At a glance, the overall pattern formed by these first 25 polar histograms (or: rose diagrams) is clear: orthogonal grids, mostly aligned with cardinal directions in orientation, dominate American cities. There are exceptions, but most streets run north, south, east and west. Geoff Boeing, an assistant professor of urban informatics at Northeastern University, recently moved from the more linear Bay Area to a more chaotic Boston. Upon arrival, he created this series of data visualizations to explore how American city grids shape urban legibility in 25 major cities. He explains that in his diagrams “each bar’s direction represents the compass bearings of the streets … length represents the relative frequency of streets with those bearings.” A combination of factors, from winding streets to the cobbled-together nature of the city, have resulted in Boston’s unusually complex grid. “It does not adhere to a straightforward north-south-east-west pattern (or any other consistent, predictable pattern) that our brains adjust to in most places,” writes Boeing. He clarifies, though, that this is “not because Boston apocryphally paved over its cow paths, but because of its age, terrain, and annexation of various independent towns.” Still, the city arguably makes up in part for what it lacks […]
Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we’ve just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible (99 Percent Invisible) is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture. From award winning producer Roman Mars, KALW in San Francisco, and Radiotopia from PRX.
Louis is a can of generic cola. He’s been on the shelf a long while, so he’s had some time to think. Go2 is a store brand. “People call it a knockoff,” says Louis. “I’ve been called the best of the worst. Bottom-shelf. We can describe it as bottom-shelf. I’m at peace with that.” Everything is Alive is an unscripted interview show with host Ian Chillag in which all the subjects are inanimate objects. In each episode, a different thing tells us its life story — and everything it says is true. It’s an existential exploration of the non-human condition, peppered with history, humor and esoterica. In the show’s debut episode, the host interviews an unassuming beverage. Together, the object and interviewer take side trips, too, discussing the nature of existence, but also looking into other drinks, like Radithor. Radithor at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History by Sam LaRussa (CC BY-SA 2.0) A vintage “power drink” of sorts, Radithor was a cocktail of radioactive quackery made from triple-distilled water and radium isotopes. Manufactured between 1918 to 1929 by a Harvard dropout, it was advertised as “A Cure for the Living Dead” and “Perpetual Sunshine.” One victim of […]
An angry mob hurls bricks and molotov cocktails at riot-geared officers against a backdrop of burned-out cars and fire-scorched buildings on a street strewn with broken glass. The fire is real, as are the uniformed police. Zooming out, though, the reality of the scene begins to collapse. The architectural facades are just one-brick-thick shells propped up by metal support braces. Angry citizens are officers in plainclothes. The scenario is an elaborate simulation acted out in the streets of a so-called “Hogan’s Alley” located in Gravesend, England (an ominously named place where 14th-century Black Death graves ended). Gravesend as seen from outside, image by Robin Webster (CC BY-SA 2.0) Home to one of the highest (fake) crime rates in the world, the Metropolitan Police Specialist Training Centre has been the site of burglaries, assaults, riots and terrorist attacks. Robberies are attempted in parks, restaurants and nightclubs. Hijackings and bombings are foiled at aircraft, train and tube stations. The population varies, but the complex can house up to 300 participants at a time. Photographer Chris Clarke has extensively documented the faux facades of Gravesend Designed by Advanced Interactive Systems (AIS), the training center was opened in 2003, complete with “live-fire ranges with […]
Could one person start a whole movement behind a new logogram and/or punctuation mark based on a momentary flash of insight‽ The Bay Area’s Doctor Popular had just such an exclamatory question about his “andorsand,” a hybrid character combining “and/or” into one glyph. A play on “ampersand,” the clever name doesn’t hurt, either. “… the “Andorsand”. It’s the interrobang of “and/or” statements. Brilliant‽” DocPop on Twitter “My original idea,” Doc explains, “was to take the underscore that we’d find in mathematical statements (such as to represent ‘greater OR equal to’) and combine it with the classic ampersand.” Then, much like the interrobang’s publicized debut in the 1960s, the concept sparked other design ideas from fellow online typography nerds. Some designs may be better than others, but the general idea of incorporating the letters “o” and “r” (2nd and 3rd below) seems like a solid one. Various andorsand design ideas posted on reddit.com/r/typography Still, even assuming the design itself were to be finalized, a problem remains. As the (still relatively obscure) interrobang has demonstrated, the real key to success lies in banality. It is one thing to go viral, and another to get people using a glyph. Practically speaking, users have […]
In the beginning was the word, and the word was … well, actually, there was just one word … one long, endless word. For thousands of years, in some written languages, there was no space between words. People were expected figure out sentences and clauses while reading aloud. Vergilius Augusteus, Georgica, written with continuous wrapping script Scriptio continua was the dominant form of writing for the Greeks and the Romans. Sometimes, this never-ending string of letters would execute what was called an ox-turn, first reading left to right, then switching to read back from right to left. In the 3rd century BCE, a librarian in Alexandria named Aristophanes introduced the idea of putting in dots to indicate pauses, like stage directions for people performing texts out loud. Dots of ink at the bottom, middle, or top of a given line served as subordinate, intermediate and full points, corresponding to pauses of increasing length. Aristophanes’ system became the basis for Western punctuation, A partial thought — followed by the shortest pause — was called a comma. A fuller thought was called a kolon. And a complete thought — followed by the longest pause — was called a periodos. These rhetorical units […]