Watch out for that diamond sign

diamond signDonald E. Knuth, Professor Emeritus of The Art of Computer Programming at Stanford University, maintains one of the homelier homepages on the web. But he has a refined eye for design. I’m fascinated by his photographic collection of diamond road signs. Knuth is known for attention to minutia. He invented TeX a system for typesetting and Metafont a format for creating and encoding typefaces on computers. Perhaps it’s his eye for typographical detail that drew his eye to the distinctiveness to be found in common road signs.

Dean Allen thinking clearly again

Over at A List Apart, I ran across an archived article by Dean Allen published back in November of 2001. Dean is an interesting character with a keen insight into how communication design works. His critique of Edward Tufte’s rant against PowerPoint is what first got me listening. He created Textpattern, a PHP-based content management system for websites. Anyway his thoughts titled Reading Design ring refreshingly true to someone who makes a living trying to wring clarity from OPP (Other People’s Powerpoint).

Cultivating Diffidence

Mick LaSalle doesn’t always seem to care what he writes these days in his movie reviews for the Chronicle. But today’s piece on “The Constant Gardender” goes far beyond anything that makes it into the New York Times or the New Yorker. His description of Ralph Fiennes’ performance deserves a place in the OED for the meaning of “diffidence:”

Fiennes can be an austere actor, but this role calls for different notes, a softness, almost a sweetness. He plays Justin, a diplomat sent to Africa in the British foreign service, with a specific and rather interesting form of diffidence — as interesting here as when one finds it in real life: It’s the diffidence of someone who is meek by disposition, but whose self-image is, at bottom, healthy and confident. Such people are interesting because they’re rare, in that most people, if anything, tend to be the reverse, blustering on the outside and unsure on the inside.” 


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