Advice From JAY-Z

The following quotes from JAY-Z had been edited for brevity.

My whole thing is to have confidence in yourself. If you’re going to take a chance on anything, you’ve gotta take a chance on yourself. Have that confidence to take a chance, and not be afraid to fail. I personally don’t believe anybody could have stopped me. That’s just how I believe. I was coming; I was destined to be here. A lot of people will put their fears on you. Always believe you’re great, even before anybody else believes it. No matter where you are; there you are. The genius thing that we did was we didn’t give up. You’re doing all of this for a reason. If you want different, you’ve gotta act different.

Don’t ever go with the flow, be the flow. Whatever you do in life, people are going to judge you. Everything is inspiration. Everybody is inspired by someone. I’m a person that believes that everything that happened to you in life happens to shape you as a person. It may not work today and it may not work tomorrow, but this is the right thing and this is what I’m doing. I’m not going to let anybody speed up my process. I don’t care what’s happening out there. That’s the great thing about having ultimate confidence. I don’t have anything to prove; I know who I am. I am a self-aware person. What’s the sense in being successful if you still can’t be yourself? Most important thing I got is everything is connected. Every emotion is connected and it comes from somewhere. Being aware of it in everyday life puts you at such an advantage.

You have to develop. Don’t listen to anyone; everyone is scared. A lot of people will try and put their fears on you. Have such a strong belief in yourself that you can quiet out all the outside noise. Every human being has genius-level talent. You have to find what it is that you’re great at and then tap into it. No one cares whether you live or die and that’s where that mentality grows from. I’m going to get it or die trying. If I don’t try, what kind of life am I saving? I’ve learned more from failure than success. It can be paralyzing to have fear of failure. When you’re self-aware, even when you’re dealing with someone’s ego, you allow their ego to live in its own space. The problem is when you engage that energy. If you engage the ego with your ego. Then it can escalate to a level that is irreversible.

My music is based on life and the things I’ve experienced. Everything is inspiration. This is who I am, this is what I do, and then they jump on this next hot thing and it’s not for you. For me, just having discipline, and having the confidence in who I am and if I go into a studio and if I find my truth of the moment, there are a number of people in the world that can relate to what I am saying and is gonna buy into what I’m doing. Not because it’s the new thing of the moment but because it’s my genuine emotions. Only two things will get you through this, man. That’s patience and persistence.

My first album came out when I was 26. I had seen so many things on the streets. My attitude was that I seen so much, that I have nothing to prove. I became self-aware. I wanted full control over my music. I own everything. Try to own as much of yourself as possible, because it’s gonna pay off in the long run.

I’m really connected to the people. I really feed off the energy of people. I love what I do, and if you love what you do, you want to be the best at it. You don’t make music to be second best. You make music to be the best / It felt like I had a bigger responsibility for the culture and to show it in a different light. The truth is, it’s my passion; It’s what I love to do. Make music and perform, and travel. So it’s who I am. It’s not even a choice for me. It’s just who I am. It’s always good to compare yourself to people you look up to, because you give yourself a high goal.

I used to write when I was young. I would write for hours and hours on end. That stream of conscious comes with you all the time. Whether you’re at the table or not. So as I start moving into the streets, I start coming further and further away from my notebook. So I would memorize these words. Then I would have to run to the house and write them down. When you do that you work up your memory.

Belief in oneself and knowing who you are, that’s the foundation of everything great. You gotta be able to compete, still sharp and still, you gotta get out there and you gotta earn your spot. It’s not given. I learned that if I was going to be successful then I had to be successful at myself. I couldn’t be successful doing what other people were doing; I had to do what I believed in and what felt real to me and felt true to me.

I love that thing of collaborating and you’re taking the best of what you do and someone taking the best of what you do and you not robbing from what they do and they not robbing from what you do and y’all bring the best of what you are to the table and you put it in this mix and you see what happens. You know I love that part of creating. I can’t explain it to y’all, man it just comes out bare for me. I just start mumbling, they say you put the right artist with the right track in the studio, leave the door cracked and let God in.

Work Issues

In Design for a Better World, Don Norman writes about work issues:

Except for scholars who study and trace the path of history, the rest of us are often unaware of its impact. We are born into the world, and our early experiences and belief systems seem so natural and obvious that it is difficult to imagine any other possibility. People take for granted the basics of their everyday life: living in a family, going to school, learning the topics taught in a certain way there, getting a job, and so on. In many countries, jobs take one away from family for most of the daytime hours and oftentimes into the night. All of this is taken for granted.

Why must the demands of work separate families, though? Why must some cultures demand long hours of work, often from dawn to dusk, six days a week from its citizens, leaving partners and children to struggle throughout the day on their own? The need for a large number of workers at one site started early in history-for example, in the massing of people by the Egyptian pharaohs to build the pyramids. In part, it was a natural result of the rise of cities and nations, where people were concentrated. Providing food for large numbers of people required workers to congregate, whether in Baghdad’s cooking competitions in the ninth century or in Venice’s building of ships in the early twelfth century. The standardization of work in factories took place at the start of the Industrial Revolution in the early 1700s for the weaving and spinning of silk and cotton as well as for the manufacturing of household goods in Great Britain.

The path taken by Western countries of the world and exported globally controlled the lives of the workers, treating them as if they were machines to be used until they wore out and then replaced. Time dominated the lives of the workers, with bells and whistles telling them when to start and end the day, when breaks were permitted, and when they could eat lunch. Time dominated the work, and work dominated wellness, satisfaction, and family. Did it have to be this way? No.

Norman writes about family separation:

Families were separated, with those employed rushing off to their jobs, often not to return home until late at night. I have seen the workers in South Korea and Japan work long hours every day and attend the quasi-obligatory drinking sessions after work. These sessions end so late that the workers do not have time to make the long commuting trip back home, so they stay overnight at the many hotels that catered to this need. Workers often do not return to their families for days. Their work habits are slaves to both the clock and the perception of doing work. In fact, the long hours mean that the workers are sleep deprived, often falling asleep at conferences and meetings and on the commuter trains. Studies have shown that long hours produce less work than the shorter, more focused hours used in some countries.

Our Love Notes

After thirteen years through thick and thin together, I still have tremendous respect, admiration, and love for my wife. Last year in particular, was a challenge for us. Once again, our relationship was put through a difficult test.

As the global pandemic hit our country, schools shut down and daycares closed. We both had to work from home, kept our two older sons online schooling, and took care of our two younger sons. We had a difficult time to navigate and adapt to the new circumstance, but we pulled through with the tremendous help from my mother-in-law.

With everyone masking up and taking every precaution, I thought we could ride through this pandemic safely. Then the bad news came when my father was diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer. He passed away and I didn’t get to see him because of the traveling restrictions from Vietnam. Then the worst news came when my mother was tested COVID positive. It shook me to the core. I did not expect it nor I was prepared for it. I had to rely on my wife and her mother to take care of our kids so I could be away for a while.

Then my mother passed away. I lost both of my parents within a month. I was beyond devastated. My heart broke and my soul shattered. I was drowning in sorrow. I didn’t know if I could go on if I didn’t have my wife and kids. They helped me to hold on, to rise above water, and to stay sober. I wanted to reach out to the liquor so badly, but I did not take a drop in that period. If I did, I would have fallen deep and fast into depression. I needed to stay strong for my family. I wrote and wrote instead.

I know I am not a perfect husband, but my love for her is real and I have no problem letting her know. In fact, I have no problem letting the whole world know. Unlike me, my wife does not express herself, but I can feel her deep love. She is a caring daughter, a loving mother, and an understanding partner.

In the past few weeks, I revisited the web page I created for our wedding. Rereading our story and looking at our photographs brought back so many memories and inspired me to expand our love notes. For our thirteenth anniversary, I would like to share our story with you.

Love Notes

Hải Dung and I met through my blog, where she read my amateur reviews on Vietnamese music. When she was searching for an apartment in Poughkeepsie, New York, she reached out to me for advice since I had been living in town and working at Vassar College. Of course, I said yes and asked for her phone number so we could be in contact. I didn’t have the courage to call her because I didn’t want to embarrass myself. Even though I had lived in Poughkeepsie for a few years, I didn’t venture out much and didn’t know much about the area. I stayed silent, but my instinct told me that she was someone special.

A week, a month, and then three months went by. I stared at her phone number, but I still couldn’t make the call. Why was I nervous? What did I have to lose? What if she was the one? These questions helped me pull together my confidence to place that call. My heart beat out of my chest when she said, “hello.” I nervously explained to her who I was, but she could not remember. I felt awkward and embarrassed. As I was about to say, “Sorry for bothering you,” and to hang up the phone, her memory came back. At this point, she already found an apartment and settled in. The only thing I could offer to her was, “Do you want to hang out sometimes since we’re in the same area?” To my surprise, she said, “Yes.”

I invited her to Upstate Films, my favorite independent movie theater in the area. After the movie, I didn’t want our “date” to end; therefore, I invited her to a late dinner. While I could barely eat whatever I ordered, I watched her enjoying a huge plate of shrimp pasta at ten o’clock at night. I was impressed. I couldn’t stop thinking about her.

We continued to exchange emails and dine out at various restaurants around us. We sat by the Hudson River relaxing after a long day at work and chatting about our family, particularly our parents. I told her how I felt about her, but she didn’t reciprocate. She didn’t respond one way or the other, but we continued to see each other once or twice a week. I didn’t know what to think. It seemed as if we were stuck in the friend zone.

Then one beautiful summer evening, we sat side by side on the bench having a passionate conversation about Vietnamese music. She pointed her finger in my direction and I grabbed her hand. To my surprise, she didn’t pull back. I held on to her hand for as long as I could. Our relationship began on a whole new level.

As Hải Dung and I got to know each other, we found out that we shared many common values and interests. We were family oriented, proud of our Vietnamese background, and passionate about Vietnamese music. Vietnamese melodies and lyrics connected us to our roots. To document our love notes, we have selected seven Vietnamese intimate ballads that illustrate our story.

Tình tự mùa xuân

Music & lyrics: Từ Công Phụng
Vocal: Tuấn Ngọc


Tuấn Ngọc is one of our favorite Vietnamese balladeers. When he sings romantic ballads, he pours his heart out. As I was driving Hải Dung back to her apartment from one of our date nights, “Tình Tự Mùa Xuân” came on and Tuấn Ngọc’s vocals swept us away. I had listened to this tune many times before, but the magic only worked when she was by my side.

Em lại đây với anh
Ngồi đây với anh
Trong cuộc đời này.
Nghe thời gian lướt qua
Mùa xuân khẽ sang
Chừng như không gian đang sưởi ấm
những giọt tình nồng.

Come to me,
Sit by my side,
Share this life with me.
Listen to the time glide by,
As the soft approach of spring,
Warms the air
And our tender tears of love.

I didn’t need to say a word. Tuấn Ngọc’s charming voice expressed my feelings at that moment. We held each other’s hand and appreciated our company.

Bài ca hạnh ngộ

Music & lyrics: Lê Uyên Phương
Vocal: Thiên Phượng


As Hải Dung and I decided to embark on our life journey together, we recognized the rough, treacherous road ahead, but we will make it if we hold on to each other’s hand and never let go. When our relationship got tough, we reminded ourselves of Lê Uyên Phương’s advice:

Rồi mai đây đi trên đường đời
Đừng buông tay âm thầm tìm về cô đơn.

Later, on the journey through life,
Don’t let go of my hand to seek your quiet solitude.

The soft and fragility in Thiên Phượng’s voice somehow carried the weight of these meaningful lyrics. As long as we hold on, we won’t be alone. We will always have each other.

Vì đó là em

Music & lyrics: Diệu Hương
Vocal: Quang Dũng


Through his warm baritone, Quang Dũng captured the romantic beauty in Diệu Hương’s lyrics. His sincerity was felt when he delivered these lines:

Không cần biết em là ai
Không cần biết em từ đâu
Không cần biết em ngày sau.
Ta yêu em bằng mấy ngàn biển rộng
Ta yêu em qua đông tàn ngày tận
Yêu em như yêu vùng trời mênh mông.

Who you are doesn’t matter,
Where you’re from, I don’t wonder,
What you’ll be, I don’t worry.
My love is a thousand oceans strong,
My love will fight winters and eternities long,
My love, like the sky, will always be.

“Sure my dear, I love you just the way you are,” I made a joke and she accused me of “dẻo mồm” (smooth talker). Called me whatever she wanted, but I loved seeing her smile. She had a beautiful smile.

Nụ hôn gửi gió

Music: Hoàng Việt Khanh
lyrics: Hiền Vy
Vocal: Quang Lý


I played this rare, contemporary, folk tune, composed by Hoàng Việt Khanh, to Hải Dung because I loved Quang Lý’s delightful delivery. She immediately gravitated toward Hiền Vy’s lovely lyrics:

Môi em mọng đỏ, là đỏ như mơ
Cho anh nhờ gió hôn vào là vào môi em.

Your full red lips, crimson like a ripe apricot,
Let me summon the breeze to give them a gentle kiss.

What a graceful, subtle approach to express affections for your lover.

Niệm khúc cuối

Music & lyrics: Ngô Thụy Miên
Vocal: Thụy Vũ


The first time she invite me over to her apartment for dinner, I brought along a bottle of wine and Thụy Vũ’s solo debut, “Tháng sáu trời mưa.” As we wined and dined, “Niệm khúc cuối” came on. I invited her to dance with me for the first time. It felt like heaven. Of course, we had to pick this tune for our first dance at our wedding. Ngô Thụy Miên’s lyrics touched our souls every time:

Cho tôi xin em như gối mộng
Cho tôi ôm em vào lòng.
Xin cho một lần, cho đêm mặn nồng
Yêu thương vợ chồng.

Be the pillow I embrace,
Let me hold you in my arms,
Let us share warm nights together,
Loving one another as husband and wife.

Rồi đây anh sẽ đưa em về nhà

Music & lyrics: Phạm Duy
Vocal: Mộng Thúy

A lovely ballad from Phạm Duy reminds us of the days we sat at Eastman Park talking about life, family, music, and everything else until two in the morning. Accompanied by a simple, elegant piano, Mộng Thúy’s sweet soprano brings us back those memories:

Rồi đây anh sẽ đưa em trở về
Về nơi công viên yên vui lặng lẽ.
Hãy ngồi đây, ghế đá ngày xưa
Dưới hàng thông có gió lửng lơ.

And I will return with you
To the quiet park of our youth,
Where we may sit on the old bench
Under pines caressed by the breeze.

Bài không tên số 28

Music & lyrics: Vũ Thành An
Vocal: Tuấn Ngọc


Our love story is filled with memories and this is just the beginning. Each day our love grows stronger than the day before and we’re looking forward to sharing our lives together:

Cho đến trăm năm vẫn còn say
Xin đến trăm năm không rời tay.

Until a hundred years pass, our love shall never end,
For a hundred years more, never letting go.

Thanks to Đỗ Trọng and Anh-Chi Đỗ for all English translations.

Helpful Marriage Advice

A dear friend and a longtime reader of my blog had emailed his advice on marriage. He and his wife have been married for 39 years. They had gone through fights as well and he shared some of his personal experiences. For his privacy, I won’t share his personal information, but only his advice, which I find helpful. I hope you can learn something as well.

Couples fight. No exception. Since fights are unavoidable, a couple has to know HOW to fight, and how to wrap up a fight. Most couples lack this skill.

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, “Is this person worth it for me to try so hard?” But in our case, the next equally important question is, “Are my children worth it for me to try so hard?”

In my case, I find that by trying just a little harder (it’s not that bad in the grand scheme of things), by loving without demanding to be loved back, by being honorable without being proud, I can be ready for death whenever it occurs—which is necessary with the current plague.

Now, if you still love her, spend more time with your wife and be gentle with her, and ask her to be gentle with you. Tell her you are certainly not perfect, and even though she is better than you in many ways, but she is not perfect either. Yet two imperfect people can still have a perfect union, if they help rather than hurt each other. They have to be allowed to have their own little crazy moments and be forgiven later. We all need this kind of forgiveness.

Lastly, you seem to work too hard. I hope you and your wife have time to exercise. It’s harder to be happy if you’re not in good shape.

Thank you TD for reading and reaching out. I appreciate your advice.

A Manifesto for Readers

Will Schwalbe, Books for Living, (p.14):

We over schedule our days and complain constantly about being too busy; we shop endlessly for stuff we don’t need and then feel oppressed by the clutter that surrounds us; we rarely sleep well or enough; we compare our bodies to the artificial ones we see on television; we watch cooking shows and then eat fast food; we worry ourselves sick and join gyms we don’t visit; we keep up with hundreds of acquaintances but rarely see our best friends; we bombard ourselves with video clips and emails and instant messages; we even interrupt our interruptions.

When it comes time for us to decide what we should buy and how we should spend our free time, we expect ever more choice. And in order to try to make our way through all of the options we’ve created for ourselves, we’ve turned the whole world into an endless catalog of “picks and pans,” in which anything that isn’t deemed to be mind-blowing is regarded as useless. We no longer damn things with faint praise—we damn them with any praise that is less than ecstatic. Loving or loathing are the defaults—five stars or one.

And at the heart of it, for so many, is fear—fear that we are missing out on something. Wherever we are, there’s someone somewhere doing or seeing or eating or listening to something better.

AMA’s Business Grammar Workshop

In the past two days, I checked out of work and escaped politics to focus on grammar. The workshop provided me the opportunity to brush up my writing skills. Christy Woods is both a grammar geek and an engaging instructor. She took her time to explain the rules and answer our questions. I have learned so much in two days. If you would like to step up your grammar game, I highly recommend this seminar. I have a lot to unpack, but I had jotted down some notes to remind myself.


Lay: put or place (Remember: Layaway)

I lay the book down.
I laid the book down.
I have laid the book down.

Lie: rest or recline

I lie down.
I lay down.
I have lain down.

Principal vs. principle

Principle only means one thing: foundation or main.


President Obama (capital P)
president of the U.S. (lowercase p)


Well-known author
The author is well known
Carefully considered decision (no hyphen with ly)


It’s all about the sound of the vowel.
A horse
An honest man
An FBI agent

Subject and verb agreement

Use the verb that closer to the subject.
The product and the services are free.
The services and the product is free.

Some of the pie is gone.
Some of the pies are gone.

Someone from the Green Societies is here to see you.

The issue of war, peace, and nuclear holocaust was of paramount important at the conference.

Every one of the students wants no exam.

Neither the dealers nor the manufacturer guarantees this product.

None of the workers have signed the contract.

Neither my friend nor I am ready for the exam.

Between: Preposition

Between you and me (not I).
Between him and her.


Substitute “he” and “him.” If “he” fits, use who. If “her” fits, use whom.

Who/whom ate my sandwich? (He ate my sandwich. Him ate my sandwich.)

Who/whom should I talk to about you? (I should talk to he. I should talk to him.)


Affect: verb (influence)
Effect: noun (result)
Effect: verb (to create, cause) to effect change


e.g., For example (general)
i.e., That is (specific)


Farther: measurable (miles)
Further: unmeasurable

Recommend Books

Building Trust with Users

The following note is taken from an UIE seminar presented by Steph Hay.

  • Users are skeptical: So how do we build trust with them?
  • Build Trust First: Trust makes users happy.
  • Gaining trust takes time: This is why it’s so valuable
  • Building trust isn’t easy: It’s not really free, either.
  • Building trust is awesome because it costs time and energy.
  • Trust comes from setting realistic expectations, then meeting them: Over and over again to infinite and beyond.

Set real expectations

Using words people actually say

Know yourself

You’re real. People trust real.

4 techniques for writing real-person content

  1. Test message in AdWords: Write user-oriented messages to test for clicks (nor conversions)
    • Specific: “Eating out too much? Learn how to budget”
    • Generic: “Know your finances. Save money. Worry less.”
  2. Embrace the unsexy words used in organic searches: Being found isn’t about selling or educating or being clever—it’s about being found
    • Toutapp: Write your Sales Email faster & know what happens after you hit “Send.”
  3. Look at entry points and top content in Google Analytics: Write more of what visitors are looking at…be proactive
    • Tealet found that its blog posts draws customers.
  4. The mom test: Your personal bullshit meter
    • If you’d feel like a tool saying it to your mom, you probably sound like a tool.

4 techniques for meeting expectations

  1. Don’t be abrupt: Be helpful even when you fail. After all, you set their expectations in the first place.
  2. Make your forms fail-proof: Be explicit in microcopy and specific in validations so the user always “wins” upon submit.
  3. Anticipate the gaps: Sweating the details of error messages or 404 pages shows
    you’re there even when stuff goes wrong.
  4. Ask users two questions:
    1. Why did you [sign up]?
    2. Why [do] you keep coming back?

Writing Content For Usability

The following note is taken from an UIE seminar presented by Steph Hay.

Three elements of compelling contents

  • Focus
  • Credibility
  • Consistency


  • Audience
  • Medium
  • Network


  • Don’t: consider everyone
  • Do: Focus on one ideal person, then speak directly to her


  • Don’t: think in isolation
  • Do: capitalize on other communication channels to tell your story


  • Don’t: forget others’ messages
  • Do: consider how your network will describe you—and influence your target audience
  • RTI: Promote other network such as public research


  • Meaningful
  • Helpful
  • Results-oriented
  • Confident


  • Don’t: fill space
  • Do: take the time to ensure your writing says something


  • Don’t: assume users know what to do
  • Do: tell users what you want them to do


  • Don’t: just list what you do
  • Do: explain what awesome things users will get from you


  • Don’t: over promote
  • Do: showcase confidence while being humble


  • Structure
  • Voice
  • Style


  • Lead with the meat: Tell users what they need immediately
  • Include what’s relevant: What’s the most relevant things right now
  • Use keywords throughout: Users won’t be lost


  • Write in a genuine tone
  • Avoid bloated statements
  • Rewrite anything that sounds ridiculous when read out loud


  • To end (or not) lists with full-stops
  • Capitalization, punctuation in headings
  • Website/web site, log in, sign up
  • Woot
  • Geico: They branded the result of save time and money in everything they write

How Do I Start

  1. Write
  2. Choose
  3. Rewrite
  4. Prioritize

The Process

  1. Write with abandon: Brain dump of one liners. Think of that person you want her to do
  2. Highlight the meatiest stuff: Just important words, not sentences
  3. Rewrite using the meat only: Rewrite the sentences with only the highlighted words
  4. Prioritize: Move from message to motivation to goal

Notes For Graphic Design History Class

Notes taken from Graphic Design: A New History by Stephen J. Eskilson

Introduction: The Origins of Type and Typography

Around 1455, Gutenburg published his famous Bible, which was set in a typeset of gothic script called Textura, a name that refers to the dense web of spiky letterforms that fill the completed page, giving it a “textured” look. Textura was an example of blackletter type, meaning that the letters strongly resembled the calligraphic writing of medieval scribes. (p.15)

One of the finest early books printed in Venice using roman type was Eusebius’s treatise De Praeparatione Evangelica, published by a French expatriate, Nicolas Jenson (1420–1480). He proved to have an excellent eye for forms that are both highly legible and beautiful.(p.17)

Around 1500, Aldus Manutius (1449–1515), a Venetian humanist and printer, published the first work in roman italic type. (p.17)

Manutius also produced a number of roman forms, and the one he used in his 1495 volume of De Aetna, by Pietro Bembo, proved highly influential. Along with Jenson-Eusebius, Bembo is the basis for the group of roman type called Old Style, which together are distinguished by their understated contrast, bracketed serifs, and oblique stress. Old Style, followed by Transitional, and then Modern. (p.17)

Another important contribution to Renaissance typography was made by the French printer and publisher Claude Garamond (1480–1561). One of Garamond’s key contributions was an adaptation of Manutius’s Bembo that is perhaps more refined than the original. (p.17)

Philippe Grandjean de Fouchy (1666–1714) was appointed to cut the new type called Romain du Roi, “roman of the king.” The invention of the Romain du Roi probably represents the first time that a horizontal and vertical grid became the basic tool for structuring a typeface. (p.19)

What made the original Caslon so popular was not any dynamic, stylish flair, but rather its solid functionality.(p.20)

The Transitional types created by John Baskerville (1706–1775) were almost universally condemned for what was perceived as their stark, abstract qualities and extreme contrast in stroke widths. A desire to print his typeface accurately had led Baskerville to a number of innovations in the printing process. First, he had invented new inks in order to make the slender, delicate shapes of his letters stand out on the page. He experimented with different paper types, finally settling on wove paper that had a smooth, glossy finish. Baskerville also used a technique called “hot pressing,” whereby he would heat newly printed pages between copper plates, a process that smoothed the sheet while also setting the ink more effectively.(p.21)

Around 1783, Firmin Didot refined his family’s roman face to help create the new Modern style. Didot would soon become the most influential Modern face, because it set the standard for contrast, stress, and geometric structure. (p.21–p.23)

In Italy, Giambattista Bodoni (1740–1813) of Parma introduced the Modern style in the late 18th century. Influenced by the work of the Didot foundry, Bodoni created a beautiful roman that further defined the Modern style. (p.23)

Chapter 1: The 19th Century

Industrial Revolution: The invention of the steam engine and the rise of inexpensive, mass-produced printed materials contributed to life in the new urban setting.

Honoré Daumier (1808–1879), one of the most celebrated, or notorious—depending on one’s perspective—caricaturists employed by Philipon, created literally thousands of lithographs for the three newspaper [La Silhouette, La Caricature, and Le Charivari]. (p.28)

The German inventors Friedrich Koenig (1774–1833) and Andreas Bauer (1783–1860) sold their new power press to The Times newspaper of London in 1814. It could produce over one thousand pages per hour. (p.29)

Lithography had been invented late in the eighteenth century by Alois Sanefelder (1771–1834), a German playwright who had sought an inexpensive way of reproducing theatrical scripts. The chemical process he devised allowed for an image to be drawn directly onto a block of limestone and then reproduced in large quantities at low cost. (p.29) [oil and water do not mix. Break boundary of locked metal type printing press]

Chromolithography: the invention of process color printing made the accurate photographic transfer of color images more feasible, if not yet commonplace, by the turn of the [19th] century.(p.29)

The pictorial newspaper was one of the most influential types of nineteenth-century publication. (p.30)

Photography was an important technological development during the nineteenth century that would later prove crucial to the evolution of graphic design. The ability to make “drawing with light,” which is the literal meaning of the word “photography,” was discovered simultaneously in the 1830s by a Frenchman, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (1787–1851), and an Englishman, William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877). (p.30)

Yellow-back novels became one of the most exciting new products to appear in Victorian England around mid century. [Yellow-back features eye-catchy typography]. (p.38)

The Great West (1879), is a fine example of (black and white lithography and then hand colored), its bright color and epic vista matched with an uncertain grasp of perspective space. (p.38-39)

Hoardings: Where posters could be be legally hung by their distributors. (p.40)

One significant contrast with the European market was the American use of bright, expressive color in advertisements (p.41)

The nineteenth century also witnessed the advent of the color political poster (p.41)

The Victorian age indeed witnessed many examples of the mixing of a multitude of confusing styles in the design of periodicals. (p.45)

One class of type invented in the nineteenth century that has remained influential through to the present day is the sans serif. The first commercial sans serif was released in 1816 by William Caslon IV (1780–1869). (p.46)

Linotype (1886) and Monotype (1887). Monotype helped women got into the workplace.

The first advertising agency, N.W. Ayer & Sons, was established in Philadelphia in 1869. (p.50)

William Morris (1834–1896) embraced the arts and crafts movement. Morris indicated his belief that the design of arts has an important role to play in improving the lives of everyday working people. (p.50)

Chapter 2: Art Noveau: a New Style for a New Culture

After establishing his firm in 1866 through which to pursue lithographic printing, Jules Chéret (1836–1932) worked out a process that would allowed him to create brightly colorful posters with a wide range of hue, value, and intensity. (pg.59)

Chéret’s Les Girard (1879; pg.60) has Japanese influence with text and image integrated.

Ukiyo-e, or “floating world,” caught the attention of the French art world. (p.62)

Leonetto Cappiello’s mature style mixed his own gift for caricature, Japonisme and a dash of Chéret’s kinetic colorism into a striking new synthesis. For example, his 1906 lithograph of Maurin Quina features a dynamically moving green devil, which serves as a complement to, or even sardonic commentary on, the ubiquitous, luscious young women posing as allegorical fairies that dominated the market for aperitif posters. (p.63)

Alphonese Mucha (1860–1939), moved to Paris from Czechoslovakia, built his career in posters because of a bit of luck that tied him to the actress Sarah Bernhardt (“The Devine Sarah”) (p.63-64).

An advertisement for an alcoholic drink, the poster Absinthe Robette (1896), by the Belgian artist Privat Livemont (1861–2936), displays the expressive organic form, curvilinear rhythm, and sensual atmosphere that are synonymous with Art Nouveau. (p.65)

The posters of Théophile Steinlen (1859–1923) contrast sharply with the dense, decorative elegance of Livemont or Mucha. Instead, Steinlen’s posters, such as Cabaret du Chat Noir (1896), feature the bold simplicity of the Japanese print. (p.67)

Steinlen’s La Rue (1896) provides an excellent example of how some artists and critics hoped that the art of the poster would enliven the often grim streets of urban Paris.(p.67)

Auriol (1901), the typeface by George Auriol (1863—1939), combines elements derived from Asian calligraphic scripts, such as the gestural flourishes and the variable thickness of each line, with the languid elegance of the Art Nouveau. (p.68)

Each night at the Moulin Rouge, a frisson of sexual excitement was provided by the entertaining spectacles as well as the members of demimonde, young women who supported themselves by becoming the lovers of wealthy men. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901) captured this atmosphere in posters such as La Goulue. (p.68)

Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters for the singer Aristade Bruant who delighted with his rough, outlaw reputation portray his aggressive personality and stage-dominating charisma. (p.70)

A key moment in the history of American graphic design came in 1889, when the widely read periodical Harper’s Magazine first published a poster for its holiday issued designed by the Swiss-born French artist Eugène Grasset (1841–1917). He created works that used the dense ornament emblematic of the Art Nouveau style, as seen in the example for Harper’s from 1892 (p.71)

Edward Penfield (1866–1925) created a poster for Harper’s in 1897 shows how far American design had come in embracing the most fashionable European trends. Penfield depicts a group of well-dressed Americans on intercity bus engrossed in a copy of Harper’s edition. (p.71)

Will H. Bradley’s Thanksgiving poster advertising a literary magazine called The Chap Book (1895) displays flat planes of colors and the repetition of curvilinear form that integrates Japanese style with the expressive line of Art Nouveau. (p.74)

Aubrey Beardsley’s (1857–1926) cover for the first issue of The Studio displays how much he had been influenced by the styles of Japanese prints. The scene of a forest is essentially two-dimensional, a series of overlapping flat forms set apart by different types of cross-hatched strokes of the pen. (p.77)

The Beggarstaff brothers’s 1895 poster for Harper’s displays some of the most aggressive simplification of any work produced in this area. Clearly indebted to Japanese prints, the silhouetted figure is more radically abstract than comparable images of the time; its contour line disappears in several places so that the figure blends into the background. (p.80)

Another Beggarstaff design, offered for a performance of Don Quixote at the Lyceum Theatre (1895), shows the unusual cropping—note the horse’s missing hoofs and the partial view of a windmill—typical of the Japanese style. (p.81)

Four artists—Margaret Macdonald (1864–1933), Frances Macdonald (1873—1921), Herbert MacNair (1868—1955), and Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868–1925)—together they formed the larger part of the Art Nouveau moment in Scotland. (p.82)

At GSA (Glasgow School of Art), a group of progressive students published The Magazine. Frances Macdonald created A Pond. The image combines sinuous, organically shaped figures and water plants with a symmetrical organization.

The first poster by the Macdonald sisters in collaboration with Herbert MacNair displays many of the stylistic devices seen in A Pond, albeit in a more staunchly vertical format. (p.83)

Gustav Klimt, president of Vienna Succession, produced a poster for the show that set the tone for much of the art that would follow. In term of style, Klimt adopted the vertical format, asymmetrical design, and empty spaces that had been a key part of Audrey Beardsley’s designs in England.

A striking example of innovative design produced for Ver Sacrum is Koloman Moser’s cover for February 1899, volume 2, issue 4, for which he threw an allegorical female figure emerging from lush tendrils that create powerful abstract forms. (p.88)

Another poster that bridges the curvilinear style of the early Secession with the post-1900 concern with geometry was made by Alfred Roller in 1903 for the sixteenth Secession exhibition. At the top of the lithograph, the three “S”s in the word “Secession” display short, blunt curves that descend into long sinuous spines, elongated and stylized like the traditional allegorical figure. (p.89)

In 1900, Otto Eckmann collaborated with the foundry owner Karl Klingspore to create Eckmann, an elegant typeface whose styling borrows elements from both the blackletter and Art Nouveau traditions. (p97)

In 1898, Henry van de Velde produced an advertisement for the Tropon food company. Here, the familiar plant forms of Art Nouveau actually represent the cracked shells of eggs, the key ingredient in Tropon’s signature product, powered egg whites. While the eggs are still recognizable, the poster comes daringly close to pure graphic abstraction. (p.100)

During his time in Weimar, van de Velde produced one of his most esteemed graphic works, an edition of Also Sprach Zarathustra (1909) by the Germna philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). The dense patterns on the cover surely must have been influenced by William Morris’s designs for the Kelmscott Press. (p.102)

In 1910, Peter Behrens designed a poster advertising AEG’s newest product, a technologically advanced lamp. the orthogonal design is overlaid with an equilateral triangle that contains the lamp and an abstract pattern representing its brilliant output. (p.104)

Behrens-Schrift, his first typeface, is a composite of blackletter script modified by roman type’s greater clarity. It features calligraphic strokes that have been rationalized in order to create better legibility and readability.

Notes From Meggs’ History of Graphic Design

Some verbatim notes taken from Meggs’ History of Graphic Design.

1. The invention of writing

The invention of writing brought people the luster of civilization and made it possible to preserve hard-won knowledge, experiences, and thoughts. (p.6)

Writing might have evolved because [Mesopotamia] temple economy had an increasing need for record keeping. The temple chief consciously sought a system for recording information. (p.9)

Cuneiform was a difficult writing system to master, even after the Assyrians simplified it into only 560 signs. Youngsters selected to be come scribes began their schooling at the edubba, the writing school or “tablet house,” before the age of ten and worked from sunrise to sunset everyday, with only six days off per month. (p.11)

Writing enabled society to stabilize itself under the rule of law. (p.11)

2. Alphabets

Greek civilization laid the foundation for many of the accomplishments of the Western world—science, philosophy, and democratic government al developed in this ancient land. (p.25)

Initially the Greeks adopted the Phoenician style of writing from right to left. Later they developed a writing method called boustrophedon, from words meaning “to plow a field with an ox,” for every other line reads in the opposite direction. (p.27)

Alphabets remain one of humankind’s grandest achievements. Alphabetic writing became the mortar binding whole communities against limitations imposed by memory, time, and place. Great access to information permitted broader participation in public affairs. (p.33)

3. The Invention of Paper

Dynastic records attribute the invention of paper to the eunuch and hig governmental official Ts’ai Lun, who reported his invention to Emperor Ho in 105 CE. (p.37)

Printing, a major breakthrough in human history, was invented by the Chinese. (p.39)

5. Printing Comes to Europe

The judgement of history, however, is that Johann Gensfleisch zum Gutenberg (late 14th century to 14 68) of Mainz, Germany, first brought together the complex systems and subsystems necessary to print a typographic book around the year 1450. (p.72)

7. Renaissance Graphic Design

The word renaissance means “revival” or “rebirth.” Originally this term was used to denote the period that began in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in Italy, when the classical literature of ancient Greece and Rome was revived and read anew. (p.98)

Part of the lasting influence of Jenson’s fonts is their extreme legibility, but it was his ability to design spaces between the letters and within each form to create an even tone throughout the page that placed the mark of genius on his work. (p.98)

A most important member of the Aldine staff was Francesco de Bologna, surnamed Griffo (1450-1518). Manutius called this brilliant typeface designer and punch cutter to Venice, where he cut roman, Greek, Hebrew, and the first italic types for Aldine editions. His initial project in Venice was a roman face for De Aetna by Pietro Bembo, in 1495. Griffo researched pre-Caroline scripts to produce a roman type that was more authentic than Jenson’s designs. This style survives today as the book text face Bembo. (p.102)

8. An Epoch of Typographic Genius

This Romain du Roi, as the new typeface was called, had increased contrast between thick and thin strokes, sharp horizontal serifs, and an even balance to each letterform. (p.122)

Followed by further editions, the 1702 Médailles folio was the first book to feature the new types. As the first important shift from the Venetian tradition of “old style” roman type design, the Romain de Roi initiated a category of types called transitional roman. These breaks with the traditional calligraphic qualities, bracketed serifs, and relatively even stroke weights of Old Style fonts. (p.122)

Caslon’s type designs were not particularly fashionable or innovative. They owed their tremendous popularity and appeal to an outstanding legibility and sturdy texture that made them “comfortable” and “friendly to the eye.” (p.127)

Baskerville’s type designs, which bear his name to this day, represent the zenith of the transitional style bridging the gap between Old Style and modern type design. His letters possessed a new elegance and lightness. In comparison with earlier designs, his types are wider, the weight contrast between thick and thin strokes in increased, and the placement of the thickest part of the letter is different. The treatment of serifs is new: they flow smoothly out of the major strokes and terminate as refined points. His italic fonts most clearly show the influence of master handwriting. (p.128)

Around 1790 Bodoni redesigned the roman letterforms to give them more mathematical, geometric, and mechanical appearance. He reinvented the serifs by making them hairlines that formed sharp right angles with the upright strokes, eliminating the tapered flow of the serif into the upright stroke in Old Style roman. The thin strokes of his letterforms were trimmed to the same weight as the hairline serifs, creating a brilliant sharpness and a dazzling contrast not seen before. Bodoni defined his design ideal as cleanness, good taste, charm, and regular. (p.133)

The Didot type foundry’s constant experimentation led to maigre (thin) and gras (fat) type styles similar to the condensed and expanded fonts of our time. Fonts issued from 1775 by François-Ambroise Didot possessed a lighter, more geometric quality, similar in the feeling to Bodoni’s designs evolving under Baskerville’s influence. (p.134)

Bodoni and Didots were rivals and kindred spirits. Comparisons and speculation about who innovated and who followed are inevitable. They share influences and the same cultural milieu. Their influence upon each other was reciprocal, for Bodoni and the Didots each attempted to push the modern style further than the other. In so doing, each further the aesthetics of contrasts, mathematical construction, and neoclassical refinement to the highest possible level. Bodoni is credited with greater skill as a designer and printer, but the Didots possessed greater scholarship. (p.135)

9. Graphic Design and the Industrial Revolution

Other founders designed and cast fatter letters, and type gre steadily bolder. This led to the invention of fat faces, a major category of type design innovated by Cotterell’s pupil and successor, Robert Thorne (d. 1820), and possibly around 1803. A fat-face typestyle is a roman face whose contrast and weight have been increased by expanding the thickness of the heavy strokes. The strokes width has a ration of 1:2:5 or even 1:2 to the capital height. (p.146-147)

De Vinne was dissatisfied with the thin modern typefaces first used in [Century] magazine, so he commissioned type designer Linn Boyd Benton to cut a blacker, more readable face, slightly extended with thicker thin strokes and short slab serifs. Now called Century, this unusual legible style is still widely used today. Its large x-height and slightly expanded characters have made it very popular for children’s reading matter. (p.172)

Cut in 1923–24, [Lutetia] was the first typeface Van Krimpen designed during his thirty-five-year association with the Haarlem printer Enschedé. For Van Krimpen, typography existed only for book, and all of his typefaces were designed for this purpose. He viewed advertising and the people connected with it with contempt. For him, the reader should never even be conscious of typography; the designer’s one purpose was to make reading as pleasurable as possible and never come between the reader and the text. Fortunately, he usually broke away to some degree from his own rules, and each of his books had something subtly different to offer. (p.189)

During the early 1920s, [William Addison] Dwiggins first use the term graphic design to describe his professional activities. In 1938 he designed Caledonia, one of the most widely used book face in America. (p.192)

[Alber Bruce Rogers’s] 1915 typeface design Centaur is one of the finest of the numerous fonts inspired by Jenson. (p.192)

12. The Genesis of Twentieth-Century Design

The German artist, architect, and designer Peter Behrens (1868–1940) played a major role in charting a course for design in the first decade of the new century. He sought typographic reform, was an early advocate of san-serif typography, and use a grid system to structure a space in his design layouts. (p.242)

The Berthold Foundry designed a family of ten sans serifs that were variations on one original font. This Akzidenz Grotesk (called Standard in the United States) type family had a major influence on twentieth-century typography… The designers of Akzidenz Grotesk achieved a remarkable harmony and clarity, and it became a source of inspiration for other sans-serif typefaces until the post-World War II era. (p.243)

[Edward Johnson on typeface for the Underground.] Johnson sought absolute functional clarity by reducing his characters to the simplest possible forms: the M is a perfect square whose forty-five-degree diagonal strokes meet in the exact center of the letter; the O is a perfect circle; all of the letters have a similar elemental design. The lowercase l has a tail to avoid confusion with the capital I. (p.251)

16. The Bauhaus and the New Typography

Moholy-Nagy contributed an important statement about typography, describing it as “a tool of communication. It must be communication in its most intense form. The emphasis must be absolute clarity…. Legibility—communication must have never be impaired by a priori esthetics. Letters must never be forced into a preconceived framework, for instance a square.” (p.328–329)

19. The New York School

[Paul] Rand understood the value of ordinary, universally understood signs and symbols as tools for translating ideas into visual communications. To engage the audience successfully and communicate memorably, he knew that the designer needed to alter and juxtapose signs and symbols. A reinterpretation of the message was sometimes necessary to make the ordinary into something extraordinary. Sensual visual contrasts marked his work. (p.391)