Wednesday, 8 August 2007

A different 'type' of film

My family gave me my first introduction to the mysterious world of book creation. One of my mother's sisters was a freelance typographer, and she would carefully mark up galley proofs and layout sheets with instructions for compositors and editors. When I was a child - long before the personal computer arrived on the scene - the most amazing new tool at my aunt's desk was a box of Letraset lettering sheets. Using these new "dry-transfer" or "rub-down" letters (invented in 1959) she could easily show, as well as tell, the printers which font and type size she wanted. This was a technological leap forward for her, and made her life a lot easier.

I remember watching her at work in her attic studio, where she had sheets of all kinds of typeface samples, as well as more conventional printed books of type designs. In my mind's eye there is one, and only one, typeface that evokes that time. Then it was new and modern and exciting, but today it is so ubiquitous and commonplace that it is almost invisible.

That typeface is Helvetica, and to mark its 50th birthday, director Gary Hustwit has made a film about it. I'm planning to go and see it when it comes to the ICA in London in September.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Technical Writing blogs

I have just added the details of this blog to Tom Johnson's Tech Writer Blog Directory.

There are a number of bloggers listed there who I know personally from various conferences and activities (mainly STC-related), including Mark Levinson, Rhonda Bracey, and Sarah O'Keefe, and other names I recognise as being "the usual suspects" (that is, regular contributors) from a number of tech writing related email lists I subscribe to.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

The Tool Bar and Grill

Ever since I became a technical writer back in the mid 1990s I have been impressed by the friendly and helpful attitude of almost every single person I've met in this profession. I have always benefited from the experiences of my colleagues, and I hope I now do my bit to help other professionals by contributing to various mailing lists and being active in the STC. (By the way, the new STC Europe SIG now has its own web page.)

One of the people I worked with in those early days was a particularly helpful, friendly, and good-natured colleague. He is now writing a blog about free and low-priced tools and utilities that can make your computing life that much easier. I am delighted to recommend Jonathan's Tool Bar & Grill.

(Now is that one word or two? "tool bar" or "toolbar"? or should it be capitalised as "Toolbar", or even "Tool Bar"? Answers, on a postcard please, to Tech Writing Pedants Anonymous...)