Der Druck ist nicht tot

At least in Germany it’s not.

As I stepped off the train in Heidelberg last Monday afternoon an American asked me for directions. At this I was not very helpful because he and I had been in Heidelberg exactly the same length of time – about ten seconds.

We chatted as we walked into the station. He mentioned that he was visiting the city where his parents met 60 years ago. I told him I was there to visit the printing press manufacturer named after the city we were visiting.

He lamented that publishing is dead. So sorry, he said. He, himself once helped out on a press. Did I know that the press operators used to know just how much ink to add to a unit to get the color right? Yes, I admitted that I knew that, and I had done that very thing myself.

We said our pleasantries and parted ways, he to find the place of his parents’ meeting, and I to the Schnellpressenfabrik to see multimillion-dollar printing machines assembled and prepared for their new owners around the world.

This is a small selection of the many, many magazines for sale at the bookstore located in the Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof. There were another five racks this size in the store. This is eye-candy for printers!

A few minutes later my wife and I visited a nice magazine store in the Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof; we were both looking for something to read – an English language magazine perhaps. As we wandered the aisles in the store I realized that I was standing in the middle of a well-stocked example of the fact that publishing is not dead. I snapped a few photos with my iPhone, while admiring the retail end of the publishing industry.

I am going to take a guess that this single store had over 1,000 magazines for sale. In the photo section where I was standing, there were 49 magazines in German on the subject of photography. There were several in other languages also, but they were in the foreign languages section, which featured another 150 titles.

I walked around and picked a beautiful tourist magazine about the city of Heidelberg. I picked that up and decided to buy it. I also grabbed a copy of the week’s Economist, printed in England (I think) for the European market. I get this magazine back home, and I think that the American edition is printed in the U.S.

I reflected on the man’s comments just minutes earlier on the train platform. So sorry. And I realized that he is absolutely wrong. Ill-informed is probably the better term.

I wondered to myself where he had read that publishing is dead.

Probably in a magazine.

The next morning my wife and I were treated to a tour of the huge Heidelberg printing press factory in Wiesloch-Walldorf just outside Heidelberg. There we saw presses large and small – even the small presses are large these days. We were taken to a building 620 meters in length and 120 meters in width where the presses are assembled. It’s a combination assembly line and individual assembly facility where 4,000 printing units are made each year and shipped around the world.

Ralph Schönfeld and Clarence Penge, our wonderful hosts at the Heidelberg plant in Wiesloch, outside of Heidelberg, Germany. They are standing on a press with eight printing units and four coaters. The machine is 93 feet long. It will be used in a packaging plant.

We visited the gear-making building and saw the production area where cast steel components are machined to a precise size, then measured for quality-control on their way to final assembly in a huge multi-color Heidelberg press.

We walked through and over a printing press so large that the feeder is way over my head. This one is destined for a packaging printer in North America. It is over 90 feet in length. The press sheet it prints is 63 inches in width. I suspect that some of the magazines I saw in the bookstore are printed on machines like this (actually it’s more likely they are printed on the smaller 40-inch machines).

My wife Ashala stands at the delivery of one of the huge Heidelberg presses in the demonstration room in Wiesloch. This machine prints on sheets of paper over five feet in width. It is also the fastest press made by Heidelberg – it prints up to 18,000 sheets per hour, which translates to five sheets per second. The amazing thing about this press is that it’s designed to be operated by only two people.

I came away from this experience knowing that printing (and publishing) are doing pretty well. After some lean years fighting our way through the recession, the industry is on the go – especially packaging, and the printers of the world are buying new printing machines to fill the stores in all the Hauptbahnhofs in all the world with beautiful colorful magazines.

And I hope the man from the train found the place where his parents met. I also hope he bought a magazine from the store in the station as he was leaving town.


Posted in Adventures, New technology, People, Printing and Printing Processes, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Learning letterpress in a 14th century town

One of the three classes I am teaching in Munich is Advanced Typography.

The students are in their third year in the Print Media program at Munich University of Applied Sciences. Five of my students are exchange students from my home university, Cal Poly.

At Cal Poly I have access to the Shakespeare Press Museum, a delightful collection of 19th and early 20th century letterpress equipment and type. When I teach this course at Cal Poly we just walk down the stairs to the museum so that I can show the students how to set type and print with the letterpress equipment in the museum. At Munich there is no museum, and only one letterpress.

My colleague Martin Delp, who spent last spring quarter teaching at Cal Poly, suggested that when I wanted to teach the students about letterpress printing, we should visit his friend Oskar Bernhard, a letterpress printer in the town of Nördlingen, Germany. That town, which was founded in the early 14th century, is about two hours from Munich by train.

Oskar Bernhard explains the marks on a letterpress proof for my Advanced Typography students. From left to right: Emily Hoehenrieder, Shauna Rinaldi-El Abd and Christine Wiechers.

Last Thursday, my students joined Prof. Delp and me at the Munich central train station and we boarded a train headed for Nördlingen. When we arrived in that city, we walked over to Herr Bernhard’s atelier and began a most impressive day in a working letterpress shop.

This is a look from the balcony of Oskar’s workshop. On the left is his offset proofer. At center is the Heidelberg K-series cylinder press. At the lower-right is his Heidelberg “Tiegel” press. The students are gathered at the back of the shop setting type for their projects.

Bernhard, a veteran of the typographic industry, has an impressive collection of machines – several letterpress proofers, one Heidelberg “Tiegel” (in America these are called the “Windmill”), a large Heidelberg cylinder press, and a very large offset proofing press. He uses these machines to produce limited edition letterpress books, specialty cards and booklets, and a variety of commercial jobs.

Shauna Rinaldi El-Abd and Ashley Boehmer, both Cal Poly students in the exchange program at Munich, operate the letterpress proofer in Mr. Bernhard’s shop. They are positioning a sheet of paper to be printed on the press.

He has a Monotype machine – a typecasting machine from about the 1950s. The keyboard is still in working condition, but his caster is in need of repair. The rest of his type is foundry type and some wood type in sizes up to about three inches. It’s a beautiful shop, very neat and orderly. And, unlike many letterpress shops, there are not very many orphaned projects sitting on the counters. He is meticulous about putting type away.

The students learned how to use a composing stick, how to add (real) leading to increase the space between lines, and how to quad-out their lines to properly center them. They chose their type from the many drawers of hand-set type in Mr. Bernhard’s collection. He was most gracious in allowing the students to invade his workshop and use his precious equipment.

With Oskar Bernhard’s historic building in the background, my students gather for a group photo in Nördlingen. In back are me, Franz Eder, Martin Hämmerle, Christine Wiechers and Oskar Bernhard. Second row: Antonia Schaefer, Jessica Dimulias, Skyler Ulep, Front row: Sophie Wegenknecht, Ashley Boehmer, Shauna Rinaldi El-Abd, Emily Hoehenrieder and Prof. Martin Delp. Photo by Ashala Lawler

It was fun and highly educational. Each student had a chance to set type, to position it on the press and to print several sheets of finished work on Mr. Bernhard’s proofing press. They had an experience that one cannot get in a textbook, nor from a PowerPoint presentation.

After our day in Oskar Bernhard’s workshop, we had a pizza, then took a guided tour of the town, the only city in Germany that still features a wall around the city to keep marauders out. At the end of the day, we sent the students back to Munich on the train, and we stayed behind for a nice dinner and a second day in the historic city.

At Cal Poly we have the motto “Learn By Doing.” One of the reasons that Munich’s program is such a good fit for our exchange program is that its system is also based on hands-on learning. With our visit to Nördlingen and to Oskar Bernhard’s workshop, the students had a worthwhile learn-by-doing experience that they will long remember.

Note added May 10, 2017:
My students and I created a thank you poster to send to Herr Bernhard. We included hand lettering by Sophie Wagenknecht and a translated version of This is a Printing Office by Beatrice Ward. Each student signed the poster and we mailed it to Oskar Bernhard.

Posted in Education, History, Typography | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Poster-Paster

In my collection of books related to printing and publishing is a delightful edition from Dover of line art engravings from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

I wrote about reproducing these illustrations in a series of blogs I wrote in January and February of this year. They are surprisingly challenging to reproduce with digital technologies. I use that book occasionally as a source of early graphic arts illustrations.

Today, while out on a journey to buy some chain lubricant for my bicycle, I encountered a 19th century event here in Munich. I passed a man putting up advertising posters using a long-handled brush with paste on it. First he brushed the paste on the wall, then he applied a poster, then followed by painting paste on the front surface of the poster with his brush.

I suppose that the paste works its way through the poster and helps to hold it in place when the paste dries.

I have never seen this done before. It was amusing to me, as one of my favorite engravings is of a poster-paster putting up a poster by this technique.

What made it even more amusing was that as the man worked, the wind picked up a couple of the posters he was hanging, and they blew down the street. The poster-paster’s assistant took chase and brought them back. The illustration above, drawn in 1836 by British cartoonist Robert Seymour, came to mind.

Today’s poster-pasting experience was an eye-opener for me. Techniques used in previous centuries are still at work today.

Above, the poster-paster with his long-handled brush applies white paste to the wall, then to the posters after he has applied them.

Posted in Adventures, History, People | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

270° of the Alps in one panoramic photo

Yesterday my wife and I ventured south from our temporary home in Munich to the German Alps. We traveled by Deutschbahn trains, and a bus (construction on the rails required this) and then another train to the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. From there we took yet another train to the Grainau station where we boarded a cog-wheel train that travels up, and then through Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze.

This is the Zugspitzbahn train at the Garmisch station. This one does not use the cog-wheel drive mechanism. We changed trains further up the canyon to get that train.

The cog-wheel train, run by electricity from overhead catenary cables, uses a pinion gear in the center of the trucks that engages fixed rack gear teeth in the center of the rails. The gear drives the train up and down the tracks, and prevents it from slipping on the rails (normal trains cannot climb more than a few degrees). This train climbs on grades as steep at 25 percent, meaning that it climbs 2.5 feet for every ten feet of horizontal travel, which is extraordinary.

This is an actual rack-and-pinion gear/track mechanism on display at the Zugspitze building at the top of the mountain. The teeth of the pinion gear hold the train on the rails, and provide motive power to drive the train cars up and down the tracks.

At the end of the cog-wheel train trip, which travels for about an hour through a tunnel dug through the rock, we emerged at the ski lodge near the top of the mountain. Then we boarded a cable car which took us to the very top.

At 9,717.82833 feet elevation I took panoramic photos and regular photos of the Alps in a spread that seems to go on forever. I had my tripod and panoramic mount with me, and I used that for what I consider to be a “normal” panorama – 12 frames with my wide angle lens of the view. It’s breathtaking.

Then I decided to take a high-resolution panorama of the entire spread of the Alps before me. For that I used my telephoto lens, shooting 32 photos to capture a sweep of 270 degrees at the southern-most point on the building at the top of the mountain. I use a Really Right Stuff carbon fiber tripod and ball-head as my travel tripod, and it has degree markings on the base of the ball head. I planned my shot carefully and took a series of carefully-indexed images of the view from the balcony of the building.

Then, back in Munich, I stitched the 32 images together (I use PTGUI Pro for stitching) to make a 270-degree panorama of the German/Austrian Alps looking (mostly) south from the Zugspitze.

This panorama was taken from the top of the Zugspitze in southern Germany. It takes in the Alps from the German border, and looks southward into Austria. Click to see a larger version which is 3636 × 190 pixels, and then click on it again for the largest view. At the extreme left edge is the gilded cross that stands on the very peak of the mountain: 2,962 meters above sea level.

The resulting panorama is very nice. It is just under a gigabyte in size, and measures 24 feet x about 12 inches at 300 ppi at final resolution. I present it here in a reduced size to fit the web. It’s an interesting image, and I plan to print it out 24 feet long, as that will be an even more interesting image.

Note from April 10, 2017: The full resolution file, which is 72,612 x 3,788 pixels in size is available for interactive viewing at

Posted in Panoramic Photography, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s in a street name?

I walked down Bayerstrasse yesterday morning, heading east from our apartment near the Hauptbahnhof, then turned right on Senefelderstrasse. I made a point of doing this because I was on my way to the big Calumet camera store in Munich (Calumet has gone out of business in the U.S. but seems to be prospering here).

This is the view west on Bayerstraße in Munich. Bayerstraße is named for Friedrich Bayer, the co-inventor of aspirin. I get a headache just thinking about it. This is a block from our apartment in Munich.

My reason for choosing Senefelderstrasse instead of the street before it, which would have been a bit shorter, is that Aloys Johann Nepomuk Franz Senefelder is the inventor of lithography, and I have never walked his street before. I took this street to honor him.

I’ve found Senefelderstrasse, and have learned that there is also a Gutenbergstrasse near the Nymphenburg Castle, and even a Mergenthalerstrasse a little further out near the Wurm River. I will go walk those streets and write nostalgically about their namesakes when I get a chance.

Senefelderstrasse is not a grand street by any measure. It’s populated by travel agencies and a few low-end hotels. There are a couple of vegetable stalls and a neighborhood market. I walked the length of it.

The corner of Senefelderstraße and Bayerstraße in Munich. This is in the vicinity of the central train station.

Herr Senefelder discovered that an image could be made on a smooth, polished limestone surface using regular drawing tools – pens, pencils and such, then that image could be inked, and the stone cleaned with water to make a reproducible image on the stone. A piece of paper, some pressure, and (as they say in German) voilà! You have printing.

The stone quarry that Senefelder preferred is called Solnhofen Quarry. His limestone slabs were quarried in Solnhofen and nearby Eichstätt, about 100 km. north of Munich. That particular stone was quarried for lithographic stones (and other artistic purposes) for centuries. Today it is treated as an archaeological site because the quarry is rich with fossils. Here is a quote from, a web site devoted to the archaeological importance of these limestone quarries:

Solnhofen is known for the 10 Archeopteryx prehistoric birds that have been found here. The first feather was found in 1860, and the first Archeopteryx was found in 1861. In the Jura Museum in Eichstätt and the Bürgermeister Müller museum in Solnhofen you can see the original fossil birds.

The Solnhofen limestone was named after the village of Solnhofen in the Altmühltal valley. This limestone is exposed in a large area around the village. Many villages in the area have their own commercial quarries. The limestone is used for building material.

The limestone from the upper Jurassic period occurs in the area between Weißenburg, Regensburg, Nürnberg and Ingolstadt.

In the Altmühltal there are several museums, where you can learn about the geology and see the fossils found in this area. More than 800 species of plants and animals have been found in the Plattenkalk from the Jurassic period.

It’s fun to be in the heart of Germany, in the places where the seeds of printing were planted.

A field trip!
I’ll be taking my Advanced Typography students on a field trip to Mainz, to the Gutenberg Museum, on the 25th of April. There we will see two of Germany’s 12 Gutenberg Bibles, (known as Hubay 8 and 9). We will also receive a lecture by that museum’s specialist on Herr Johannes Gensfleisch (probably his real name).

I’m enjoying the opportunity to go straight to the source on these typographic and printing topics. And you will read about it here in the Blognosticator (German edition) as I make these treks.

Posted in History, Printing and Printing Processes, Typography | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Bishop Peak Portrait Project is very nearly up!

For the next five months I’ll be living in Munich and teaching at the Munich University of Applied Sciences. I arrived here a week ago and I had my first classes this week.

But, last week, before leaving San Luis Obispo, I saw the finishing touches being applied to my Bishop Peak Portrait Project. This is the year-long photographic project that I did to document San Luis Obispo’s signature mountain. It will be installed in the Baker Science Center in the coming weeks, I hope (it’s just a matter of being installed on the wall now).

Emma Wilson, my assistant on the Bishop Peak Portrait Project, stands with the first finished panel: March, and September, 2016. Emma had just finished installing the aluminum photos into the display panel. There are six of these panels that will soon go up in the Baker Center at Cal Poly.

This project has been in my blogs for the last 15 months (you can start reading about it here). It involved putting a time-lapse camera on the roof of the Kennedy Library at Cal Poly, and taking a photo of the mountain every five minutes for a year. That year began on March 1, last year and ended on February 28 this year. In the middle I took about 70,000 photos, and culled them down to a smaller 40,000 photos from which I picked the best image each day and had them printed on aluminum plates (about 1/16 inch thick).

I machined these photos on a CNC router to precise dimensions, then inserted into large aluminum panels I cut on the same machine to accommodate the images.

Cal Poly COSAM technician Rob Brewster aligns one of the photos in position on the September panel. We used an amazing double-sided adhesive to hold the photos in place.

I was originally planning to put the panels up, and then slowly populate them in-place until the project was complete, but technical difficulties interfered with my plans, and it ended up taking almost the entire year to get those panels cut and ready for installation. Eventually we decided to put the photos into the panels first, then install the panels – complete – on the wall of the building.

In the weeks leading up to my departure for Germany my student assistant/right-hand-woman Emma Wilson helped me get to the finish line. She and I had been working for several months to prepare the panels and the photos, and get the pieces in place for completion. We worked with Cal Poly technicians Rob and Doug Brewster who figured out how to finish the project and get the panels installed.

It came down to the wire. We were putting photos into the panels on Monday, March 6, and I boarded the plane to Germany on Friday, March 10. I saw the completed panels before I left. Emma, Doug and Rob finished those I was unable to do myself (my classes interfered with the photo project!).

When I return from Germany we will have some kind of an event to mark the installation. I’ll announce it here.

Many thanks to everyone who made it possible: Dean Phil Bailey, Associate Dean Derek Gragson, Doug Brewster, Rob Brewster, Emma Wilson, Jim Eckford, Ashala Lawler, Bryn Forbes, Eric Johnson, Tim Hastings, Dale Kohler, Sarah Sayeed, Patrick Kammermeyer, and others who have helped in various capacities. Thank you all!

To read all of the entries about the Bishop Peak Portrait Project, start here.

Posted in Photography, Photoshop techniques, Printing and Printing Processes | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Once a bitmap, always a bitmap

In my recent series of blogs about reproducing line art from 19th century copper engravings (and similar line art) using modern digital technologies I showed how scanning as grayscale and converting to bitmap format (with the 50 percent dither option) creates the best line art reproductions.

In the weeks since, I have had a chance to put this to the test on the 29-inch four-color Heidelberg press at Cal Poly. My students and I developed a test sheet for my Color Management course, and across the top of that sheet I placed a series of variations of the line art I had scanned for this blog earlier in the month.

This photomicrograph shows the line art of the original scan (still at 2400 ppi) with color halftone dots overprinted (the Heidelberg prints in KCMY order). This proves my theory that Prinergy’s halftone engine observes the integrity of black-only bitmap images even when they are part of a CMYK tonal image.

I also pushed the technique one step further to introduce a color overlay on top of a bitmap file to colorize the image. The purpose of this was to test my theory that once converted to bitmap (sometimes called “one-bit” art) I could return the image to grayscale and add a color overlay without affecting the line art on the black channel.

The work flow I proposed in my earlier blog works fine for strictly black and white reproductions, but a bitmap file cannot be a color file, so adding the color overlay requires another few steps to ensure success. First, as before, scan at very high resolution. I recommend 2400 pixels per inch because this will capture the finest detail in nearly any engraving. Curiously, the resolution of our Kodak Trendsetter platesetter is also 2400 machine spots per inch, so the two happen to be the same resolution. Having more resolution on the platesetter might result in a better image, but I can’t test that at present (hint to Kodak: Cal Poly needs a new Trendsetter).

This is the continuation of the work flow diagram I presented in a previous blog. This one includes the conversion of the scan to bitmap, then back to grayscale, and the addition of a second Layer in Photoshop for a color overlay.

Adding a color overlay layer to the bitmap layer requires that the file format be able to contain color. To do this I converted my scanned image to bitmap at 2400 ppi (using the 50% threshold technique) and then immediately converted it back to grayscale (using a Size Ratio of 1) which leaves the art as it was modified to bitmap. The pixels are either 100 percent black of 100 percent white.

Once I have the image back in grayscale, I copy the image to the clipboard. Then I create a new document in Photoshop in CMYK color (Photoshop already knows the pixel dimensions of the clipboard). Once that file is created, I paste the contents of the clipboard onto the black channel, leaving C, M and Y alone.

The safest way to proceed is to create a new Layer in the illustration and paint any color you want on that layer. I set the Mode of the layer to Multiply, and I am then free to draw or paint in color on top of the line art. I choose strong colors – a pink for the skin tones, rich blue for the jacket, etc., and I paint with those colors at 10 percent opacity level in Photoshop. Because the entire layer is in Multiply mode, all artwork on the layer is overprinted on the final file.

The result of this is charming. The illustration holds its original character, but color is added. And, the result of my test on the Heidelberg shows that an image, once converted to bitmap, remains a bitmap file even when the illustration is converted back to grayscale. The color overlay in this example is converted in Kodak Prinergy to halftone dots – which are essential to the appearance of the final illustration – while the line art remains one-bit black and white line art. The result is excellent, and I have learned that the behavior of the Prinergy halftone engine exempts one-bit information from being converted to halftones (which are harmful to the character of the original engraving).

This technique also works for comic book art, allowing the artist to work in black and white, and then later add a color overlay to the work. The benefit here is that comics that print on black-only presses can be printed with the black channel, and those that have CMYK available can print with all four colors. The only difference is whether to apply the color layer to the art or not.

Posted in Art, Photography, Photoshop techniques, Printing and Printing Processes, Scanning | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prince Bold made Neue

Every really cool font eventually comes out in a “neue” version. The most famous is Helvetica Neue, which was the modernized version of Helvetica, with its normalized weights and corrected curves and very subtle curve changes.

Prince Bold is based on a font of wood type in the collection of the Shakespeare Press Museum at Cal Poly. It was cut in 1832 from blocks of black walnut. It still prints beautifully on the museum’s many letterpresses.

Last year I designed (or more correctly – converted) a type font called Prince Bold. It is based on a font of wood type that is in the collection of the Shakespeare Press Museum at Cal Poly. Interestingly, it turns out to be the oldest item in the collection, having been made in 1832. It was carved mechanically from black walnut by a company in Connecticut, and then sold by a type foundry in New York City. Considering that electric tools were not in use in 1832, it would probably have been carved with steam-powered routing machines. The precision of the carving shows a tremendous degree of sophistication in manufacture. There are incredibly fragile thin line components of the letters, parts that have never broken or failed in the 185 years the type has been in use. The walnut wood used was amazingly hard, and that wood has stood the test of time.

The original wood type is about three inches tall. It appears to have been cut by rotating router cutters, and finished by hand with sandpaper and files.

The original font had the unimaginative name Roman XX Condensed. I renamed it Prince Bold in honor of Raymond J.Prince, who has been so generous to the graphic arts industry, and to Cal Poly, in his philanthropy. Our students made an impressive presentation of Prince Bold to him last year when they all showed up at a dinner wearing bright red T shirts emblazoned with a big Prince Bold P in white on the front.

In the making of the digital font, I first proofed the wood type on our Vandercook proof press, then scanned the proofs and re-drew the letters in Adobe Illustrator. I was faithful to all of the vagaries of the letters in doing this. I wanted the new font to be as accurate as possible. The first version was true to the original, and that version is quite condensed.

This is the ampersand glyph in FontLab Studio. I try to be a minimalist when drawing letters with vectors. This letter, and all the others have as few anchor points as possible, resulting in smooth curves and gentle variations. Notice that the round parts, top and bottom, exceed the baseline and the X-height lines. This is to overcome an illusion that round letters appear smaller than their counterparts when they are within the boundaries.

When I remade the Roman XX Condensed to Prince Bold, I un-condensed it, using a tool in the font design program FontLab Studio. That was easy: I put a number into a formula and watched as the program widened all of the letters. Then I started the laborious process of correcting the variations in the font. The tiny hardwood serifs were not consistent, the thins were slightly variable, the thicks were mechanically consistent, but visually imperfect. I worked on it for about a month and what came out the other end was a passable font that resembled the original wood type, but looked more modern.

Other small changes included making the round letters larger than their geometric fellows. This, in a digital font, means making the round parts of letters like O and S, and g and p extend beyond the baseline and x-height lines of the design. When done correctly, these letters then look the same size as their geometric counterparts. I also made the punctuation marks larger to match the weight of the font, and I drew a whole list of characters that exist in a regular digital font, but which never existed in the original. These include the accented characters for Romance and Germanic uses, and ligatures, currency symbols, etc.

The test of any type font is its use. I have had a few chances to use Prince Bold in printed projects, and every time I use it I see errors in the design that I want to fix. One recently pushed me over the top, so I went to work on Prince Bold and repaired a number of the letters to make the font look better overall. 

The most glaring problem was an emaciated lower case z (see above), which was drawn from the original wood type exactly, but when used in text just looked wrong. It needed something, but I wasn’t sure what. The lower case s was similarly skinny, looking out of place among its neighbors. The question mark was ugly and didn’t match the other letters, as was the lower case e. And so on.

This is the revised version of the lower case z, and wider lower case e and o.

Jim Parkinson, the famous Oakland type designer, once told me that you never finish a type font. He said, “You declare victory and move on!” He has decades more experience than I do (and he is a much more talented designer than I am). But, after being in the type design world for many years now, I appreciate what he said. Instead of perfecting a font forever, it’s important to finish! I’m sure I’m not finished with Prince Bold, but it is a lot better now than it was at first.

This shows the modifications to the three letters (gray), each wider than the original (light green). The z is most different, making it not only match the other letters better, but making it more stylish.

Will I rename it Neue Prince Bold? I don’t think so. But it has been made neuer than it was, and I am much happier with the design now.

The font will be available for sale soon from the Shakespeare Press Museum at Cal Poly. Proceeds of all sales will buy the students an occasional pizza.

Posted in Art, New technology, Typography | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bishop Peak Portrait Project comes to a close

Last year about this time I was preparing to install my remote camera on the roof of the Kennedy Library at Cal Poly.

I built a weatherproof box, designed and built a circuit board, tested the system, and then carried it up to the roof and installed it there to take a photo of Bishop Peak every five minutes for a year.

The project required me to build an entire infrastructure for taking, processing, printing, cutting and assembling photos. It was not without its problems.

These are the stacks of aluminum prints, month-by-month on my workbench. The photos are printed by dye-sublimation onto 1/16 inch thick aluminum material. I machine them to a precise size to fit mortises on my display panels.

At the end of the first week I realized that the battery I installed in the box was not large enough. The solar panels were good at charging the battery, but after four days of gloomy weather, the system stopped. The ampere-hour rating of the battery and the ampere-hour consumption of my system could only survive four days without sunshine. We have not had four days without sunshine in many years, but last March we had five. So I added a second battery with a 10 AH rating to cover the occasional gloomy patch. We didn’t have any more gloom until December.

In November, the camera froze one night when the temperature dropped below 32 degrees. I built a heating element and thermostat to overcome that problem (I don’t think it was ever needed).

This is one of two photos this month to feature the Moon. In the year of shooting I have collected only a few images that have the Moon and the mountain in the same frame.

In late December and early January we got a lot of rain, and some of the rain found its way into a connector on the solar panel output, shorting-out the system for a day. The camera continued to take photos until the battery died. Luckily I was on the roof to service the camera on the day after it failed.

I have had no water incursion in the camera box, and through wet weather and dry, scorching heat and windy weather, the system kept going. The Raspberry Pi computer and custom made circuit board stood the test of time. It’s still up there running! (I have a complete back-up of the system which I switched in the fall just for good measure.)

…and this is the other. Despite a considerable amount of rain, there have been some beautiful days in the first two weeks of the month.

The camera begins taking photos at 5:00 a.m. and stops at 9:00 p.m. The photos number (after I discard those taken in the dark) over 38,000 at this point. There are just over two weeks left in the project. When it’s finished I will go up and get the final photos, then get them printed, and then I will remove the camera system from the roof.

This is a mock-up of the final display with all photos in place to February 14, 2017. What I love about this project is the diversity of the light and the weather on “my mountain.” Notice August (upper-right): that was the month when we had huge wild fires raging in this and two adjacent counties. The sky was red for weeks with ash and smoke from those fires. This will be about 16 feet wide when installed at Cal Poly. Click on the image for a larger version.

The project will soon go on display in the Baker Center at Cal Poly; it will be a large-scale installation featuring 365 photos – one each day from March last year through February this year. The display will be about 16 feet wide and five feet tall. Each photo is printed on 1/16 inch aluminum plate, then machined to a precise size for insertion into my display panels.

I have been working on this so long and so intensely that it feels like a second job. I have spent many hours standing by my CNC router as it cuts the finished photos to size (one minute and 41 seconds per photo), and many more hours preparing the large aluminum panels for the display.

It has been fun and the photos are simply amazing. I’ll post again when the display goes up.

To read the final (?) story on the Bishop Peak Portrait Project, follow this link.

Posted in Photography, Photoshop techniques, Printing and Printing Processes, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Meet Lorem Ipsum

I’m not making this up.

Three years ago I was looking at my roll sheet for my Introduction to Graphic Communication course at Cal Poly. About a third of the way down the list I stopped at the name Lauren Ipsen, and could hardly believe my eyes. Was it possible that I was about to meet the person responsible for the automatically-generated text we get in page layout programs when we insert placeholder text?

This is Lauren Ipsen. Really.

Lauren, a student in her third-year in the Graphic Communication department, is the living, breathing human who has the authentic name that is almost the same as the text that is generated by InDesign and other page layout programs.

The recent update of Adobe Illustrator changed the text tool so that when one clicks with the text tool icon on a page, Lauren’s name is placed on the screen. This is an improvement in Illustrator that was added to prevent people from leaving text anchor points unused in their Illustrator documents. I like the new feature mostly because it puts Lauren’s name on my screen.

Ms. Ipsen is a native of Walnut Creek, California, and is hoping to graduate in 2018, though she may spend a little longer in the program while she takes classes in journalism to learn more about television. She is also hoping to get an internship in the television industry this summer.

Lauren has been studying graphic arts processes and learning about typography, web site design and all of the printing processes we teach. She spent the fall quarter studying in Florence, Italy. Now she’s back in the thick of flexography and offset printing presses, and learning a lot.

On the topic of Lorem Ipsum, Lauren is both amused and flattered by the association. She rather enjoys having a name that is nearly synonymous with placeholder text.

This is a sample of “Greeking” – placeholder text inserted into a document when you are designing pages but don’t yet have the real copy. Pagemaker, the first page layout program, inserted this kind of gibberish, always beginning with the words “Lorem Ipsum.” QuarkXPress offered this as well as filler text in Klingon.

I decided to look into the Lorem Ipsum text a bit, and I found (no surprise) a web site devoted the the subject ( On that site, which openly invites linking and copying, there is a fascinating history of the Lorem Ipsum text.

Apparently it comes from Cicero, and according to the site, it has been used as filler text for centuries. The modern implementation of it, which first appeared in Aldus Pagemaker (grandparent of today’s InDesign) which would fill any space with the almost-nonsense pseudo-Latin text.

In my youth, we described such nonsense text as “Greeking.” We should probably have been referring to it as “Latining.”

Here is a citation from about the common text (with some editing by me):

In design magazine, Before and After Magazine, a journalist [John McWade] wrote in volume 4, number 2 the following:

After telling everyone that Lorem ipsum, the nonsensical text that comes with PageMaker, only looks like Latin but actually says nothing, I heard from Richard McClintock, publication director at the Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, who had enlightening news:

Lorem ipsum is latin, slightly jumbled, the remnants of a passage from Cicero’s ‘De finibus bonorum et malorum’ 1.10.32, which begins ‘Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit…’

English translation: There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain…

De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum, written in 45 BC, is a treatise on the theory of ethics very popular in the Renaissance.

What I find remarkable is that this text has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since someone in the 1500s took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book; it has survived not only four centuries of letter-by-letter resetting but even the leap into electronic typesetting, essentially unchanged except for an occasional ‘ing’ or ‘y’ thrown in. It’s ironic that when the then-understood Latin was scrambled, it became as incomprehensible as Greek; the phrase ‘it’s Greek to me’ and ‘greeking’ have common semantic roots!

Today I salute Lauren, my student and friend, and I introduce you to her. She will go through her very happy life making her cheerful impression on everyone she meets. Some of them will say, “Isn’t that the stuff that InDesign puts on the page when you fill with placeholder text?”

And she will smile and tell them, perhaps, that it is actually her name that InDesign puts on the page.

Posted in Education, History, Language and grammar, Typography | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment