November 2012 Konstellation: Declaration

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is in the Guinness Book of Records as the “World’s Most Translated Document.” It is a surprisingly simple document, with fewer than 2,000 words total. It was created after World War II by a diverse group of leaders who made up the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The committee was chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, who is closely associated with its creation. The Declaration was adopted December 10, 1948.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been presented in various formats many times, but we couldn’t resist adding one more version to the world. Why this document, you might ask? Because unlike many foundational documents, it was not written for a specific country or group. It was written with the intent of serving all of humankind. It lays out the most basic of rights, many of which we take for granted. It’s sometimes hard to remember that simple things like Article 3 (“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”) were not always a given, or that such principles are not followed in every nation today. The Universal Declaration is an incredibly important document… and yet many people do not know that it exists, much less what it says.

The color palette of this Konstellation was inspired by the idea of living things. Earth tones and the colors of growing plants were used to emphasize the life-affirming nature of the document.

The fonts were chosen to bring a sense of dignity and purpose to the document without letting it stray into the realm of boring. They needed to be clear and readable without becoming dull and uninteresting.

For more detailed information on the fonts, see the readme file included with the Konstellation.
Be sure to check out this month’s Konstellation, “Declaration.”

October 2012 Konstellation: Romeo

Usually the fonts of a Konstellation are inspired by the piece we’ve decided to use that month. After reading the piece, we decide on a design treatment and then start looking for fonts. This month’s Konstellation came about a little differently. We started with a collection of fonts that seemed almost unusable – best described as “the kind of scripts a teenager would use for over-the-top love letters.” The challenge was to find a piece that fit these ridiculous fonts. Finally, it came to us: Romeo and Juliet.

It is, after all, a love story about two teenagers. Juliet was 13; Romeo was only a few years older. They meet, fall in melodramatic love, get married, and kill themselves due to a misunderstanding over the course of four days. Teenagers? Check. Over-the-top love story? Check.

But as interesting a challenge as it was to find two handwriting fonts that worked well together, we decided to take it one step further. If Romeo and Juliet had lived in an era where colored ink and paper had been more accessible, we could easily envision them writing love letters to each other on colored (and probably perfumed) paper in dramatically-colored inks. While we haven’t found a way to include scents in our monthly Konstellations, we did decide to use some creative coding to transition from one background color to another, using the changes in color to differentiate between Romeo and Juliet despite using the same fonts for both voices.

The finished product is the perfect encapsulation of this melodramatic teenage love story. Reading the words in a standard font in black-and-white makes them seem more mature and deeply romantic than is true to their actual ages and situations. Reading their words with these fonts and colors gives a truer perspective on their teenage emotions.

For more detailed information on the fonts, see the readme file included with the Konstellation.
Be sure to check out this month’s Konstellation, “Romeo.”

August 2012 Konstellation: Rights

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Amendment IV to the United States Constitution

As we add more and more technology to our lives, privacy, security, and digital rights become increasingly complicated. The Electronic Frontier Foundation works on issues at the edge of where technology, rights, and society intersect.

Many people are confused about how long-standing Constitutional rights apply in the modern contexts, so EFF’s Hanni Fakhoury created a guide to educate consumers about their rights regarding the search and seizure of their electronic devices. It was originally published under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

“Your computer, your phone, and your other digital devices hold vast amounts of personal information about you and your family. This is sensitive data that’s worth protecting from prying eyes – including those of the government.” -Hanni Fakhoury, Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Know Your Rights”

This month’s Konstellation, “Rights,” took inspiration from 1940’s government public education posters. You can see a virtual exhibit of some of these posters on the National Archives’ webpage. An all-sans-serif font palette is little untraditional, but it really works for this Konstellation.

For more detailed information on the fonts, see the readme file included with the Konstellation.
Be sure to check out August 2012′s Konstellation, “Rights.”

July 2012 Konstellation: Zombies

Try out my latest project: – a minimalist place to write. Works great in any browser, especially the iPad.

Sign up for David Crossland’s Crafting Type Workshop, Aug 27 – 31 in Edmonton

Zombies: a potential public health threat. No one wants to be stuck having a conversation like this one with their now-zombified coworker. Thankfully, the CDC is ready. And they’ve published a guide to making your own zombie apocalypse preparedness kit.

The original post has useful content, but its typography and color are rather bland. So we decided to zombify its presentation a little in order to really bring home the threat of zombie apocalypse to readers. It would be a pity for anyone to be caught unprepared for such a disaster simply because a post full of important information didn’t look interesting.

The font palette is a balance between distressed, off-kilter fonts and sharper, more well-defined fonts. There are elements of both round softness and sharp edginess. The color palette was inspired by the tones of blood, flesh, and dirt.

For more detailed information on the fonts, see the readme file included with the Konstellation.

Be sure to check out 2012′s Konstellation, “Zombies.”

June 2012 Kontellation: Prince

Niccolo Machiavelli is famous as the man who wrote “The Prince,” a book that advised princes on the best ways to rule tyrannically. This is the work that gave us meaning behind the word “Machivellian.” The most famous chapter of the book is the one presented in this Konstellation, in which Machiavelli argues that it is better for a ruler to be feared than loved.

The obvious choice for presentation was to use colors and fonts reminiscent of the Renaissance era in which Machiavelli wrote the treatise. But with Konstellations, we try to bring a different perspective to pieces. So for “The Prince,” we looked at it with modern eyes. What if Machiavelli were writing the piece for one of today’s politicians?

We looked to various campaign websites for inspiration. Certain characteristics were seen on U.S. politicians’ websites, reaching across both parties and a variety of positions. The color scheme and imagery were nearly universal. Even the campaigns’ font choices were reminiscent of one another – solid serifs contrasted with clean sans serif fonts.

The colors, fonts, and imagery all invoke a sense of patriotism and idealism. Yet Machiavelli’s words are on their face distasteful, encouraging the very opposite of the democratic ideals espoused by candidates. This dissonance was intentional. Machiavelli’s depictions of morality and good governance both echo and clash with our modern concepts. We wanted to emphasize the modern resonance of Machiavelli’s words.

We hope that this Konstellation gives you a different perspective on a classic work.

May 2012 Konstellation: Korematsu

In May of 1942, the United States began moving 110,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps under Executive Order 9066. There were a number of court cases about the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II, including Hirabayashi v. United States and Yasui v. United States. But the most notable was Korematsu v. United States, in which six members of the Supreme Court held that it was constitutional to order the internment of American citizens based on their heritage.

Justice Frank Murphy wrote a dissent to the decision in Korematsu, passionately disagreeing with the court’s finding that the internment camp order was constitutional.

“I dissent, therefore, from this legalization of racism. Racial discrimination in any form and in any degree has no justifiable part whatever in our democratic way of life. It is unattractive in any setting but it is utterly revolting among a free people who have embraced the principles set forth in the Constitution of the United States.”

This month’s Konstellation, “Korematsu,” set out to show the passion and anger of Murphy’s dissent. The darkness of the background represents the “ugly abyss of racism” that Murphy sees. Orange is used to emphasize Murphy’s most cutting words. The fonts chosen emphasize both the sharpness of Murphy’s words and the governmental nature of the document.

By using a modern color and font palette, “Korematsu” strives to bring a piece of the past into the present. While the individual convictions of Yasui, Hirabayashi, and Korematsu we overturned decades later, the precedents set by their court cases still hold. The decision in Korematsu has been cited recently as questions regarding government detention have been raised in court.

The full decision this excerpt is taken from is available here.

For more detailed information on the fonts, see the readme file included with the Konstellation.

Be sure to check out May 2012’s Konstellation, “Korematsu.”

April 2012 Konstellation: Spring

“We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets.”

Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden; or, Life in the Woods” is a powerful paean to simplicity and nature. This month’s Konstellation comes from a section from the end of “Walden,” in which Thoreau describes the area around Walden Pond coming back to life after the long dormancy of winter. He sees spring as not only a revitalization of the land but as a rebirth of humankind, a chance to make a fresh start.

“A return to goodness produced each day in the tranquil and beneficent breath of the morning, causes that in respect to the love of virtue and the hatred of vice, one approaches a little the primitive nature of man, as the sprouts of the forest which has been felled.”

Choosing fonts and colors for this piece was an enjoyable process. The vivid script used for the title and lift-out quotes throughout the piece add liveliness and vitality to “Spring,” while the other two fonts add dignity and clarity. The color palette was chosen to express both the season of spring and the watery tones of Walden Pond. The purples used for the title and lift-out quotes was inspired by the lilacs and violets that bloom in the spring. The pale blue-green background and deeper blue accent text recall the multiple colors of water. The dark green-gray of the body text draws from the color of old foliage before it comes back to life, adding depth and balance to the color palette.

For more detailed information on the fonts, see the readme file included with the Konstellation.

Be sure to check out April 2012’s Konstellation, “Spring.”

March 2012 Konstellation: Leprechaun

March and leprechauns go together like corned beef and cabbage. It’s hard to imagine one without the other.

Many people are only familiar with the cutesy leprechauns seen on cereal boxes and in modern children’s stories. In older stories, the leprechauns are mischievous creatures who are far less inclined to give up their pots of gold. Some of the older leprechaun tales were meant to teach a lesson about greed and trust rather than entertain small children with delightful little chortling fellows.

This month’s Konstellation falls somewhere between the two extremes. “The Leprechaun; or Fairy Shoemaker” is a nineteenth-century poem written by the Irish poet William Allingham. It tells the tale of a quest for a leprechaun in order to gain golden treasure. The poem is lighthearted and fun, but the leprechaun is hardworking and shrewd rather than simple and foolish.

Green is so closely associated with leprechauns and March that it would be difficult to imagine a leprechaun Konstellation without any green. But we wanted to stay away from the blindingly bright greens seen too often around mid-March. It didn’t feel true to the tone of the piece, and would have made the Konstellation’s style sheet usable for about two weeks per year. Instead we used a more subtle palette of greens, orange, and red that is far more pleasing to the eye and much more in line with the leprechaun Allingham depicts.

The Konstellation’s design was also influenced by the idea of a poem on an old scroll. The multi-layer border helps define the center of the page visually, giving depth and interest to what would otherwise be a somewhat boring background.

The fonts used for the title and the leprechaun’s voice have a little lilt to them, as though they were embodying the sing-song rhythms of the poem in font form. Their subtle details and flourishes bring out the magical subject of the Konstellation. The other font family is simpler, bringing out the uncomplicated simplicity of the story and recalling children’s fairy tale books.

For more detailed information on the fonts, see the readme file included with the Konstellation.

Be sure to check out March 2012’s Konstellation, “Leprechaun.”


February 2012 Konstellation: Oath

 The Hippocratic Oath has been administered to medical professionals for thousands of years. It symbolizes a doctor’s dedication to practicing the art of medicine responsibly. But as technology has developed, robots have begun to take the place of humans in a number of medical settings. Robots are already used to assist humans in surgery and automate certain lab tests. This Konstellation envisions a world in which robots become full doctors – a world in which the Hippocratic Oath is taken not just by humans but by machines.

The rules laid out in the classic Hippocratic Oath are quite rigid, with little acknowledgement of extenuating circumstances, future developments, or potentially-conflicting requirements. Many modern medical schools get around these  difficulties by administering one of the more modern versions of the physicians’ oath. But it made us wonder – what would happen if a robot doctor tried to strictly follow a literal interpretation of the classic Hippocratic Oath?

The science fiction stories about Asimov’s Laws of Robotics demonstrate the potential pitfalls of a robot trying to follow a limited set of rules. A robot is only as good as its programming and the rules it is given. Try to imagine if a robot doctor took the Hippocratic Oath literally. So much of medicine is human judgment calls. What happens when you remove the idea of judgment calls and create an environment in which there is only one correct response, dictated by a limited set of rules?

This was the inspiration behind February’s Konstellation. The steely gray and bright-burning blue were chosen with the image of a futuristic hospital in mind: sterile, inhuman, artificial, even a little harsh. The three fonts were likewise chosen to be digital rather than organic and human. The end result is clean, crisp, and very utilitarian.

For more detailed information on the fonts, see the readme file included with the Konstellation.

Want to read more about robots in medicine? Popular Mechanics just published a great article, “How Raven, the Open-Source Surgical Robot, Could Change Medicine.”

MinnPost has a slightly different take on the subject, asking, “[A]re robotic-assisted procedures worth the added cost? And, perhaps more to the point, are they safe?

Be sure to check out February 2012’s Konstellation, “Oath.”