Monday, 17 May 2010

Max Kurzweil

One of my favourite paintings – Max Kurzweil’s Lady in a Yellow Dress. Not the usual pose you might find – it looks like a momentary lapse in a party…. There’s a sense of ’Japonisme’ too if you list the features: tied black hair, pale skin, some floral decorative element. I admire the theoretical simplicity of it – at such an busy time in art,1899, when the Vienna Secession was in full swing, and Klimt and Moser were at the forefront of innovation, cool Max Kurzweil makes such a beautiful portrait and adds nothing of the decoration found in so much of Klimt’s work, as it might distract us from his model’s patient gaze. Though, the way she’s cocked her wrist, I don’t think she was that patient.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Phi in the face of beauty

The discussion on the relationship between Phi and the concept of beauty is an old one – and I doubt we would be brave enough to make any conclusion about it in the near future. It’s a somewhat worrying concept to many people: the idea that a number may be behind all that is considered beautiful; that beauty is not subjective, not a case of each to their own. Because Phi is arguably rooted in all nature, it could be that we decide something is beautiful because we have seen its proportions a million times already – and we like familiarity.

I have seen examples of Phi applied to the human face before and it is apparently a champion female tennis player whose face was most commonly used. I’m interested in the role of Phi in beauty though – and if I think of the most popularly beautiful person in recent history, I think of Marilyn Monroe.

I should explain as usual, for any readers unfamiliar with the subject, that Phi is simply a number (1.618) to be used to make proportions by the ratio 1:1.618. It’s also known as the Golden Section or Golden Ratio.

The images below speak for themselves. Look for yourself and all of the ways the lines complement the face. The significance here is that one number, Phi, is behind the relationship of every single pair of lines drawn. By mostly using the measurement between Marilyn’s chin and hairline I have drawn out the golden rectangle and divided it by the proportion 1:1.618. All of the lines below are proportional by that ratio and yet they play to Marilyn’s features incredibly accurately. Even the curve of her hair follows the pink Golden Curve when it spirals from her eye. She must have had a good stylist.

The penultimate image below tries squares as its marker. I began with one whose centre would be Marilyn’s eye and whose edge would touch the base of her chin. Then, reducing in size by 1.618, the squares even show us that her beauty mark is not out of place. We could try an endless number of shapes here to illustrate the wonder of Phi but they’re all fundamentally the same thing – lines whose positions relate b Phi.

The face is not the only human feature to have been analysed this way. In fact, Renaissance artists who dissected bodies (not only Leonardo) would have made such research using Luca Pacioli’s findings. Have a look at your hand – do you see how the ratio between the length of the palm and the length of the fingers looks roughly 1:1.618? Phi is all over us!

Friday, 14 May 2010


I’ve just seen an advert for Maxitone on TV and it has completely ripped off the graphics they use in ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ – I wrote a post about them before. They’ve even used similar music! Tut tut

Compare, shout and jeer, and throw rotten veg at your screen in disgust:

YouTube Maxitone Video

Stranger Than Fiction Intro

Mrs Eaves Sans

That‘s right, Mrs Eaves sans! Did you know about it? I didn’t! It’s going onto my to-buy list though.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Favoured typefaces

I had a peek at my MyFonts albums today and decided to share some of what I've got in them. I think designers are best to just buy, say, 5/6 typefaces from each style (serif/sans/slab) at most, and if they ever want something more jazzy or whatever then they can design it themselves!

By the way: MyFonts is really good for the What The Font? tool that it has – you can upload an image of text, tell it what each letter is, and it'll give you choices of typefaces that match it the closest. Handy if you‘ve seen a nice typeface in film credits – take a screenshot, upload it and bookmark the typeface.

I love the typeface ‘Dante‘ – think I‘ll actually spend my own money on that one at some point (never actually had to buy typefaces before now). Garamond, Dante, and Mrs Eaves are a good bunch to have. I read a book on Egon Schiele once and noticed how nice the type was – it was Mrs Eaves, and I didn‘t know at the time how common that one was. I like what Tschichold wrote in The New Typography but as far as getting rid of serif styles goes…no chance!

I have a few typefaces bookmarked with swiss-ish names, and they look pretty much like Helvetica so I‘d warn people with the same issue to check their similarity before buying in case you‘ve already got Helvetica. Grotesk Modern and Arial are pretty much the same as Helvetica, for a start. Another tip would be to steer away from most typefaces named after locations – as my tutor told me. They‘re usually crap.

Feel free post your own preferences in the comments - I‘ve left out Future, Univers, Garamond and Frutiger here because I already have them.

Fine and dandy

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Typeface chart

I’ve been oh-so-busy at work since last Monday so I’ve not had the energy to sit on my backside and add stuff to my blog lately. I saw this fun little chart somewhere though and wanted to add it for anyone interested in typography. Off to crawl back into bed. Zzzzzz

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