Books damaged in transit
4 April, 2018

This is not at all a new story but I am just sharing the story for posterity’s sake. And while there is a tiny part of me that is still bitter about the whole experience, I’m basically now over it. In retrospect I’d also say this was also a learning opportunity and I won’t make the same mistakes with my next move.

The sucky bullet points:
I don’t know what the worst part of this whole thing was:
1) That I paid significantly more money for insurance, which required “professionals” to do the packing;
2) That the “professionals” rudely rebuffed my requests to be please careful with my precious books;
3) That numerous books were significantly damaged in shipping; or
4) That in the end I wasn’t able to even make an insurance claim.

Well, clearly these all suck, but #3 is the worst. Ideally nothing would have been damaged in the first place.

The full story:
I relocated from Berlin to Mumbai on October 1st, 2014 and I brought a small selection my favorite possessions with me. After 7 years in Germany I had acquired a massive amount of stuff. Some of that got packed, a small fraction was sold, and most was just given away. I ended up carrying 3 bags with me on the plane and had 50 boxes of other items shipped by sea – about half of which were books. All the things I had shipped were personally very special/valuable (many irreplaceable) and therefore it was an easy decision take out full insurance for the shipment. Part of the insurance’s requirement was that the moving company must to do the packing – the idea is they are the experts and they will do it properly.

Unfortunately, the brutes that were sent to do the packing were anything but careful with my books. I was only allowed to tell what to pack or not, but I could not help. On several occasions I politely requested they be more careful with my books, letting them know how many are quite valuable, and they snapped back saying things like “we know what we are doing” and “stop telling us how to do our job.”

Aside from the rough handling of the books, I was actually trusting that the packers did in fact know how to safely pack everything. So I basically just left them to pack the bookshelves, and I focused on sorting all the other things that should stay or go.

Three and a half months later my shipment arrived to Mumbai at the end of December. Kimya and I had already assembled a massive new shelving system and were eager to begin unpacking the boxes. To our dismay, you can see what we found when we cut everything open. Every box looked like these few shown above. The photos here illustrate only a fraction of the problems, but at least not all books were damaged. Some of the bends and deformations were able to be pressed out, and after a few days or weeks the books many were somewhat better. But dozens more are still permanently damaged, many quite seriously.

The problems got magnified when I tried to contact the shipping company to make a claim. We exchanged numerous emails and I had to make several calls to them back in Germany. For a few weeks they tried to simply say that I didn’t have insurance. Eventually they acknowledged I did in fact have insurance but that I couldn’t make a claim. Many weeks went by and different excuses were given – none of which had merit. Finally in the end, they cited a specific page of one of the contracts, (oddly enough I didn’t have a copy of this page, but I had copies of everything except this one), and it said the claim must be made within 2 weeks of delivery. Because of the shipment’s delay (by over a month), it arrived only two days before my parents were coming for their first visit to India – for our wedding. Once they were there, we were occupied with hosting duties, last minute wedding preparations, our huge Indian wedding, and a brief honeymoon. When we returned, we immediately emailed the shipping company, 15 days after getting the shipment; i.e. 1 day late too late. The terrible cherry on top was just how rude and uncaring the shipping company was. Not only did they give me a run around for weeks, using any excuse they could, they never had any sympathy or apology for any damage caused. They were absolutely the rudest and most uncaring company I’ve ever worked with. If you are moving in or from Germany, let me know and I’ll be happy to not recommend them to you!

P.S.— A draft of this post has been sitting around for years, but it’s finally been published because new moving plans are again forming. More on this soon. For now I’ll just say that we will be packing the books ourselves this time! And hopefully the next move will yield a positive story.


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Potato Alphabites
18 March, 2018

These novel alphabet shaped frozen potato things were a total failure. I tried cooking them with less oil (which normally works with regular frozen fries), just made these disintegrate. They became 90’s grunge style.


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A peek into our studio
12 December, 2017

I’ve not shared many photos from our current studio in Mumbai. Here’s a small pano of our two main rooms – the library and studio. We hosted two classes of students last week, this is one of the groups as they were browsing the books and archives.


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Our library is growing
9 December, 2017

We recently went on a mini book buying spree and then realized that we had nearly ran out of shelf space. Luckily, our custom shelving system is modular and easy to expand. The vertical spacers are welded and powder-coated steel fabricated by local metal dude, so we just had to go back and ask for four more pieces. The shelves are readily available plywood, that only requires 12 holes and a bit of sanding. So now we have 20% more space, and even with the new books added to the collection, there is more room for more shopping!

Also, as you may have already seen, I am in the process of digitally cataloging all these materials. It’s a slow process, but once done will make finding specific resources easier – and more importantly, this will allow us to publish the whole catalog online for everyone’s reference. The current status is that I’ve entered 320 books (accounting for 57,620 pages) till now. The bookshelves are divided into 15 sections, 7 of which are cataloged, 6 are still to go, and two are empty. One of these remaining sections will be relatively simple to do, the others will be more tedious. Of the remaining 5, 3 are type specimens – those will be extremely time consuming. The last two are either about, or written in, other languages and scripts, so they will also tougher to catalog.


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365typo
9 March, 2017

Facebook poked me today with this memory from 4 years ago:

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I was invited by Typo Magazine to make some sort of image to celebrate their 50th issue & 10 years of the magazine. I was fortunate to share the spread with my friend Oded Ezer. That turned out to be the final issue as well. I still think of them often and wish there were still new editions to look forward to.

Luckily, the brainchildren behind the magazine – Filip Blažek and Linda Kudrnovská – have continued on with a great new project: 365typo. It’s a year book of typography, featuring 365 articles of type & graphic design news. It really is an epic and useful volume to catalog current events in the type world. While many of the stories found there are also available online, having them carefully curated, professionally edited, and in print form is certainly better for archival purposes.

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In 365typo #2 (year 2016), my typeface Fip was featured as one of the top 50 font releases of the year! Thank you to all for selecting it!

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I also have a short report about Indian truck lettering that takes up a spread. It is a modified version of my post about Maharashtra’s ban of the words “Horn OK Please” on vehicles.

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I’m quite late posting about this project… But it’s not really that time sensitive, they still have copies available! You should absolutely still go buy this book if you haven’t already!

Finally I’d just like to say thank you to Linda and Filip for having me be a part of it!


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Apple Sign Painters Shoutout
28 October, 2016

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Kinda cool that Apple gave not one, but two shoutouts to sign painting in their latest keynote announcing the new MacBook laptops.

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The Making of Our Ridiculously Complicated Wedding Invites
29 July, 2016

As you’d expect from two designers, Kimya and I created our own wedding invitations. They are completely typographic and were loosely inspired by decorative lettering found in India. Drawing and refining the tiny details in the computer was the easy part, but then actually getting the cards produced was most complicated printing we’ve ever attempted. The cards were screen printed with three layers of split-fountain colors plus gold ink on the outside, and the inside had one split fountain gradient screen. And both the inside and out had layers of gold foiling on top. The many layers with such fine details made the production of these pretty stressful (for both us and the printers). However, the fact it was made here in India was the only thing that made it feasible in the first place. Getting something this complex produced in Europe or the US would be impossibly expensive (but it probably would have been a smoother process).

 

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A screenshot of our completed Illustrator® file (before color separation).

 

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The first step in getting the cards produced: picking out the perfect paper. This is the dealer where we found it.

 

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Next stop was to drop off negatives of each color layer to the screen printer. This is the entrance to their modest space.

 

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The studio is on the first floor (second American floor), don’t forget to watch your step when leaving.

 

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Kimya is supervising the three printers, going over how it should all work. The split-fountain/gradient technique was totally new to them and they were extremely hesitant to try it. After much explaining and several YouTube video tutorials they agreed to give it a shot.

 

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Printing begins with the light to darker orange shadow layer.

 

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Gold was the next layer.

 

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A test print trying to get the right tone. The final gold is much lighter than this.

 

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A test piece showing the first two colors.

 

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The drying rack.

 

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Next came the red to pink layer.

 

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Checking the last screen before printing.

 

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With the light to dark green layer printed.

 

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Finally the inside’s pink to red screen is getting done. Shown here is a test that’s not yet a smooth gradient, but that quickly improved.

 

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The alley to the foiling shop’s entrance.

 

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Such a cool workspace…

 

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Testing some foil color options.

 

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This shop is super fun; there are so many machines and things to play with… Unfortunately their work is normally just quick and dirty so they needed some pushing to experiment and be more creative.

 

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The first full tests are being done on a hand press.

 

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This is the original zinc foiling plate. After seeing the test prints, we decided to add more detail and make it more elaborate.

 

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Just a few days later we are testing the new plate. The design is much more interesting, but we after more than an hour (and dozens of wasted cards) we couldn’t get the foiling registered with the printed ink. Finally the guy in charge told us that when the zinc plates are heated, they expand somewhat (but by what percentage he had no idea), and he told us that if this level of detail was so important we should have used copper plates instead. Those don’t expand as much (again, no idea how much, only that they are better than zinc). Copper plates are about 3x the price of zinc and they take a few extra days to make, but we went for it.

 

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The three plates.

 

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Foiling is finally underway. Even with the copper plates, registration was still difficult and the workers there were getting rather annoyed at us checking every print.

 

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The plate on the press.

 

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Once it’s set up, the system is pretty economical with little wasted foil.
 

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A scrap on the floor.

 

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Trying out a wild rainbow gold.
 

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These were our top three options. Most cards were stamped with the matte gold on top, but about 40% were done in the super bright gold in the middle. The bottom glittery version would have been fun, but he didn’t have enough foil in stock, and couldn’t get more, so there are only a few like this.

 

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The next step was finding the paper for the custom envelopes. Eventually we found a nice metallic paper – gold on one side, orange on the other. This was the swatch book at a random little paper vendor.

 

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This is where the folding of the cards happened. It’s not easy to see here, but the ceiling is about 5.5 feet high in a special space above a copy shop. Again, we had to hover over this poor man to get the folds to be positioned precisely.

 

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The shop where we planned to get the folded cards cut. After many unevenly chopped tests we got increasingly frustrated and scared. There were already so many steps and so many opportunities to mess up, that to ruin the cards at the very end was not not an option. So this guy recommended another place that had a ‘calibrated’ guillotine cutter.

 

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And here is the more precise machine. More importantly, this awesome dude was incredibly patient with us to help do as good of job as possible. Which turned out to be unnecessarily difficult thanks to the screen printers not having aligned every sheet perfectly (and to some extent the manual folding was also slightly off here and there).

In the end we used the inside’s thin colored border as a gauge to sort the cards into four or five different piles: ‘basically perfect’ and ones with too thick or thin borders on the left, right, and/or bottom edges. Finally, each pile each touched up by shaving off slivers from select sides to make the borders about even.

 

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Once back home we again sorted all the final cards into new piles of based on their overall quality. There were about five different grades simply because so much could have caused problems and many had little issues here or there.

 

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These show a few of the problems in the final cards. Between aligning the 4 colored screens on the front, the printing quality of each ink layer, the the foil alignment, the inside color quality & foiling alignment, the folding, and the cutting, there was so much potential for imperfections. Very few made it to the ‘perfect’ pile, but luckily most only had minor problems. And honestly I think its special that no two were exactly the same and there’s still the impression they were handmade.

 

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Not being content to stop here, we also wanted to have the side edges colored. After enquiring with several shops about doing this, we eventually realized that this was one more risk to ruin the cards… So we decided to do the coloring ourselves. The real method involves spraying or painting stacks of cards at once, but instead we carefully colored them individually using markers. It was a fairly quick & easy to make the cards a bit more refined and visually interesting.

 

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A small stack showing the colored edges.

 

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The custom designed envelope. It was created to reveal just the top halves of the letters when it’s opened.

 

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The final card!

 

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The inside details are in English & Marathi – typeset in Vesper & Vesper Devanagari.

Last but not least, if you or someone you know are looking for custom wedding invitations (or any type of stationary), Kimya offers her design and production services over at Kimya Gandhi Invitations! Check it out!


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Instagram as a Screensaver
22 June, 2015

I want to share with you this screen saver I’ve been using for the last several months. If you are using OS X, Instagram, Dropbox, and IFTTT then it’s incredibly simple to setup. The screensaver is automatically built from your Instagram photos and the photos from others that you’ve liked. The collection of images gets better as it grows over time and has the side effect of backing up your photos and likes.

It works by using OS X’s built in photo screensaver (I am partial to the Shifting Tiles module, but Sliding Panels and Origami are pretty ok as well). All you need to do is point the screensaver to a custom folder of images. To download your Instagram photos automatically to your computer you need Dropbox and IFTTT. You just create a folder in Dropbox to hold your Instagram photos (or better, a parent Instagram folder with two others inside – one for your pics and another for your likes). Then you can use this IFTTT recipe to get your own photos and this recipe to grab the all photos you’ve liked into Dropbox. IFTTT will then automatically download any photo you upload or whenever you like another one; unfortunately it can only start collecting new pictures, it won’t download your existing photos or likes.

If you are into any of these photos, you can follow me on Instagram as @motaitalic.

And a few of my favorite people to follow are:
(the majority of the images here are from these cool people)

@abstractsunday
@frankrolf
@kgilbert9
@kimyagandhi
@jamestedmondson
@laurameseguer
@letterror
@otto_baum
@typojo
@ultrasparky
@vgerlach

One other tip, incase you’ve ever wanted to take a screenshot of your screensaver, you can do it with this little Terminal command via Macworld:

sleep 6.5 ; screencapture -m ~/desktop/image.tiff

You paste it to Terminal, hit return, then quickly start your screensaver, and it’ll take a screenshot after 6.5 seconds. You may need to adjust the delay based on your computer.


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Hobeaux is here!
18 May, 2015

James T. Edmondson is the man! He generously sent me a copy of his sexy new Hobeaux/Beatrice Warde poster all the way to India (check out that address label!). I can’t tell you how excited I am for his Hobeaux family to be finished (even though I guess not all these rad variations will make the final release). You can follow some updates of his progress on Dribble, and he’s for sure worth a follow on Twitter.

PS– I’m not just saying nice things about James because he sent me stuff; he genuinely is an incredibly talented and all around awesome guy!

PPS– BTW, this is the same dude that did the sweet Robothon 2015 logo!

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The Printed Word Is Dead
12 May, 2015

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“The last paper edition of The New York Times will appear in 2018.”

This quote comes from Dick Brass, Vice Chairman of Technology Development at Microsoft back in 2001. The photo is from “The Advertising Brief, 8th August, 2002”. You can see the full article regarding the end of print in the images below.

It’s getting hard to imagine this coming true anymore, but we’ll see in three years. And as the author M G Moinuddin point out, don’t forget about the larger picture: [if newspapers die] “what will the market use to wrap fish?”

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My A is missing something!
29 October, 2014

For the last 5-6 years I’ve been avidly (compulsively) collecting the odd typographic phenomenon of the bar-less Latin capital letter A (like this: Λ). For some reason, many many designers feel comfortable chopping off the horizontal crossbar; they think it transforms the typeface into anything from rustic and runic, to techy and space-aged.

Warning: Once you start noticing barless A’s, you will see them everywhere.

Kinda like this.

My image collection is growing daily (I see/photograph on average 1 new example per day!), and I’ve been meaning to post everything somewhere for years… I’ve just never gotten around to it (and it becomes more difficult to start with every new image I find). But the time has come for a preview of what’s in store. The pictures below are a tiny sampling of the range found in the collection.

Later this year I’ll finally get all my images uploaded, tagged, and sorted for browsing and reference over at The Barless A.

Coming ΛSΛP!

PS– Thanks to Florian Hardwig for the ongoing motivation to actually getting this going!

 


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