Art and Design

Read tat*

Read tat* – Inspirational Graphic Ephemera – Andy Altmann by Andy Altmann

Tat* is a bit of a graph­ic designer’s curse. Walk into any design stu­dio and you’ll see bits and pieces of graph­ic ephemera pinned to the walls or taped to a com­put­er screen. Even the purist will have a secret cache hid­den away some­where. Design­er Andy Alt­mann has been col­lect­ing tat for more than 30 years. He finds inspi­ra­tion in the ordi­nary, and mag­ic in the mun­dane. Final­ly he has decid­ed to share his col­lec­tion with the world. Con­ceived and edit­ed by Andy, this is the apoth­e­o­sis of tat. A visu­al trea­sure trove, full of sur­pris­es, it should find a place on every graph­ic designer’s desk.

Tat: anything that looks cheap, is of low quality, or in bad condition; junk, rubbish, debris

This book was a delight to wander through. A good bit of the appeal is wonderment at what someone else has decided was worth saving – and his delight in his own collection is evident throughout. It’s playfully designed, creating collages out of ephemera and commentary.

It’s also an exercise in seeing what you’re looking at. It’s lowbrow, finding art in the untrained and accidental and utilitarian.

I think the author would be tickled that I’m saving my favorites on what’s basically my online scrapbook.

Bush milk bottle cap in black and red
I like the stacked words on the black vertical stripe

Babyfat – font by Milton Glaser, 1964

Cool black shading on the MOORE lettering – look how many fonts they used in this thing 👀
Commiting to that concept 😎 How often now do you see companies go all in on type designs?

Bingo lingo – slang phrases to represent various numbers

Dig those S’s


Saucy, there’s a word you don’t hear much anymore
Ugh, Victorians “helpless, hopeless, homeless”
Art and Design

Graphic Design Before Graphic Designers

Read Graphic Design before Graphic Designers

Graphic design existed long before there were any graphic designers and this lavish volume is a vibrant tribute to beautifully crafted printed ephemera from the past. The art of combining text and pictures has been at the heart of the printer’s craft for hundreds of years. While early pioneers focused on books, others began using their presses for more humble uses, from handbills to games, advertisements and packaging. This so-called ‘jobbing’ work grew rapidly in importance, yet has been overlooked in histories of both print and graphic design.

A few things I liked from a skim through this book:

The Girlie matchbox with illustration of sickly looking woman with big eyes
London, early 1900s
Folio cover with concentric circles of color in black, red and gold, with golden Sundays
1880. Designed by Paul E. Werner in Ohio

I recently bought a poster that’s vaguely reminiscent of this. 

Red cover with black numeral befinf all caps yellow type

    1928. Published by Charles Peignot of Paris
1920s. Paris

I like the dashed outlines of the clouds, kinda Aubrey Beardsley style, adding decoration to fill the empty sky but not distracting from the grand hotel illustration. I suspect hotels today wouldn’t want a red association, but it looks striking in this.

The Internet

Boutique Search Engines

Bookmarked Re-Organizing the World’s Information: Why we need more Boutique… — Mirror (

For most queries, Google search is pretty underwhelming these days. Google is great at answering questions with an objective answer, like “# of billionaires in the world” or “What is the population of Iceland”. It’s pretty bad at answering questions that require judgment and context like “What do NFT collectors think about NFTs?”.

I hadn’t encountered the idea of boutique search engines before the past few weeks, then I heard about IndieWeb Search and my friend sent me another small site search engine, and I realized that there are small versions of them out there that I use, which could be awesome to aggregate.

What I find myself wanting a lot is a search engine for my music — I have lyrics stuck in my head, I can hear the song, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what song it is. Google and DuckDuckGo do pathetically at lyrics in my experience — useful if you listen to pop music but nothing more obscure. Sometimes you can get there if you keep subtracting the names of more popular artists. I have a known pool of music that I listen to — I scrobble everything on — so what I want is to search the lyrics of songs in my library. Another form of the personalized search engine we talked about a little during the session Angelo led at the Gardens and Streams discussion.

I can also see value in hyperlocal search. Local wikis have kinda filled that niche in the past — I remember Davis had a wiki that my friend who went to UC Davis was really into (warms my heart to see it appears to still be alive!). Back in 2008 I tried to start a zero waste food wiki for the Seattle area to collect info on where you could buy certain items in bulk, but gave up on it when a big name in the zero waste world announced she was making an app that would do the same thing. (I suspect a fair number of apps are essentially boutique search engines for their own limited data set, hadn’t thought about it that way before 🤔)

The pretty boutique listing / search I’ve used regularly is Atlas Obscura whenever I’m going on a trip, trying to find some eclectic and off the beaten path destinations and activities. Some places have a wide array of fun places to go, others not so much 🤷‍♀️

If I had a wishlist for boutique searches, I want a curated search of handmade and local artisans and craftspeople. Even not local only would still be great (though it’s sad when you find something amazing and realize it’s made in Australia and will cost $30 to ship). The “shopping” function of the big search engines is depressing. Now that Etsy allows people to resell shit from China it’s not a great way to find actually handmade things. Also, not to diss on Latvia but every other item on Etsy seems to be from there, and trying to shop more sustainably I don’t want to ship that many items from overseas. I use Etsy’s vintage search a fair bit for secondhand items, but now everything before like 2000 is considered vintage so there’s a lot of shit in there too. The closest thing I’ve found is Made Trade‘s marketplace for ethically-made goods, though I was not thrilled to order a bath mat and have it drop shipped from Egypt lol. I want a search engine that aggregates those different sources I have to go to individually now, so I can search Made Trade, Etsy vintage, Craigslist, artists’ collectives like Join Design, participants in craft shows like Urban Craft Uprising, local boutique businesses like Prism and Buy Olympia, and the listings of local salvage and consignment stores all at the same time without having to switch between them all and repeat the search or look manually. Individual businesses and craftspeople opting in to search would have to be vetted to make sure they weren’t just resellers of cheap manufactured junk, otherwise it would devolve into a crap Etsy again.

Art and Design

Placemaking with Vintage-Inspired Branding

Liked Snowy Valleys Branding by For the People Agency (

The Snowy Valleys is a land beyond time, where life moves to a slower, more considered pace. The identity is built around this idea of seasonality and time. The typeface draws inspiration from historical regional signage combined with the stencilling found on local produce crates. Imagery elevates out-of-license heritage illustrations that favour attention to detail and craft that can only be produced with ample time.

I like the combination of modern typography with vintage illustrations and playful typographic layouts. It stands out in place branding which often seems to be photo-focused. Feels classic while still fitting the 2020 aesthetic vibe. Branding and design by For the People agency.