Archive: December 23rd, 2005

Letter from AAmerica

I’m in Arizona at the end of a well-travelled year. This is my fifth time visiting the States this year (after Austin, Alaska, Florida, and Seattle). It’s the third time that I’ve flown the Gatwick to Dallas route.

It’s not that I have any particular love for the airport in Dallas, it’s just that I hate flying out of and, more importantly, into Heathrow. Gatwick is so nice and close to Brighton that I’d rather leave from there and have to change planes in the States than to fly direct from Heathrow.

Inevitably, I end up flying with American Airlines. They’re not so bad, although their food and in-flight entertainment really stinks compared to British Airways. There’s only so much chemically treated beef and Everybody Loves Raymond that a body can take. Still, at least they have extra leg room (theoretically).

Reaching into the seat pocket in front of me, I found a copy of the in-flight magazine, AAtractions. That’s not a typo. It seems that as part of their branding, American Airlines like to double up all instances of the letter A. That’s why the old transit system in Dallas airport was called the TrAAin.

AAnnoying isn’t it?

Closer to home, there’s an even more egregious treatment of the alphabet by a UK insurance company called More Th>n. Presumably it’s meant to be pronounced “more than” but I prefer to say it as “more th greater than n”. But, as Joe pointed out, by inserting another instance of the word “than”, it could become recursive. What if that “than” is really “th>n”? That would make the name “more th greater th>n n” which in turn would become “more th greater th greater th>n n” which itself would require word substitution leading to an infinite recursive loop.

Seriously though, I would have considerable concerns about doing business with a company with an angle bracket in its name. Is the company actually registered with the weird punctuation? What about on legally binding contracts? I can foresee some tricksy little legal loopholes.

Enough with the ascii art in company names. What’s next… colons?


It’s good to talk about typography. The last few weeks have been particularly good.

Mark Boulton, he of the five simple steps, writes about Gill Sans, a typeface with which he is well acquainted, working, as he does, at the BBC.

There’s no doubt about it; Gill Sans, like its predecessor Johnston Underground, is a gorgeous typeface that no amount of overuse or abuse can tarnish. In fact, one of the things I like about southern Britain, and London in particular, is the ubiquity of Gill and Johnston’s work. I find a city with a consistent typographical identity as pleasing as a unified architectural style.

The big news for web-based typography recently was the unveiling of Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web. This is an ongoing project of Richard’s which, I think, is superbly researched and tremendously useful:

"Robert Bringhurst’s book The Elements of Typographic Style is on many a designer’s bookshelf and is considered to be a classic in the field. In order to allay some of the myths surrounding typography on the web, I have structured this website to step through Bringhurst’s working principles, explaining how to accomplish each using techniques available in HTML and CSS."

There’s an RSS feed so you can stay notified of new additions to the project.

Did you know that Richard used to work at Multimap? Before he jumped ship for Clearleft, he made sure that his legacy of web standards, accessibility and typography was in good hands by passing the baton to Andy Hume. Now Andy has published a fantastically good article over at Sitepoint called The Anatomy of Web Fonts. Read it, enjoy it, bookmark it.

The Social Customer Manifesto: The "First Mile"

An interesting take on the recent round of acquisitions by Yahoo.