Social Media Cleansing

I am on my path to stop using social media. Not using LinkedIn has no effect on me. I hardly used LinkedIn anyway, but I still keep my account active. I miss family and friends on Facebook, especially on news such as weddings or funerals. I keep my account active to maybe check in once in a while. I wish I could mass-delete all my content on Facebook. I reactivated Twitter, but not posted anything new. I miss the type community, but I don’t want to move over to Mastodon. My only involvement in the type community is Vietnamese Typography and people can find me on that site.

The biggest issue I have is not following the web community. I need to keep myself up-to-date with the latest web developments. Unfortunately I have been out of the loop for over a decade. CSS grid and web fonts were the latest two skills I picked up. I haven’t used any JavaScript frameworks. I still write my HTML and CSS from scratch. WordPress’s block theming is beyond my knowledge. I am still using the classic editor for my blog. I wonder how long WordPress continues to support the classic editor.

I still have tremendous love for the web. I love the ability to create websites the way I wanted, not having to use someone’s codes, templates, or platforms. I still enjoy creating small websites such as Everlasting Eye Care, Thinkpoint Creative, and Kristin Bair. These sites were designed and developed using HTML, CSS, and a bit of PHP. They will last forever. If I were to develop a blog from scratch, I would not know what software to choose. WordPress has moved beyond a blogging system.

In any rate, I am happy with the changes that I have made, which will allow me to spend more time offline. I am getting tired of all the social media chaos.

A Better Approach to Building Vietnamese Diacritical Marks

In his latest video, Type Designer Stephen Nixon spent 40 minutes sharing his approach for designing Vietnamese diacritics—something I had always wanted to see since I started to do research for my thesis. Even though I don’t know anything about Glyphs and RoboFont, the process looks intriguing. The best part of the video is when Stephen walks through a book called Vietnamese Typography by yours truly. Of course, I am biased.

As Stephen pointed out, designing Vietnamese diacritics seems to be intimidating at first, but with my website as a reference and some practice, you will do just fine. I am always available to review if you need feedback on your Vietnamese diacritical marks. If you’re designing a Latin typeface, you should have no excuse not supporting Vietnamese diacritics. You have all the resources you need at your fingertips; therefore, you should plan to incorporate Vietnamese diacritics early in your process.

Watch Stephen’s video for technical details. Reach out to him if you have any technical questions. Get in touch with me if you need help with your diacritical design. I charge a small fee, but we can also negotiate if your budget is tight.

Vietnamese Sample: The Tale of Kiều

Nguyễn Du’s Truyện Kiều (The Tale of Kiều) is recognized as the masterpiece of national literature. Structured in lục-bát (six-eight) couplets, Truyện Kiều, which consists of 3,254 lines, is not only a literary bible but also a national epic that has inspired political debate, social critique, and revolutionary spirit.

Last Friday, I typeset Truyện Kiều in Portada to showcase Vietnamese Typography. With Portada, ​​Veronika Burian and José Scaglione set out to create a serif family that’s as clear and readable as a sans family in digital environments. Portada is designed specifically for user interfaces as well as long reading online. Portada has extended its support for Vietnamese. In working with Vik and José on Vietnamese diacritics for Portada, I caught a glimpse of how the two talented designers collaborated. They lived up to their foundry’s name: TypeTogether. For the title, I chose Water Brush, designed by Robert Leuschke, which has a hand-drawing vibe, to give the cover a paper quality.

When I published and launched the online version of Vietnamese Typography, I created a few samples just to give type designers how Vietnamese diacritics were being applied to different applications and publications. The samples, however, have turned into small design projects for me to experiment with Vietnamese typography. In addition, they have become my collection of Vietnamese art, culture, and literature. I hope you enjoy glancing at them or reading them if you can read Vietnamese. Take a look at Truyện Kiều.

A Note From Dr. Mỹ An T. Nguyễn

In conducting my research for the redesign of Everlasting Eye Care, I looked around at other optometry websites to see how they are done. What I have found are similar templated designs on their homepage with stock photos of people wearing glasses, a few marketing words, and a big button to schedule an appointment. They all claim to be “personable” and yet they all look and feel generic.

In talking with Dr. Nguyễn, I felt the deep passion she had for her profession and the genuine caring she had for her patients. As a result, I decided to scrap all the marketing materials on the homepage and just put up a personal note from Dr. Nguyễn:

Hi, I am Dr. MyAn T. Nguyen and I have been practicing optometry, specializing in dry eyes and contact lens, since 2007.

I have a passion for vision care because I get to enhance people’s quality of life by improving their eye health. As an optometrist, I enjoy interacting with many different people and learning about their diverse backgrounds.

Your eyes are precious; therefore, I will take the time to get to know you, to address your concerns, to provide you with the best treatment options, to offer the latest advancements in the vision industry, and to reassure that you are completely comfortable.

I invite you and your family to come to one of my offices for all your eye needs.

–Dr. MyAn T. Nguyen

I just love that she wants to enhance people’s quality of life by improving their eye health. Her message is relatable and a nice photo of her added a personal touch. When you come to one of her offices, you know exactly who will take care of your eye health. If you live around Trappe or Norristown, Pennsylvania and need an optometrist, come see Dr. Nguyễn. I guarantee that you will get the highest quality of services. I have known Dr. Nguyễn since fifth grade.

Flashback

Đán has been obsessed with Flash. He spends most of his screen time finding ways to install Flash Player on his PC. He explained to me step by step the process of getting Flash to run. He showed me newgrounds.com, which still has Flash games. I haven’t visited that site in 20 years. He even showed me the Flash Browser, which is still in beta. I don’t know if it will ever gain traction.

Even though I repeatedly informed that Flash is dead and unsecured, he kept digging in. I feel bad that he’s just wasting his time, but he feels passionate about it. I don’t want him to end up like I did. I wasted so much time learning Flash in college and I ended up ditching it. All I cared about was making cool Flash animation. I thought I would get paid just creating Flash intros. I was so dead wrong. The reality started sinking in when I could not find a job doing Flash. In addition, I had a Flash burn. I was creating the same thing over and over again and I failed to learn Flash scripting language. I was depressed and thought of quitting web design altogether. I could not do anything else besides Flash, but I also hit the crossroads on my Flash path.

I dropped Flash and hit the reset button. I transitioned over to HTML and focused on web standards. CSS rescued my career. HTML for structure and CSS for presentation made so much sense. They opened up a whole new web design world for me that I didn’t know existed. I was stuck in the Flash bubble for so long. Once I discovered HTML, CSS, and a bit of PHP, I never looked back. They aren’t as sexy and as cool as Flash, but they are accessible and outlived Flash. HTML and CSS are the backbone of the web. Flash came and went. Fancy JavaScript frameworks dominated and faded. HTML and CSS are here to stay.

I still love creating pure HTML and CSS sites because I know they will work for years to come. My fancy Flash creations are completely useless, but my HTML and CSS sites are still usable. If Đán wants to learn about the web, he should learn HTML and CSS. I’ll teach him if he’s willing to learn. In the meantime, I just let him explore on his own. He’s just nine years old. He has plenty of time to learn.

The Web I Love

The other night, I woke up around 3:00 am and couldn’t go back to sleep. I reached for my phone then started browsing. Somehow Greg Tate came to mind. I wanted to reread his essays. I found a handful of his work from the Village Voice and a few from Rollin Stones and Spin. As much as I love Tate’s articulate criticism, particularly on music, I hated reading his essays filled with annoying ads and JavaScripts that not only slowed down the loading to a crawl, but also kept freezing up the page. I wanted to just take all the content and create a book website without ads and JavaScript and with high-quality typography and editorial design. I want to keep his legacy alive. I might be running into the copyright issue even though I won’t make any money off it.

One of the perks of working at the law school is that every once in a while I would receive a bobblehead of a Supreme Court Justice from a generous and creative law professor. In the past ten years, my collection has grown. From Antonin Scalia to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Sonia Maria Sotomayor, I have a display on my bookcase at work. I heard the rumor that some of these bobbleheads had been sold on eBay for a few grants a pop. They are gifts and priceless to me. I will keep them for as long as I can and I wanted to make a website showcasing them. I also wanted to learn more about them since I still don’t know many of them, especially the Justices from the past.

Just the thought of creating passion projects like these makes me love the web even more. I love to just design a website and share it to the world. All I need is some great content to markup in HTML, style in CSS, and set in flexible typefaces. I don’t need bloated CMS, JavaScripts, and third-party ads. For almost two decades working on the web, I sat out on all the frameworks. Even WordPress has become way too complicated for me to develop a theme. Full-site editing is where WordPress is heading. I have become more of a WordPress user than a developer. For my own blog, I am using about ten percent of WordPress’s capacity. I am still using my own theme, which has an index.php, style.css, and screenshot.png. From the start, I knew I wanted to keep my blog simple and easy to update. I use no photos, no JavaScripts, and no bloated CSS. I am still using the Classic Editor, which I don’t know how long the support would last.

So far, my simple sites with just HTML and CSS still stand the test of time. I hope all of my sites will stay online for as long as I am alive. I don’t want to worry about them after I am gone. My body will return to dusk and my sites will return to nothingness. I have learned to accept the reality of it instead of trying to keep my legacy alive.

Những câu thành ngữ

Cách đây hai tháng, tôi đọc quyển sách Vietnamese Stories for Language Learners gồm những truyện dân gian được ông Trần C. Trí và cô Lê Trâm dịch sang tiếng Anh. Ở những trang cuối của sánh có phần mục lục những câu thành ngữ tiếng Việt. Tuy không đồng ý với một số câu chuyển ngữ của dịch giả, tôi vẫn lấy làm thú vị nên thiết kế một trang mẫu để đưa vào quyển sách Vietnamese Typography của tôi. Mời cả nhà xem thử trang “Vietnamese Idiomatic Expressions” tôi vừa thiết kế xong.

The Art of Poetry Translation

In his book of poetry collection, Spring Rain, Tâm Minh translated 50 classic works from poets including William Henry Davies, William Butler Yeats, Robert Frost, Christina Rossetti, and Thomas Hardy. I chose a few pieces that dealt with life and death to create a sample page for Vietnamese Typography. For typesetting, I chose Loretta, designed by Abel Martins and Joana Correia, for text, Mea Culpa, designed by Robert Leuschke, for titles, and Albula Pro, designed by Silvio Meier, for authors. Take a look.

Almost There

In the past three weeks, I had been working late nights to edit my aunt’s stories about our family. I wanted to turn it into a web book similar to Vietnamese Typography. I wanted to add old photos as well as profile information for the characters in her stories, which included my mother’s parents and her siblings.

Although I volunteered to put the website together, my main focus was on editing. I had been blogging on this site for 20 years, but it was the first time that I edited someone else’s work. It was a daunting task to edit both English and Vietnamese. What I looked for were spelling errors, cutting down repeated sentences to make the flow better, and consistency—particularly in English to keep the stories in past tense.

I had the impression that when my aunt wrote these stories, she wanted to get the words from her head to the page. As a result, she didn’t pay much attention to the technical part of writing. As an editor, I came to her stories from a fresh perspective; therefore, I had an easier time to spot the errors. I had learned quite a bit editing someone’s writing, but I don’t enjoy it as much as writing.

In addition to editing the stories and designing the website, I wrote an epilogue. I wish I could share the entire book, but it was intended as a family project. I will share my piece on this blog.

The final draft is almost finished. I just wanted to get it done so I can get back to my normal routine and catching up on sleeping. I had a booster shot yesterday and my arm is sore.

Chữ Việt phong phú

Thông thường những nhà thiết kế chữ liên lạc với tôi để cố vấn về phần dấu trong chữ Việt của chúng ta. Họ muốn biết những dấu họ thiết kế có đúng và dễ đọc cho những người bản ngữ. Cho nên trách nhiệm của tôi là nhận xét cách thiết kế và vị trí của từng dấu. Chẳng hạn như dấu sắc và dấu huyền nên đặt bên phải hay bên trái của dấu ớ để người đọc có thể nhanh chóng nhận ra chữ ngay. Hoặc các dấu cao hay thấp để những hàng chữ không bị chạm vào nhau. Tóm lại là tôi chú trọng vào sự rõ ràng và dễ đọc trong phần chữ Việt.

Tuy nhiên cũng có đôi lúc những bộ chữ không thuộc về sự rõ ràng mà thuộc về thẩm mỹ. Phần lớn chữ được thiết kế theo thẩm mỹ có những cá tính rất riêng. Chẳng hạn như bộ chữ Megazoid của nhà thiết kế David Jonathan Ross. Bộ chữ này có tính cách hình học (geometric) qua sự thử nghiệm giữa hình tròn và hình vuông. Khi David thiết kế dấu cho chữ Việt, anh hỏi ý kiến của tôi như thế nào. Lúc đầu nhìn cũng khó chấp nhận, chẳng hạn như những cái dấu bị dính liền với nhau, nhưng để ý kỹ tôi nhận thấy lạ và hay.

Lúc đầu anh đưa tôi xem, những chiếc dấu rất mong manh so với chữ cái nên tôi góp ý với anh là thiết kế dày dặn hơn để dấu và chữ được phối hợp chặt chẽ với nhau. David đồng ý và đã sửa lại. Dĩ nhiên bộ chữ này không thể dùng để đọc mà dùng để đẹp.

Nếu như bạn thích những bộ chữ có tiếng Việt để thư viện chữ của mình phong phú hơn, bạn nên tham gia câu lạc bộ Font of the Month Club của David. Mỗi đầu tháng anh sẽ gửi một bộ chữ cho những người trong câu lạc bộ. Mỗi tháng chỉ có $6. Nếu tài chính bạn hạn hẹp, bạn chỉ cần đóng $2 một tháng. Tôi đã tham gia từ lúc anh mới bắt đầu ba năm trước. Đến giờ tôi vẫn là thành viên.