Words from a Father

Husband of One, Father of Four

Month: December, 2010

336. Helvetica’s Use

If you must use the Helvetica typeface, don’t use it in paragraphs; that’s not what it was created for. (And don’t even mention the pariah, Arial.)

Helvetica’s character forms are not distinct enough, the shapes are pushed toward the outside of the space they hold, which makes them oddly squat, and the leading (fixable) and counter spaces (unfixable) are too tight in automated templates where the point size is small. These problems start getting reduced only as the words get into heading and display sizes — around 16 points or so. But, then use it for headings and not for text; and feel free to use all caps here. That’s where Helvetica can shine.

335. Joy Internal

Things can give pleasant distraction for a time. But, take it all away and enter into silence with one question: What is left?

It must be something inside that gives joy, or even mere happiness will always be elusive.

334. Worry

Worrying never helps. Never.

333. Quotes: Hal Riney on Committees

“I would rather deal with a tyrant any day than a committee. Committees, as a general rule, aren’t willing to take chances, which is why you have a committee in the first place — so you can share the blame.”

—Hal Riney, interview from the documentary Art & Copy (August 2009)

332. Essay: Love at First Sight (The Spark)

I don’t think “love at first sight” is a real thing because it beggars the understanding of what love truly is. I certainly understand the appeal of a meant-to-be fated romance, but that has not the depth that twenty or fifty years of loyal marriage contains. First-sighted love is shallow by comparison.

Maybe “spark at first sight” or “connection at first sight” is more accurate. But those phrases won’t catch on because they’re not romantic enough; they’re too factual and miss all the poetry of the feelings of the moment.

But isn’t that the point? Love isn’t a moment. It’s a million moments back to back. Love is the totality of what is looked back on, it’s the reminiscences by those who have always held that one relationship in higher regard than any other, even among myriad opportunities. Love is not fleeting, not temporary, not able to be had with whomever and whenever.

The spark is a welcomed and celebrated first step — an emotional doorway drug — along the path of love, but it is not love itself. The spark is the emotional high. It’s the manic part of the plot, the shallow scenes of the movie that are fun and easy to write but not where the depth of the characters is explored.

We can all recognize the universality of a story that highlights the spark, but we long to connect with the truth revealed in commitment’s depth. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is not a romance, but a tragedy — if for no other reason than that they never progress past manic emotionalism and into something more mature. The spark was all they had, and even that was quickly gone.

But compare that with the excellent prelude of the computer animated film Up. The spark between the couple sets the buoyant tone and we get the sense that great love has flourished between them. Their love has matured through life’s ebb and flow, through achievements and disappointments. The movie’s silent prelude leads us through the spark of their romance, the depth of their love, and the pain of losing the same. It is this arc that moves us emotionally and prepares us to suspend disbelief when, as an older man, the main character launches into his greatest journey, all borne from the depth of his commitment. (And notice from Shakespeare that irrational sacrifice is the outcome of the spark’s immaturity, while in Up we see that love puts correct emphasis on enthralled living.)

The spark certainly has its role. It convinces you to lower your defenses, take a risk, and then take responsibility for a real relationship. It’s an invitation into something greater. The spark is an emotional promise, “There is something greater than what you feel right now, something worth the time, worth your heart.” The spark can’t take responsibility for what comes after and how the relationship unfolds, but it is truthful in its promise to open the doorway to love.

The spark says, “Carpe diem,” this is the only moment that matters, the most important moment of your life. But what comes after convinces you that every moment since has mattered, has made your life what it is. This is much more than the spark could ever have given; this is love.

329. Quotes: Your Dad on Morals and Influence

“Being a creative artist does not liberate you from the normal bounds of morality. If anything, it should constrain you more because of the increased influence you will have on others.”

—Your Dad

328. For Sale

You can buy gadgets, property, duty, services, resources, and other replaceable stuff.

You can’t buy peace, can’t buy love, can’t buy respect or credibility or goodness or integrity or time or joy or anything else that truly matters. If someone is purporting to sell these, it’s only in exchange for your soul.

327. Quotes: Paul Rand on Money

“Make lots of money. In your life you will do things you don’t like to do, but they’ll make money. You can use that money to do the things you want to do. It’s really as simple as that.”

—Paul Rand, designer extraordinaire, in a conversation with John Maeda

Others have said it other ways: Money is a tool. Or, when dealing in business, be shrewd as serpents and harmless as doves. Or, don’t be a slave to money; make it serve you instead. Or, be trustworthy with the little you have been given to steward so you can be trusted with much more of your own.

326. Experience Music

Louder music doesn’t mean better music, but you should feel it inside. Close your eyes and experience what the artist felt during the album’s creation.

325. Great Sound

A great sound system is never a sacrifice, it’s a necessity.

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