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October 14, 2008

Romanian diacritic marks

How did we ended up looking half-illiterate?

Lack of standards, wrong standards and then slow adoption of good standards—no wonder the diacritics turned into an endangered species. Magazine headlines, television supers and advertisements cheerfully disseminate incorrect letters.

The situation is so bad that even on national banknotes the spelling is bastardized (if you know who designed this, please encourage the person(s) to quit design):

Ron A Caron Crime Detail-1

Shameless incompetence: A-caron incorrectly used instead of A-breve on Romanian banknotes, as pointed by Bogdan Dumitrache.

What happened? How did we ended up looking like idiots?

An introduction

Romanian glyphs

In the sense of diacritics as being signs added to letters to alter their pronunciation or to make distinction between words, the Romanian alphabet does not have diacritics. There are, however, five special letters in the Romanian alphabet (two of them are associated with the same sound), formed by modifying other latin letters. Strictly speaking they are not diacritics, but are generally referred to as such.1


Romanian language has 5 special letters—they are not diacritics per se, but are generally referred to as such.

Although we only have 5 diacritics (Czech language has 15) we, sometimes, manage to get 3 out of 5 wrong. Most of the time we get 2 out of those 3 wrong: Ș and Ț.

Common mistakes

The most common mistakes are:


Letter A with Tilde or Letter A with Caron instead of Letter A with Breve.


Letter S With Cedilla instead of Letter S with Comma below. Letter S With cedilla is only used in Turkish language.


Letter T With Cedilla instead of Letter T with Comma below. Turns out that Letter T With Cedilla is not used in any living language, only for semitic transliterations.

While the first mistake is caused mainly by indolence, the second one and the third have an epic story behind and deserve a closer look.

The story of Ș and Ț: an epic clusterfuck

For those English-language graphic designers affected by diacritics nostalgia, here's the cure: imagine everything going atrociously wrong—for 20 years!

The timeline

  • 1987. Romanian language is associated with ISO 8859‑2 (Latin 2)—the international standard stipulates S-cedilla and T-cedilla glyphs. Romanian officials are oblivious to the matter. Very, very bad.
  • 1995. Unicode consortium specifies in version 1.1.5 codepoints U+015E (Latin Capital Letter S With cedilla), U+015F (Latin Small Letter S With cedilla), U+0162 (Latin Capital Letter T With cedilla), U+0163 (Latin Small Letter T With cedilla) as suitable for both Turkish and Romanian, and defined them as containing the cedilla accent. Turkish language indeed uses cedilla in U+015E, U+015F but does not make any use of U+0162, U+0163. Romanian language doesn't use any of them. Very bad.
  • 1995. Windows 95 launches with no support for Romanian language by default. Support is available on CD-ROM Extras for Microsoft Windows 95 Upgrade. The typeface ILP Rumanian B100 substitutes Q/q with Ă/ă. Dark ages. Bad.
  • 1997. Apple’s MAC OS 7.6.1 honors Romanian S/s with comma below and T/t with comma below diacritics with MacRomanian (ten years before Microsoft). Interesting enough, its tables do not resolve U+015E, U+015F, U+0162 nor U+0163 (no S/s with cedilla nor T/t with cedilla)—at all! Good.
  • 1997. Adobe Glyph List (AGL 1.0 and 1.1) specifies "Tcommaacent" and "tcommaaccent" instead of Tcedilla/tcedilla (no resolve for Scedilla and scedilla). The consequence of this decision is that Romanian documents using the (unofficial) Unicode points U+015E/F and U+0162/3 (for Ș/ș and Ț/ț) are rendered in Adobe fonts in a visually inconsistent way using S/s with cedilla and T/t with comma below. Good going bad...
  • 1997. It takes ten years for ASRO to react. In 1997 the association complains to ISO about the S-cedilla and T-cedilla standardization requesting an amendment. Good.
  • 1998. The revised version of ISO/IEC 8859‑2 (Latin 2) is ratified without the requested amendment. A note mentions that "the letters S and T with cedilla below may be used to substitute for the letters S and T with comma below". Very bad.
  • 1998. Adobe switches 015E/F back to T/tcedilla. Defines 0218/9 as S/scommaaccent, 021A/B as T/tcommaaccent before Unicode's 3.0 revision but after Apple's MAC OS 7.6.1. Good.
  • 1999. In its release 3.0 the Unicode consortium adds the mappings U+0218 (Latin Capital Letter S With comma below), U+0219 (Latin Small Letter S With comma below), U+021A (Latin Capital Letter T With comma below), U+021B (Latin Small Letter T With comma below), and defined them as containing a “commaaccent”. Great.
  • 1999. The Romanian Standards Association adopts SR 13411 standard that stipulates S/s-comma and T/t-comma as official Romanian letters. Good.
  • 2001. ISO publishes ISO/IEC 8859-16 also known as Latin-10 or "South-Eastern European" incorporating Romanian SR 13411 standard, in spite of strong opposition from USA's representatives and from Mr. J. W. van Wingen, Netherlands' representative. Finally Romanian language's standard form is also the correct one. Good.
  • 2001. Microsoft Office v. X for Mac OS X is released crippled, without support Unicode font display or input. Office documents with diacritics created on Windows won't display properly on the Macintosh. Bad.
  • 2001. Apple immediately aligns their OS X to ISO/IEC 8859-16. Good, but...
  • 2001. Unfortunately, Mac OS X does not recognize the "*commaaccent" glyphnames that are defined by Adobe for Romanian and Baltic languages (such as Tcommaaccent, Rcommaaccent, Kcommaaccent, Ncommaaccent) but instead only recognizes the "*cedilla" names (T/tcedilla, R/rcedilla, K/kcedilla, N/ncedilla) or the "uni****" names (uni0162, uni0156, uni0136, uni0145). This means that Mac OS X will fail to recognize the glyphs T/tcommaaccent, R/rcommaaccent, K/kcommaaccent, N/ncommaaccent and map them to their respective Unicodes. [Adam Twardoch2] Bad.
  • 2001. Microsoft along with other software vendors disregards ISO/IEC 8859-16. Ugly.
  • 2001. Microsoft Windows XP is launched. In order to correctly encode and render both S-comma and T-comma, one has to install the European Union Expansion Font Update. Unfortunately, there is no official way to add keyboard support for these characters. In order to type them, one has to either install 3rd party keyboards, or use the Character Map. Bad.
  • 2003. Macromedia Freehand MX (11) is released without OpenType support. Bad.
  • 2003. Adobe releases Creative Suite 1 applications with Unicode support. Designers are able to produce inter-platform Romanian typography without hacking fonts. Good.
  • 2003. People protest against Microsoft practices—most notable is Mr. Cristian Secărică with his 2003 open letter to Microsoft Romania (link in Romanian). Good.
  • 2003. The dormant Linguistic Institute of the Romanian Academy finally honors the request concerning the exact form of the glyphs under letters S and T—says it must be a comma. Very late, still good.
  • 2004. Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac is released with Unicode support. Good.
  • 2007. Six years late and five months after Romania (and Bulgaria) joined the EU, Microsoft releases updated fonts that include all official glyphs of Romanian alphabet. This font update targeted Windows XP SP2, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Vista. Good, at last.
  • 2007. Mac OS X ignores the glyph-to-Unicode mapping provided in the “cmap” table of OpenType PS (CFF/.otf) fonts, while it uses it for OpenType TT (.ttf) fonts. For OpenType PS fonts, Mac OS X uses the glyph-to-glyphname mapping provided in the font and then maps the glyphnames to Unicodes itself.3. Bad.
  • 2007. The subset of Unicode most widely supported on Microsoft Windows systems, Windows Glyph List 4, still does not include the comma-below variants of S/s and T/t. Bad, as usual.
  • 2008. Some OpenType fonts from Adobe and all C-series Vista fonts implement the optional OpenType feature GSUB/latn/ROM/locl. This feature forces S-cedilla to be rendered using the same glyph as S with comma below. When this second (but optional) remapping takes place, Romanian Unicode text is rendered with comma-below glyphs regardless of code point variants. Good.
  • 2008. Very few Windows applications support the locl feature tag. From the Adobe CS3 suite, only InDesign has support for it. Bad.
  • 2008. Apple updates iPhone OS X to version 2.1, adds Romanian keyboard and correct glyphs for Romanian diacritics. Good.
  • 2008. Nokia phones still use incorrect S-cedilla and T-cedilla glyphs. Bad.

This is how the puzzle looks to me, so far (if you have new pieces of this, please let me know).

But there's room for some more bad news.

More bad news: the keyboards

Romanian keyboard layouts

The current Romanian National Standard SR 13392:2004 establishes two layouts for Romanian keyboards: a "primary" one and a "secondary" one.


Romanian SR 13392:2004 primary layout. Source: Wikipedia.

The "primary" layout is intended for more traditional users that learned long ago how to type with older, Microsoft-style implementations of the Romanian keyboard. The "secondary" layout is mainly used by programmers and it doesn't contradict the physical arrangement of keys on a US-style keyboard. The "secondary" arrangement is used as the default one by the majority of GNU/Linux distributions.5

Sorin Paliga, author of Romanian Keylayouts for MAC OS:

Apple is indeed the only company which sells localized physical keyboards on the Romanian market, but must now re-locate the specific Romanian letters on the physical keyboard according to the Romanian standard. Sooner or later Apple must do that, but the sooner the better.

It turns out that the localized keyboards Apple ships to Romania—although functioning perfectly—are not standard compliant. And that's not all.

Physical keyboard engraving

Even if Apple's OS X was ahead of the diacritics adoption curve and it was the first hardware manufacturer (is it the only one, still?) to ship localized keyboards, they have a glaring bug—for years now: the Romanian keyboard is marked with the wrong glyphs!

Even though it works correctly, the S-comma key is engraved with S-cedilla and T-comma key is engraved with T-cedilla.

Totally surreal, I know!



Apple's Mac OS gets the Romanian glyphs correctly for 11 years now, but their keyboards are still erroneously inscribed.

I filed this with Apple's bug tracker: bug ID 6287188.

Romanian keyboard on iPhone

The new iPhone firmware 2.1 ads a Romanian keyboard with diacritics.


Romanian keyboard setting. iPhone diacritic marks are dead on correct.

In order to use them, switch the Romanian Keyboard on (Settings → General → International → Keyboards → Romanian → On), then press the globe-key and you’ll notice the space bar reading “Spațiu” instead of “Space”. Then tap and hold one of the keys (A, I, S or T) and a row of additional letters will unfold, containing the diacritic marks.



Tap and hold one of the keys (A, I, S or T) and a row of additional letters will unfold, containing the diacritic marks.

Bottom line

Current status: embarrassment

Computers are supposed to be able to process text with ease, consistency and predictable output. In Romania—year 2008—they’re still unable to accomplish this basic task.

Academic intelligentia, when not sleeping, gets busy thinking of maddening spelling reforms. Local computer manufacturers happily crank out garage-quality boxes, completely oblivious to how are those boxes supposed to work. Foreign manufacturers enlist Romania at “others”. Microsoft does only what’s best at: adds in entropy via maligned standards only to be wrestling its own mess later on. Big publishing, advertising and print shops have built closed ecosystems that often work with hacked keyboard layouts and fonts (if they care). The web goes with the flow.

And so we’re stuck with this embarrassing mess—what’s really exasperating, though, is that in 20 years indolence has become a de facto standard: we know we stink but we’re comfortable with that.

Take a stand

How can we improve the situation? Well, by using the correct diacritics, obviously. But if/when that proves difficult, we should better drop diacritics altogether than use some sloppy substitutions (ã or ǎ instead of ă, ş instead of ș, ţ instead of ţ).


Long explanation: Because using the wrong substitution bastardizes the language—those letters do not exist in Romanian. Because it’s misleading for those who don’t know any better—they’ll think it’s perfectly acceptable to align to the bad practice. Because substitutions turn into a baggage of backwards-compatibility issues. Because it means you’re a shitty designer. And because, well, in the end, it’s just bad taste.

Short explanation: Because wearing no underwear is preferable to wearing it on the outside, over the pants.

1 Wikipedia, Romanian alphabet entry.

2 forum post by Adam Twardoch—Fontlab Ltd. Product and Marketing Manager, MyFonts typographic consultant.

3 Idem.

4 Wikipedia, Romanian alphabet article.

5 Wikipedia, Keyboard layout article.

February 12, 2008

Design spec work

And why the term “design whore” might be too elegant


Pixish opening, a couple of days ago, ignited the strongest anti-spec work opinions. And for a good reason. Here's how Adam Howell put it in his The Pixish logo belongs next to “spec work” on

Unfortunately, Pixish is not cool. At all. It’s the defintion of spec work.

“Spec work” is when a buyer/client gets several designers’ unpaid work upfront and only pays for the work they deem best. One winner, a bunch of losers. Almost all designers are unabashedly against it. There’s No!Spec, Zeldman’s Don’t Design on Spec and the AIGA’s stance that “doing speculative work seriously compromises the quality of work that clients are entitled to and also violates a tacit, long-standing ethical standard in the communication design profession worldwide”.


Following the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games identity scandal, Canadians banned spec work. And they banned it good:

As a result of the situation and others that preceded it, the GDC (Society of Graphic Designers of Canada) changed its Code of Ethics at its annual meeting on May 6-7, 2005, so as to leave no doubt as to its stand on design contests. The GDC no longer allows any member participation in open design contests for commercial purposes on speculation, either as an entrant or a judge.

GDC is — as far as I know — the first graphic designers' national organization to not only instill the idea that free pitches are wrong, but to actively enforce it across its body of members.

From now on, GDC members cannot undertake any speculative project for which compensation will only be received if a design is accepted or used. Members may take part in limited design competitions where each participant is provided equal and adequate compensation. The Society has separate guidelines for pro bono work for charitable purposes.

The Graphic Artists Guild and the GDC both recommend that if a competition is held, the hosts should first put out a request for portfolios, then after reviewing the work, select a group of finalists who are best suited for the job. The finalists may be asked for rough sketches for the project at hand if they are paid adequately and equally for their work. Finally, when a single designer or firm is finally selected, that winner should be paid fees that are commensurate to current market value. The designer will retain rights to the work.

In order to change the tone for a second here to something more tongue-in-cheek, I'll quote Andy Rutledge from his Redesign Competitions: looking for a commitment or just a roll in the hay? post on DesignView:

I’m hosting a competition. I need a partner with whom to have a serious relationship but I don’t want to invest any time or effort in finding the right woman; I shouldn’t have to. I’m a great man and any woman should be proud to be with me, so I’m holding auditions. I’d like for all interested women to visit me and show me your “wares.” I’m definitely looking for someone with a hot bod, and not afraid to show it off. Extra points for staying the night and letting me sample your attentions and enthusiasm.

One lucky winner gets a $400 wedding ring and the prestige of having me for a partner (‘cause I look good). The rest of you just get screwed. Awright, who’s with me?

This is the basic translation of every redesign competition invitation for any company who has ever held one. Is it apparent now just how disrespectful such competitions are toward those they solicit? Given this clear context, how many of you are still willing to defend this sort of behavior? Aw c’mon, I know you’re out there. I read your apologist responses and defenses of these competitions all the time.

But after his colorful opening comes a bitter closure:

Yes, it’s very definitely a joke on all involved. The problem is that the joke is also on the design profession as a whole. Every time one of these competitions is held, it tears a little more at the fabric of our profession. Every designer who participates in one of these competitions steals a bit more credibility from the true professionals in this industry.

The term “design whore” is not even applicable to the image that is thus created. Whores are professional and whores get paid. What do you call someone who doesn’t even have the self respect to expect or demand payment?

A designer? Say it ain't so.

Sad. Awful true.

In Romania the situation is very different from Canada. There is no national graphic designers' organization. The design industry is still in its infancy. Many graphic designers I meet — including the greenest juniors — are incredibly fond or downright hypnotized by shiny overstatements and words like 'consultancy,' 'strategy' and 'branding,' obliviously neglecting their true main profession: graphic designer. There are no rules and ethics is perceived as a luxury fitted only for the few.

In this conditions, design steps right into advertising industry's footsteps, repeating the same mistakes and heading for the same deplorable dead-end they're swamped in: free pitch as the de facto norm.

I wrote about spec work here on in the past, but this is an important issue that needs to be revisited every once in a while. And so this post's purpose is not to freeze spec work practice as from tomorrow. This is not possible.

This post's purpose is let designers know that providing spec work and participating in free pitches is wrong and it undermines not only how design is seen, but — slowly — what design is as a profession.


  • Icograda – Pitched out by Erik Spiekermann, Form
  • AIGA – To spec or not to spec
  • AIGA – Design competitions and speculative work
  • Creative Latitude – Why We Don't Make Speculative Presentations by Creative Business
  • – Spec Work by Judy Litt
  • Boston Business Journal – Working on spec is a disturbing -- and growing -- trend by Sean Lorenz
  • Be A Design Group' – This week's 4-letter word: SPEC by Drew Davies

At the first draft this was a very abrasive article against designers who comply with 'free pitch' client tactics. Then I thought that what we really need is a bit of education, not aggression – I'm sure some of those designers don't know much about industry ethics regarding this practice. And neither do many clients, but this is not their problem – it's ours.

What is free pitch? Free pitch is a situation in which a client is asking for free speculative work from one or more design companies or freelance designers, before any contract is signed, in order to decide which company or freelance designers is going to 'win' the account or project. Free pitch is a 'competition' where designers are required to submit free speculative work in order to 'win' the project.

It's a free market, why would this 'free pitch' be wrong?

Erik Spiekermann answers in Form [Pitched Out is featured also on Icograda's website]:

Clients love to invite designers to a pitch when they think they need help with an unsolved communication problem, and the fee usually doesn't even cover the cost of the color prints. That would be like visiting several restaurants in a row, trying the food in each one, and then refusing to pay the bill because none of the dishes were really to your liking.

Taking part in a pitch where concepts are sold for a fraction of what they are worth - in other words: given away - makes you a loser three times over. First you lose any respect for our business, because if it can be given away, it can't be worth much. Then you lose money by not being paid for your most valuable asset: ideas and their visual manifestation. And finally, you lose any chance to show the client that it takes a dialog to solve design problems.

AIGA Boston's chapter president, Amy Strauch, reinforces the same opinion [see To spec or not to spec]:

In my eyes, there is nothing right about this. I don't ask my lawyer, broker, doctor to do work for me for free while I scope out who might be better at it. To me, that shows disrespect and is a waste of time for all parties involved.

And a third quote, from Lana Rigsby – AIGA Houston [see To spec or not to spec]:

Unpaid competitions are more likely to end in frustration than in good design. The "winners" are just as likely to wind up frustrated, since they're now somewhat locked into an approach devised before they had a chance to do any real homework... in addition to being grumpy about having been put through the hoops along with total strangers. For no money. The spec work approach demeans us all, and perpetuates the myth that design is all about how something looks.

We see that opinion leaders in the design community – Mr. Spiekermann is a design legend, Icograda is one of the strongest voice designers can have and AIGA needs no introduction either – define free pitch as a bad practice and the act of taking part in free pitches as a bad conduit that erodes and devalues design as a profession.

Some time ago I heard of an ad agency creative head passing the details of a logo contest to his team, thus encouraging them to participate in the spec competition. At the same time, the ad people are pretty furious about the horror stories of clients inviting 20 agencies in a pitch.

What goes around, comes around. When you encourage the concept of free pitch, don't be surprised when you'll get your share of it.

Any solutions then?

In the advertising industry the free pitch practice rules and it will take them a long time to clean their act. In the design/identity/branding industry it's not too late. There are two solutions: one would be the 'No, thanks' answer – 'No, we do not endorse the practice of free pitch, sorry.' The second is the paid pitch. Even if the pitch fee is only $1000 (but we'd better talk about something like 25% of the project costs), that client would've think twice before flexing its pitch-organizing muscles and invite anyone in the marketing section of Yellow Pages.

In the end, straighten your spine and have a good look at what Drew Davies has to say in Be A Design Group's article This week's 4-letter word: SPEC:

I know to some that it would seem that the design world has heard all it needs to about the practice of engaging in speculative work. But if the past week has taught me anything, it's that we don't talk nearly enough about it. The reality is that engaging in spec work continues to erode the value of what all of us do as designers, and if any of us want our profession to have even a modicum of respect in the world, we'll answer the call for spec work with an emphatic No.

Most importantly, it's frustrating because, at its core, this is an issue we all have to fight together. All of us in the design profession are on the same team. If the entire business community understood the value of good design, and saw the effect we can actually have on their bottom line, there wouldn't be nearly enough design firms to handle all of the business. But when any creative firm reiterates to a business client that it's okay to give away what we do on a gamble of a big payoff, it's a huge setback. So I'm raising the horn again and sounding the rallying cry: if we all band together and tell the business community that, like any other professional service, we provide something of great value that is worth paying for, only then can we win the war. Fellow designers, please join me in saying no to spec work.


  • Icograda – Pitched out by Erik Spiekermann, Form
  • AIGA – To spec or not to spec
  • AIGA – Design competitions and speculative work
  • Creative Latitude – Why We Don't Make Speculative Presentations by Creative Business
  • – Spec Work by Judy Litt
  • Boston Business Journal – Working on spec is a disturbing -- and growing -- trend by Sean Lorenz
  • Be A Design Group' – This week's 4-letter word: SPEC by Drew Davies

December 15, 2007

Woody Allen's Windsor

Is this fetish or brand identity?

Woody Allen’s Windsor

White type on black opening titles rolling on old jazz or classical music became a part of Woody Allen brand.

In a time when movie titles become more and more of a clueless "me too!" affair1, Woody Allen’s unique (and relentless) typographic style is entirely praiseworthy. His white type on black opening titles rolling on old jazz or classical music became a part of Woody Allen brand, just like his neurotic dialogues and "his black-rimmed glasses"2 are.

The white type being Windsor-EF Elongated, by Elsner+Flake foundry.

Here is how describes EF Windsor Elongated:

Windsor is an unusual design cut by Stephenson Blake3 in 1905. Windsor is a bold face with heavy rounded serifs and strong diagonal stress. Capitals M and W are widely splayed, P and R have very large upper bowls. The Lowercase a h m and n of the Windsor font have angled right hand stems, e has an angled cross-stroke. The overall effect is one of friendliness and warmth. Use the Windsor font in advertising, on posters and for general display work.

Ed Benguiat, the "printer"

How did Woody Allen chose this typeface? In a previous iteration of this post, the mystery of Woody Allen's typeface of choice was solved by this amazing story posted by Randy J. Hunt in the comments (thank you, Randy):

Benguiat had an affinity for Windsor and suggested it to him that morning. He’s used it in every film since.

I'm currently taking a typeface design course with Ed Benguiat, and just last night he described a time when he would have breakfast at the same New Jersey diner every morning. Among the other that would dine there was Woody Allen. On one occasion, referring to Benguiat as a "printer," Allen asked him what a good typeface was. Benguiat had an affinity for Windsor and suggested it to him that morning. He's used it in every film since.

This New Jersey breakfast with Ed Benguiat must've happened sometime between '75 and '77, because in Love and Death (1975) the titles (although already white type on black background) are set in another serif, while in Annie Hall (1977) Windsor is there, in the largest size of all his titles.

It is also interesting that after Annie Hall (1977) Woody Allen betrays WindsorInteriors (1978) titles are set in a News Gothic-ish sans serif—only to return to it for Mahattan in 1979.

Down to business

So I dug up my movies (okay, most of them are borrowed, while Stardust Memories, September, Another Woman, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Alice and Shadows and Fog screenshots are from Scott Steffens' Contact Sheet) and took some screenshots where the titles complied to the consistency rule of one line Windsor-EF Elongated on black background. Where the title didn't comply I mentioned that in bold text.

Woody Allen's filmography, as referenced by IMDB:

1. What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966)—doesn't comply;
2. Take the Money and Run (1969)—doesn't comply;
3. Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story (1971) (TV);
4. Bananas (1971)—doesn't comply;
5. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask (1972)—doesn't comply;
6. Sleeper (1973)—doesn't comply;
7. Love and Death (1975)—doesn't comply;
8. Annie Hall (1977):


9. Interiors (1978)—doesn't comply;
10. Manhattan (1979)—doesn't have an opening title (except the famous monologue and a "Manhattan" neon building signage) but its closing credits comply to the rule:


11. Stardust Memories (1980):


12. A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982):


13. Zelig (1983):


14. Broadway Danny Rose (1984);
15. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985):


16. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986);
17. Radio Days (1987);
18. September (1987):


19. Another Woman (1988):

[%(caps)Woody Allen%], Another Woman (1988), screen capture

20. New York Stories (1989) (segment "Oedipus Wrecks"):


21. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989):


22. Alice (1990):


23. Shadows and Fog (1992):


24. Husbands and Wives (1992);
25. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993):


26. Bullets Over Broadway (1994);
27. Don't Drink the Water (1994) (TV);
28. Mighty Aphrodite (1995)—it's interesting that this one is the only title I found set on two lines (the rest are one-liners):


29. Everyone Says I Love You (1996):


30. Deconstructing Harry (1997):


31. Celebrity (1998):


32. Sweet and Lowdown (1999);
33. Small Time Crooks (2000):


34. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001);
35. Sounds from a Town I Love (2001) (TV);
36. The Concert for New York City (2001) (TV) (segment "Sounds from the Town I Love");
37. Hollywood Ending (2002);
38. Anything Else (2003):


39. Melinda and Melinda (2004):


40. Match Point (2005):


41. Scoop (2006):


42. Cassandra's Dream (2007);
43. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) (in post-production).


Truth is, I don't know whether this is a Kubrick-eque case of typographic fetish4 or if Woody Allen built a visual identity in order to brand his products.


As you can see, the are a few titles left without a confirming screenshot. If you happen o have (or have access to) the respective movies, please submit the missing screenshots (along with your name and URL if you don't want to remain anonymous).

1 See Trajan is the Movie Font, a satire on Trajan clueless overuse in cinematic typography.

2 From Manhattan (1979) opening monologue: "Chapter one. He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved. Behind his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat.—I love this.—New York was his town and it always would be."

3 Wikipedia page on Windsor specifies: "Windsor is an old style serif display typeface created in 1905 by Eleisha Pechey. Besides the basic font it is also available in two other styles, Light and Roman. Various foundries introduced minor variations so that today there are versions by Linotype, Elsner+Flake, URW+++, Mecanorma and Stephenson Blake."

4 "Futura Extra Bold was Stanley's favourite typeface. It's sans serif. He liked Helvetica and Univers, too. Clean and elegant." Citizen Kubrick, The Guardian, Saturday March 27, 2004.

October 14, 2007

Communist design



I see incoming hits coming from Google searches for "communist design" keywords. They drive me nuts and determined me to write this post.

What these searches find is A communist design law in the making page about SDPR's "design law", which is only fair, if not also a bit amusing.

But that's not about communist design per se, but about a professional conduct that reminds of communism: people with mindsets imported right from "the old times" and an appetite for control by monopoly and lack of choice that can only make sense in a centralized economic model.


Communist economy was utterly inept at building a nice spoon.

IKEA opened their first Bucharest store a few months ago. One of the first items my friends bought from IKEA was—among other items—a tea spoon. A very simple yet beautifully designed little metal spoon, featuring a clear line and a matte sandblasted texture, almost soft to touch.

I look at it for a long time, trying to understand. How hard is to design a spoon, and—I remembered—why during communism exactly those small day-to-day domestic life objects were the most horrendous?

Because everyday life objects don't have any political propaganda potential. They don't serve the regime.

Communist economy could manufacture spaceships and send people on orbit, but was utterly inept—and will always be, in any if its iterations—at building a nice spoon.


Communist design is a contradiction in terms: there is no such thing as communist design.

In fact, communist design is a contradiction in terms: there is no such thing as communist design. The rudimentary exceptions you'll find can only confirm this statement, because communism and design are incompatible and mutually exclusive. Here's why.

  • Communism despises people1 while design is an effort to help and dignify people2;
  • Communism is a centralized economy which means that market competition is heavily discouraged until complete obliteration, while design is an instrument for outperforming competing players in a market economy;
  • In a centralized economy it's not the market that decides what's good—someone else decides what's good for you and what you should like: centralized taste. Design stands for differentiation and plurality, design teaches and encourages a democracy of taste;
  • Communism is about eradicating the freedom of choice by lack of options and by coercion, design is about encouraging choice by seduction;
  • Graphic design in communism is closely linked with propaganda. So closely that anything that's not propaganda it is regarded as hostile to the regime and subject to censure.2
  • Without plurality there is no need for identity, consequently identity design is either pointless or diverted to propaganda, also.

Now really, please—if you find this—quit searching for "communist design"—it's not only a deceptive oxymoron, it's plain bullshit. There could exist an appropriate term, however: communist un-design.

1 Romania's president officially denounced the Communist regime as "illegitimate and criminal" in 2006. Before that, in July 1993, the Czech Republic passed an act condemning its Soviet-era government, and Bulgaria's Parliament passed a resolution condemning the former regime there in 2001. In 2006 also, Ukraine's Parliament passed a bill labeling the Stalin-orchestrated famine of the 1930s that killed an estimated 10 million people an act of genocide. [See article in International Herald Tribune.]

2 Informations architecture helps people understand messages better, ergonomics helps people use products with less effort, usability helps people accomplish their goals, and so forth.

3 Graphic artists and book illustrators explained me the numerous revisions they were forced upon by the censors for mere poetry books illustrations. In one instance a Communist Party censor asked that all earrings and bracelets from a series of book illustrations to be airbrushed out because they were "decadent" and "bourgeois".

July 10, 2007


Take it as a Saab print ad, Cristian Kit Paul, 2007

Looking back, Cristian Kit Paul, 2007

Loving Scandinavian design means buying Scandinavian design. Otherwise it would be just another case of virtual consumption.

June 6, 2007

Graphic design joke

If you work with graphic designers or are one yourself you'll probably be interested in the only joke about graphic design that I know of. [via Posterwire] Pay attention:

Q: How many graphic designers does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Does it have to be a light bulb?

Our profession doesn't seem to be very fertile for making jokes about, don't you think? I have no clue why is that or whether it's a good thing or not. Are we a solemn species of unsmiling fellows?

Continue reading Graphic design joke.

April 24, 2007

Ten years of Connex

The greatest account in Romanian advertising

If CONNEX was still alive, it would have turned 10 years old earlier a few days ago, in april. Looking back now, I’m sure that CONNEX was the greatest account in Romanian advertising, bar none. It attracted the best people and the best agencies into a Bermuda Triangle of überpower ecstasy and a free-falling nightmare somewhere in between a tango dance floor of swift seduction and a fight club basement of bone breaking clashes.

When I say it was the greatest I say the most challenging and spectacular, the most influent and visible. Many were brought into the spotlight by this crusadeous account (people as well as agencies) and quite a few were wiped out — some tasted both. This is why the stories about it come in only two colors: exalted reality-distorted white and still-in-denial traumatic black.

As seen from outside, in its final period the account seemed to collapse eroded by confusion and drifted blindly, turned into a ghost-ship wreck, until it finally disappeared.

I’m a lucky bastard: I was blessed with the privilege to be one of those who could afford getting addicted to this life-changing (for me, at least) drug twice: once briefly at the very beginning (1997) while working for BBDO, and the again during 2001-2002 period, while working for D’Arcy DMB&B.

Continue reading Ten years of Connex.

January 26, 2007

Identity - Best of the Best 2007

Awarding excellence in corporate identity


After last year's LogLounge jury, this year I have the honor to participate in Identity's Best of the Best international jury along with design legends I've been looking up to for many years. Here's the jury:

The international jury assembled for Identity

  • Ken Cato — Co-founder and chairman of Cato Purnell Partners (Australia)
  • David Carson — Founder and principle of David Carson Design (USA)
  • Emma Booty — Creative director of London office (Landor Associates, UK)
  • Prof. Erik Spiekermann — Founder of MetaDesign and Fontshop, member of German Design Council, president of the ISTD, International Society of Typographic Designers (Germany)
  • Minato Ishikawa — Founder of Minato Ishikawa Associates Inc. (Japan)
  • Tony Speath — Independent brand-consultantm founder of (USA)
  • Alexander Faldin — Founder and art director of fallindesign (Russia)
  • Ruth Klotzel — Vice-president of ICOGRADA, founder of Estudio Infinito (Brazil)
  • Cristian "Kit" Paul — Co-founder and creative director of Brandient (Romania)
  • Ivan Chermayeff — Co-founder of Chermayeff & Geismar (USA)


From Identity's press release:

The international award scheme, now in its second year, is designed to recognise excellence in logos, trademarks and corporate identity.

In 2006, 970 submissions from 26 countries resulted in 10 prizes. View the results.

This year two new categories have been added and the award scheme has been endorsed by Icograda. Entries will compete within 12 categories (6 categories for logos and trademarks, and 6 categories for corporate identity and packaging).


I invite all Romanian designers to submit their work to Best of the Best 2007. We all have things to prove and misconceptions to turn around. We all need to get rid of the provincial status quo that plagues our industry and open up to the world.

In 2006 Brandient demonstrated the potential of Romanian design by winning the most awards and nominations in this international contest — now it's your turn.

December 2, 2006

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Continue reading Test lorem ipsum.

November 13, 2006

1000 signatures

Against SDPR's "design law"

Over one thousand signatures

It seems that our petition against SDPR's law reached 1000 signatures mark. If you did not sign it yet, please do.

International echoes (III)

Metropolis Magazine USA about "the design law"

Titled Design and the State – A law in Romania requiring designers to be registered could push its best practitioners underground, a leading design and arhitecture magazine from The United States of America — Metropolis Magazine — publishes David Womack's article about SDPR's initiative for regularization of the design practice.

Here's an excerpt:

And you call yourself a designer? A law likely to come before the Romanian parliament in the next year would restrict use of the term—be it graphic, interactive, or product—to members of the country’s official design association, the Society of Professional Designers in RomaniaSDPR. “Unfortunately the term design is used by anyone and anyhow just because it sounds exotic and it is the ‘in’ trend,” complains Alexandru Ghildus, a founder of the SDPR and professor of art and design at the National Art University, in Bucharest. To be eligible for “designer” status, one would need a degree from a recognized institution and to have completed a one- to two-year internship under the guidance of an SDPR member. Ghildus hopes that the law will prevent “counterfeit” design, which he says is flooding the Romanian market.

The proposed law has set off a furious debate within the Romanian design community and beyond. Almost a thousand people have signed an online petition opposing its passage, among them famous outsiders such as Stefan Sagmeister and James Victore. Local designers including Cristian “Kit” Paul and Ovidiu Hrin, who do not have diplomas but nevertheless have managed to build successful practices since the collapse of the Ceausescu dictatorship, in 1989, are leading the opposition. For them the law is disturbingly reminiscent of Romania’s Communist past, when regulation often served as a thin disguise for corruption. “These guys are not altruistically concerned about the well-being of the design industry,” Paul says. “They’re relentlessly pursuing their own self-serving agenda.”

Have a look also on the whole protest coverage list.

September 14, 2006

Typography crime

Cold blooded, in broad daylight


Sometimes it's hard to figure whether to laugh, get mad or cry when such freakish clowns are encountered. But when they're right on main street it can only mean one thing: this damn city needs more designers.

Food for thought, SDPR guys. Food for thought.