Friday, March 13, 2009

Straight-up, Water-back

Recently I was downsizing a line drawing in Illustrator and failed to mark the stroke to decrease at the same percentage as the image. The overall density of the image increased so much that it was unusable.

This is a proportion problem that becomes quite apparent when a text face is enlarged to poster size and its refined serifs become cumbersome slab serifs.

But I am thinking more in terms of format, as might be encountered in packaging, where usage crosses over from a tiny label on a half-pint bottle to a label on a gallon bucket. An excellent example of this can be seen in the Knob Creek Kentucky Bourbon label.

The label on the pint maintains a delicate balance, where the color planes and density of the typefaces strain to overwhelm the white background, while at the same time the white border holds the design in place. Compare this to the very same label scaled up and applied to the liter bottle, where the density of line and color is lost through dispersal of the graphic elements, and the increased whiteness of the label is the graphic equivalent of a watered-down drink.

Unfortunately you will have to find your own liter bottle, as I do not have a picture of it. In real life, though, it can often be found displayed behind the bar, on its side and resting in a cradle.

Should Knob Creek not appeal to your taste you might take up the typographic study of wine labels. Note the considerable difference in type selection between, say, an emblematic Haut Medoc and a Friday-Casual Zinfandel.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Third Hand

Bicycle shops use a tool called a “Third Hand” for keeping spring-loaded brake calipers closed while tightening brake cables. Anyone who has ever fought to reposition a plate on a magnetic base may well have wished for a third hand.

Here is my idea for a third hand: a squeegee used for laying down pressure-sensitive sticky-backs such as vinyl.

Pictured is a Bunting Magnetic Cerface™ Base with a four-inch plate mounted on it. A squeegee has been inserted under it, so that only the upper right-hand corner is drawn to the base, and allowing the plate to pivot easily.

Because the squeegee is wedge-shaped it can be used to keep a plate standing in position, while you take a line gauge and measure from the top of the base (carefully) to a baseline on the plate and then reposition the plate with your, suddenly, free hand. The wedge can also be used as a sled for sliding a plate left or right or to “float” it up or down.

Admittedly the squeegee is small and works best with small plates (up to 5x8 inches), but that covers a lot of instances; and in my case, that’s a lot of instances, as I print a lot of small plates.

Also shown is a dull graver used for lifting up the plate edge, and an additional squeegee for the full squeegee effect. I am, of course, violating press protocol, of not putting anything on the press bed higher than type high. So be sure to clear the decks.

And best of all: a squeegee like this can be found at almost any graphics supply shop for about a dollar.