem, was looking for a Chicago neighborhoods map–but wanted something different:

By ditching the ‘vintage, illustrated’ look of traditional neighborhood maps, Ork designs its posters in a style characterized by originality, simplicity and modernity

The results (as can be seen in the illustration above) are rather refreshing in a less-is-more, find-your-own-truth way. If you like the idea of interesting shapes and type labels being liberated for energetic play–and really if you just like expressive maps with an adventurous point-of-view, you’ll like Ork Posters.

The press info goes into a bit more depth, putting the aim very well:

Ork’s design deduces each neighborhood to a certain ‘one-ness’, forgetting the stereotypes and differentiations, and reminding us that we, and our areas of living, are part of one larger community. Extending this idea, Ork hopes its line of posters not only function as a map, but also expand one’s sense of community beyond that of our immediate surroundings

They run $22 per copy, and so far come in editions for Chicago, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Boston, and San Francisco. To purchase and to check availability (and to see the Ork Posters line) go to

The Gallery Of Regrettable Type: We’ll Pass On This Party

Contributor Jeff Marshall sends along this example of a party for the eyes, proving, sometimes, too much is indeed more than enough:

Florida's natural package

All those type sizes! All those colors! I was still drowsy from sleep when I looked at that; that scene of the two all-fruit fruit juice nugget factory workers fleeing in terror from the explosion at the factory cleared that up. I just hope they made it out okay. Reuters, are you on this one?

Type wise, while we wouldn’t say the type choices on this are inappropriate, there’s just something that’s much too much about this one. Maybe it’s the combination of embowed type and slanted type and unless it’s bowed with the brand name, the type really isn’t working with each other. It’s just a big chaos. There ought to be some way of dialing this back just a bit while still keeping it a riot for the eyes. How that would work, we’ll leave as an exercise for our readers.

Remember, if that type puts a tear in your eye, we want to see it too (just accept it). Thanks be to Jeff for his submission; your submssions be to here!.

FontLab Releases New ScanFont 5 As Plug-in

ScanFont 5 Splash

FontLab have updated their ScanFont utility–a program that enables designers to trace scanned fonts, important in artistic design aspects such as creating fonts from handwriting–and have released version 5. This version works as a plug-in to their major utilities, according to FontLab’s Ted Harrison:

This new version of ScanFont acts as a plugin for any of our font editors – TypeTool, Asiafont Studio, and FontLab Studio (and soon Fontographer, too). SF5 is optimized for scanning glyphs for autotracing into fonts, but it also gives you complete control over the scanning and autotrace process. You can adjust trace tolerance, curve fit and linearity to suit your subject, thus assuring the cleanest and most accurate scan possible so that the final font character requires little or no editing.

The pricing is $99 for a new copy, and upgrading from earlier ScanFonts is $29.95. Full details can be found and FontLab’s announcement here.