One of the stupidest things I've ever seen ?

npgraphicdesign's picture

What is so stupid about it? Saying something is stupid without backing it up with a good reason is akin to saying nothing at all.

Or are you just jealous that YOU didn't come up with this idea? ;)

mustachioed's picture

If anything, it's an interesting study with good intent.

I'm not sure how you can justify it as One of the stupidest things I've ever seen.

npgraphicdesign's picture

Maybe it's a close parody of this:
http://www.logodesignlove.com/periodic-table-of-branding

But I don't think it can be qualified as 'stupid.'

paragraph's picture

I'd like it on my office wall, I think it's cool.

Si_Daniels's picture

"There's a thin line between clever and stupid."

I think this is more on the clever side.

npgraphicdesign's picture

How thin? Light or ultra light?

Si_Daniels's picture

U+200A

npgraphicdesign's picture

Hairline? No...I think that's stretching it a bit...well...a bit THIN. HAH!

Celeste's picture

OK, let’s get into it, then.
First of all, Mendeleiev's Periodic Table of the Elements is one of the greatest achievements of modern science, structured by an inner logic which, at the time of its conception, not only allowed to organize the chemical elements ALREADY known but also those YET to be discovered (radioactive substances, for instance). Here it is used as a mere "cool-looking graphic scheme" with no inner logic whatsoever. Lazy, shoddy stuff.
Now to the "Typophile" part : in my opinion, making this kind of selection without referencing a specific context (academic, professional, publishing, etc.) is utterly useless — but THIS ONE is really, really, flawed : why include Robert Slimbach's AdobeGaramond AND Franco Luin's Garamond Classico, for instance ? Isn't one digital "real" Garamond (i.e. not based on a Jannon model) enough ? Why Griffo Classico and not Monotype Poliphilus ? Why Monotype Bembo AND Bitstream Aldine (which are more or less the same typeface) ? What's "Realist" about Baskerville ? And WHICH Baskerville, by the way ? Monotype ? ITC ? Storm ? Isn't Old English more "Popular, Influential and Notorious" than Manuscript-Gotisch ? Where's Fournier ? Where's Monotype Centaur ? Where are Bell and Bulmer ? Which Kis ? Linotype Kis Classico, Monotype Ehrhardt or Janson Text ? I could go on like this for hours, but would it be worth it ?
This thing LOOKS LIKE it has been THOUGHT OUT when it has merely been COMPILED — it is thus an insult to its model (Mendeleiev's work) AND to its subject (typographic culture).

Jos Buivenga's picture

I guess we all operate on different levels. I like it and use it as my wallpaper at the moment.

hrant's picture

Stéphane, although I don't think this is notably stupid (I wish it was - we'd be living in a better world) I certainly enjoy seeing that you care. People usurp greatness for quick thrills, debasing mankind in toto.

hhp

Celeste's picture

— Hrant
Maybe it is my being a teacher that makes me go ape when I encounter this kind of easy/debased/false "culture" — thinking that one of my students could genuinely take this so-called "Periodic Table of Typefaces" at face value and mistake it for a serious, useful tool makes me very, very, very angry.

Nick Shinn's picture

P22 did a nicer job with this metaphor.
A poster in a TypeCon goody bag past, with spot silver, IIRC.

The design of this is not very professional*, which gives it an air of scientific authenticity. Is that intentional irony or stupid irony?

It's symptomatic of the sketchiness of web culture that the source material is not real research, but opinion and aggregation.
Real research here would classify according to taxonomic exemplars. That would reveal the disparity between elemental system and typographic system.

The most "scientific" of type classification charts is phyllogenetic, i.e. the evolutionary tree.

Besides, how can the universe function without Papyrus and Co(s)mic Sans?

*Dropshadow, etc.

paragraph's picture

Is humour henceforth banished from matters typophiliac?

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

There was a time, during the late 1990s, when the Periodic Table of Elements metaphor was being used (and abused) by every other graphic designer. Maybe the trend got its start with that Damien Hirst monograph (designed by Jonathan Barnbrook, by the way). Seeing it resurface after ten years or so put a smile on my face, quite frankly. Sure, somebody who doesn't know much about typography (or high school science!) might take this at face value, but the makers clearly state that they have simply taken other people's popularity rankings into account. They even have the links listed at the bottom of the table! And the subtitle reads "Popular, Influential, & Notorious"! I think that constitutes fair warning. :-)

DrDoc's picture

I think it's a cool idea. By no means does it pretend to be comprehensive or even a useful tool. It's just an interesting graphic organization of a handful of typefaces that probably took quite some time to assemble.

Nick Shinn's picture

Is humour henceforth banished from matters typophiliac?

Perish the thought.
But the item in question is an old joke not particularly well delivered.
Sorry, I've been around a while and have become quite fastidious.

paragraph's picture

No worries, Nick, my question was not directed at you ;)

Celeste's picture

— Ricardo
Having the links to the original lists and compilations listed at the bottom of the table does not appear to me as "tongue-in-cheek". On the contrary, it lends to this dubious document an air of indisputable authority by naming people (Paul Shaw, Roger Black, Jan Middendorp) and organizations (FontShop, Typographica, The Type Directors Club) which are justly respected in the field of graphic and typographic design.

1985's picture

The periodic table is an incredible achievement. I would very much like to own a print.

speter's picture

Of course, you could be literal.

Si_Daniels's picture

>The periodic table is an incredible achievement. I would very much like to own a print.

Many schools remain unlocked during office hours. You could pay a student to steal one for you, or wander in wearing an ill-fitting suit and bad glasses and they'll think you're a substitute teacher.

jupiterboy's picture

@sii: lol

My first encounter with the graphic bastardization of this design classic was through the Table of the Elements record label, which was founded in 1993 and features a logo that was derived from a single cell of the periodic table. FWIW

John Hudson's picture

This ‘periodic table’ isn't one of the stupidest things I've ever seen -- I've seen a lot of stupid things! -- but I think Stéphane's critique of it is entirely accurate. I'd also suggest that it is symptomatic of a problematic kind of graphic design that apes the appearance of information design without actually understanding the conceptual basis of that design. This is just a list of popular typefaces arranged in boxes to look something like the periodic table of elements; there is nothing in the kind of information that it presents that either recommends this arrangement or benefits from it.

paragraph's picture

This is just a list of popular typefaces arranged in boxes to look something like the periodic table of elements

Quite so. What did you think it was? 42?

hrant's picture

Something remotely as powerful and useful as the real periodic table, since it looks a lot like it?

This is to the periodic table what the Paris hotel/casino in Las Vegas is to Paris, France. But some provincial peons still go to the resort in Vegas and -in a small part of their psyche- actually believe they're somehow approaching the real deal.

hhp

paragraph's picture

Why would anyone who came within a stone's throw of a high school make that mistake?

hrant's picture

People want to believe in convenient things.
Plus, the TV tells them so.

hhp

1985's picture

John Hudson, I'm reading you loud and clear.
Hrant, it sounds like you would appreciate this:

http://thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=38

kentlew's picture

From the caption on Behance: > Unfortunately, the typefaces could not be sorted exactly numerically on the table while at the same time keeping them in groups of families and classes. It had to be one or the other. Of course it COULD have been done but I would have had to seriously sacrifice aesthetics of the overall design (i.e. it wouldn't have come out looking AT ALL like a traditional periodic table.)

This explains precisely why it can only bear a superficial resemblance to Mendeleev's ground-breaking work -- "We couldn't really attempt to do what the Periodic Table of Elements actually does, because then it wouldn't look like the periodic table, and what would be the point of that?"

I agree with John's assessment. I also understand why Stéphane, as an educator, might be frustrated and irritated by what it pretends to be.

kentlew's picture

On the topic of other visual nods to the Periodic Table of Elements: Others here may remember back in 2000 the Hoefler Type Foundry [pre-Frere-Jones] catalog, which announced the release of Knockout, made reference to the chemical table.

 
Inside, this key was provided:

 
Again, the homage would have been more authentic if the entries in the table were actually arranged in a more ordered sequence, especially given that the Knockout family was already organized into different series.

William Berkson's picture

Stéphane, it sounds to me like this is one of those "I could do it so much better" moments that launches someone on actually doing it better. By all means, have a go!

Celeste's picture

— William
I'm afraid it already took me six academic years to come up with a "definitive" typeface selection (AND a way to organize it and make students use it) suited to the needs of my teaching (never forget the context), so I may not be the ideal person to undertake such a grand endeavour.
Furthermore, I simply wouldn't have taken Mendeleiev's Table as a starting point (see Nick's comment above).
Nevertheless, I must also admit that my title to this post was inaccurate : this stuff is one of the stupidest things I've ever seen WHEN IT COMES TO TYPEFACE CLASSIFICATION — no more, no less.

Si_Daniels's picture

>I’m afraid it already took me six academic years

Ah, the infamous "Darricau Dartboard" and all these years I thought that was myth.

Celeste's picture

Yeah — for years I had been using this

but in the end I found it a bit too rational.

Si_Daniels's picture

Very nice! Just worried that all these ideas are surfacing too far ahead of April 1. ;-)

hrant's picture

Ah, the mythical Vignelli Dice!
Huh, I always thought the Style one was a coin.

Andrew, thank you.

hhp

Celeste's picture

— Hrant
I don’t know about Vignelli, but these actually come from the back cover of Tibor Kalman's book “Perverse Optimist".

hrant's picture

Vignelli is famed for saying six fonts are enough to do any typographic job. In my book that's worse than the worst font pirate - at least pirates care enough to steal them.

hhp

will powers's picture

Updike claims one more than Vignelli. His composing room had "only about seven series of standard types for book work, and in all about a score of varieties." That was his claim on page 241 of volume 2 of "Printing Types."

For some years I pondered making a periodic table of types. I eventually gave up the idea, for all the reasons given above why this one does not work. Just un-do-able.

powers

hrant's picture

1) Metal fonts are much more prohibitive.
2) Seven text fonts isn't nearly as bad as seven for any typographic project.

hhp

Celeste's picture

Michael Bierut (who worked with Vignelli for ten years) gives only five : Bodoni, Helvetica, Futura, Garamond 3 and Century Schoolbook.

John Hudson's picture

So many?

I think if someone were to suggest that some fixed and limited set of specific typefaces were all that were necessary for all design by everyone and everywhere, that would be both foolish and also easily demonstrated to be false. But I think there is nothing wrong with a designer determining to work with a limited set of his own choosing that is useful for the kind of design he or she practices. Frankly, I can imagine working with only one or two typefaces, and the only reasons I would be likely to change them over time would be either my own desire for variety or the appearance of a new typeface that seemed more useful.

bowerbird's picture

as an e-book programmer, i only have a need for one font
-- the one the reader chooses as the one they want to use.

-bowerbird

Cam's picture

Should I defend? I'm reading all your comments and I can't really come up with something, but I will say, you are all exactly right. Right, but I guess I just wanted my intentions to be known because I love this site.

I had a great conversation with a University of Michigan instructor recently that hated the design that explains much of what the complaints on here are about. It's actually my favorite moment of this whole ordeal (read through the short comments section): http://punya.educ.msu.edu/2009/03/11/yet-another-periodic-table/

Basically what it boils down to is that:
1) It was never my intention for it to be anywhere near the achievement Mendeleev's original table was.

2) The design is meant to bear a passing resemblance to the periodic table of elements (simply for familiarity's sake) and when the viewer does a second take, they see typefaces.

3) I didn't choose the typefaces (for those that complained about leaving some out). I didn't choose the ranking ORDER of typefaces. The sources listed at the bottom of the design were used. I chose those sources (granted, some had more credibility than others but I didn't just willy-nilly choose lists to go off of) and annotated each and every typeface mentioned on all the lists in Excel. I then annotated their ranks in each list. Then how many times they appeared on lists. Finally averaged all the scores each typeface received and sorted the columns using the aggregate scores. The first 100 typefaces that resulted were used in the table. So if there's a problem with why certain typefaces aren't on it and why one is ranked higher than another, the sources, again, are listed on the bottom of the design. Ask them.

4) The arrangement is again far far far from perfect. Again, it wasn't my intention to make it perfect. Just to resemble the table of elements. That's it. I DID put groups of same families and classes together because it gives it SOME organization and they look good together. Also, they are numerically sorted WITHIN each family/class groups.

5) Honestly, I had no idea how played out the kitchy "Periodic Table of (insert anything here)" was. I'd never seen one other than the actual elements until after I uploaded my design.

6) Finally, the honest-to-goodness truth is that when I uploaded the design on the Behance Network last Monday evening for the first time, I checked "looking for feedback" because at best, I thought it would get 30 views maximum and maybe get some tips on improving the design. I never once promoted, sent out the link (except to some friends) or tooted my horn in anyway. I woke up Tuesday morning to 5,000 views on the page and now it's at 37,000, not counting the seemingly endless blogs linking to the large size image (thereby passing up the Behance page completely) and more and more blogs linking to other blogs that are featuring it. Again, not my intention.

I'm sitting here wondering why I'm defending this here at Typophile so much. This site is the only one I've done this with (other than Punya's that I linked to above, but I was much more brief). I guess it's because I respect this site and it's members and would much rather express my views to this group rather than the few sites where the critiques are a bit harsher.

For those of you that "get it," thank you very much. For those that don't, that's a-ok, I still respect you all and what you do.

I'm sorry but I just thought of one last final defense. I've noticed on many sites in the comments and in many of the e-mails I've received, this design has just slightly opened the eyes of folks that previously took typefaces for granted. They stick with Arial as the default because they never really had a good look at the options presented to them in such a way. Also, there have been many comments from people that never fully realized that typefaces had designers with real names and that people actually cared about when the a particular typeface was designed. So for the design to at least spark a bit of interest in the world of typography and it's history, it can't be THAT stupid could it?

Thank you again for all that you folks are doing. Keep it up!

hrant's picture

Cam, thank you for the detailed defense.

> the one the reader chooses

There's a very simple reason this is a bad idea: the reader isn't necessarily qualified to know what's good for him. This has in fact been empirically demonstrated at least once, where readers were asked to choose the point size they thought was ideal for reading, and they chose sizes that were slightly too large. This is because consciousness cannot properly judge what the subconscious really favors.

hhp

dezcom's picture

"Is humour henceforth banished from matters typophiliac?"

That is a matter for Members to decide. Must we spare the typophiliac rod? That would place stiff opposition to 90% of my posts. :-)

ChrisL

OH! That says typoPHILIAC, not typophalic--well then, never mind.

paragraph's picture

Cam, I think that you pleased a lot of people as well :-)
Why deny us all (the masses or the great unwashed) this simple pleasure? Because it can mislead us and we will be more likely to commit typographic atrocities?

Now for the typophylogenic heresy:

I think that type categorisation and classification is a bit fuzzy at best, and arbitrary and subjective at worst. Anyone who believes that it can reveal some fundamental truths in a way similar to that of the Periodic Table thinks too much of typography or too little of science. That science would be Hrant's cheap, plastic, scaled-down model in LA.

Bless you, Chris!

bowerbird's picture

hrant said:
> the reader isn’t necessarily qualified
> to know what’s good for him

um, well yeah, hrant, i will let you be
the one to try to convey that to them.

but if you tried to tell that to _me_,
as a reader, i'd laugh in your face...

and if you persisted, i'd spit in it...

or maybe not... the idea that you can
tell someone that some font which he
might hate would be "good for him" is
too silly to be serious enough to spit...

even the reasonable idea that one font
will "serve the text" better than another
-- which is how you should've put it --
is one that many people simply do not
fathom, even on a subconscious basis,
even if their shortcoming on the issue
might seem to be preposterous to us...

but all of that is really beside the point,
not just for fonts but on a general basis.

if you give end-users a choice between
a system that gives them control versus
one that does not, they'll usually choose
the system that _does_ give them control.

even if it ain't the one that's "good for them".

-bowerbird

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