Here’s how I cooked my homemade pizza

I never cook; I dabble. But then I enjoy dabbling in the kitchen every once in a while, and I almost always end up experimenting with new dishes (sometimes coming up with my own recipes mostly because I did not have something at home, or I burnt up what I did have.)

Today I got down to cooking one of my homemade vegetarian pizzas, famous within the four walls of my home if nowhere else. This is not the first time I’m doing this — I have cooked pizzas on a handful of occasions before — but I come back to this because pizzas are so easy to cook and taste good with little effort, but they are pretty hard to get perfectly right.

I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.

–W.C. Fields

With today’s attempt (which I made with more caution, care and by taking more time off — TLC and all that) I was actually overjoyed to end up with a pizza that tasted just like a pizzeria’s. So in this article I tell you how I did it.

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The nitty-gritty of making V.H.B.’s homemade pizza:

Time: 30 min (depending on how fast you are)

Serving: 2-4 (depending on your appetite)

N.B. 1 This is a vegetarian pizza.

N.B. 2 Oven settings get better by trail and error.

N.B. 3 There is no such thing as free Google Glass.

Ingredients:

  • Pizza dough or base (I prefer to get a base because it saves time)
  • 1 tsp olive oil (Popeye’s girl, yeah)
  • 1 green capsicum, sliced
  • 1 red capsicum, sliced
  • 1 small onion, squared
  • 1 small zucchini (I use the green kind), sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • Olives (as you like them)
  • Jalapeño (as you like them)
  • Baby corn (as you like them)
  • 1/2 cup mushroom, diced
  • 1/2 cum diced tofu, cubed
  • Mozarella or cheddar cheese (as per taste)
  • 500g tomato sauce
  • 200g tomato paste/puree
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic (as per taste)
  • An oven (preferably in working condition)
  • Blender
  • Nvidia project shield (just because it’s so great to have)

Alright, now onto the serious stuff ahead.

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For photographs during cooking, scroll down a few inches.

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There are three steps to making this pizza: preparing the vegetables (cutting, dicing etc., which I suppose you have already done,) and preparing the sauce, and, lastly, baking. You can cut, chop or dice as required; take a look at the list of ingredients above.

To prepare the sauce

This part is pretty easy: mix the tomato sauce (not ketchup, mind you,) and puree together in a bowl until they blend with each other. Then add the oregano, basil and sugar and stir it. If you like, a teaspoon of garlic would add to the taste. If you’re into a lot of yin and yang, go ahead and throw some salt and/or paprika to the mix.

That is it for the sauce. Keep it aside, let it settle and blend further with itself while you prepare the vegetables and toppings.

To prepare the vegetables

As you are preparing the sauce you might want to begin this step: marinate the onions, olives, capsicum, zucchini and tomatoes (and tofu, if you are using it,) in a cup of olive oil, basil and oregano.

Once you are done with the sauce, or after the vegetables have marinated to your taste (I just wait a brief five minutes,) take a wok or pan and add the olive oil into it. Then add the onions and zucchini and stir fry until the onions soften and become slightly golden brown. (Again, add a teaspoon of garlic if you like.)

Then add the tomatoes and capsicum and sauté them to a degree you like. I prefer the tomatoes boiled a quarter of the way: mostly raw, definitely not boiled. Besides, everything you do will almost be boiled once again when you put the stuff into your oven.

Set the pizza

So far we have our sauce and vegetables ready separately. Now you can do one of two things: mix them up well and spread them on the pizza base; or spread them out in layers — first the sauce on the base and then the vegetables over the sauce.

Finally, grate the cheese and spread it all over the pizza. I like to use mozarella cheese here because I like the way it bakes as well as the taste it acquires after baking; but you can use cheddar cheese too. I advise against being an adventurer and using something like pepper cheese because that just wrecks the whole pizza. (Who bakes pizza with pepper?)

A quick look at the steps in order: it is hard to cook and photograph at the same time! Click to enlarge.

Start baking

Here is a final checklist: you had the sauce ready, you had the vegetables ready, you had grated cheese ready, then you put them all up as you liked and set your pizza. The last step before popping it into the oven is to handcraft your dish by embedding the olives and jalapeño as toppings.

Preheat your oven to anywhere between 200° and 250°. I cannot say about all ovens, but mine does not do 200° preheating per se, but reaches an equivalent temperature when preheated for 10 minutes, then maintains that temperature for another 10 minutes before cooling down. This setup also does not hurt, since, by my experience, the baking itself rarely takes more than 7-8 minutes, and even less if you heat it up to 250°.

Now if you had not half-cooked the vegetables before, you might want to bake for twice as long (about 15-20 minutes) at about 250° to get the same results.

Important things to note while baking are to not turn on The Simpsons but instead to sit before your oven and peek through the glass to see how the cheese is doing. Take it out once the cheese has melted, spread like lava and engulfed your pizza’s surface. In other words, take your set up out of the oven once it starts to look like a pizza. Also be careful not to overdo this as it can leave you with a charred bag of wheat and lots of in-oven cleaning to do — and in case it does get charred, trust me, it does not taste good even if you use a glass of Cola to push it down.

If you have come so far without mishaps, congratulations: you can have V.H.B.’s homemade pizza for your meal, and, like that ritual after all pizzas, do not forget to run the extra mile tomorrow. [vhb]

Evernote Mobile – Part 1: Getting started

If you have not heard of Evernote, you definitely are living under a rock. Evernote is a powerful, cross-platform, note-taking and collaboration app. And if you read our recent notes-app comparison, you will see just how feature-rich Evernote is.

Now, on the other hand, if you have not yet got started with it for some reason, that is excusable. With this seven-part series, you are sure to be an advanced Evernote user (we call ourselves ‘Evernote junkies’) and — here is the real deal — you will be using Evernote not just as a note-taking app, but as one to improve your productivity and (seemingly) lengthen you day!

Evernote Mobile

I will only be talking about Evernote on mobile devices (be it iOS, Android or something else, Evernote is basically the same build-, design- and structure-wise) because its mobile app itself is so plump with features and targeted at several types of users that it is going to us seven interesting articles to cover.

I am going to be putting up  one every two or three days to help you digest the information effectively. So, today, let us start with a quick run-down of what Evernote is, what you can do with it and getting a basic understanding of how Evernote works.

Granted, this is for absolute beginners, but let us give all readers an even chance! If you are new to Evernote, this infographic below should give you a good feel for what it is and how it basically works.

Evernote at a glance for beginners - getting started - Infographic by VHBelvadi

In two days, get back here for an intermediate article, “Five tips and techniques to improving your Evernote organisation.” Until then, download Evernote on your mobile device and be armed. [vhb]

How to add an end mark to your articles on WordPress

END-MARKS ARE A typographical feature, most probably derived from the technology and computer-science industry, that employs a use of a symbol, text or icon to signal the end of a piece of text to the reader.

Personally, I am a great fan of end-marks, and I was using them in my first blog at WordPress.com but things changed later and, (unless I manually inserted them every time,) I had no way of fitting one into my articles… until now!

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As magazine features

If you have ever seen an end-mark before, it is probably in a magazine, at the end of every article (see picture below for examples.) Apart from being typographically good looking, these things serve to signal a more finished end to an article, much like a full stop does to a sentence. Once I managed to write a handful of code, I began employing end-marks on this website as my regular readers would probably have noticed.

Endmark examples

As I said already, manually inserting end-marks after every article is a tedious job; but, on the other hand, it cannot always be fully automated either. For instance, Colin Temple has a great endmark plugin that appends an end-mark of your choice to your articles.

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Endmark plugin

However, as I found out myself, if you have meddled with some of the code previously (or even if you have not, in some cases,) such as including certain sharing options after your blog post etc., the sharing buttons come wrapped into the main content division (they even do so native-ly on some themes) and you end up with an endmark after the sharing options, which can turn out to be awkward.

Colin’s plugin has some other features that need working, as he says on the website himself, but — if you care enough about your blog to remember adding an end-mark — I have a quick and foolproof solution for you with one of WordPress’ best introductions: shortcodes.

I have not come up with a method to fully automate it for the same reasons stated earlier, but if a code as simple as [x] is too hard to type in, then this exercise is not for you!

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What is a shortcode?

Ever since WordPress introduced shortcodes, the platform — and well neigh the blogosphere itself — has begun a sort of new era in that clients can do quite a bit of flexible work themselves now.

Basically, a shortcode is a small piece of text that signals the browser to do something a programmer has pre-programmed into your website. For instance, if I pre-programme a code into your website to print a red block every time you type in [red] then the code [red] is called a shortcode and you can use it without really knowing the original code that tells the browser to display the red block. (And you don’t have to call me up to find out how to do it either!)

In my solution, I decided to create a shortcode to my liking, and that is what I will show you now in as much step-by-step detail as possible.

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 Step #1:  Creating a shortcode

We will start by writing a small piece of code that does some simple things:

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  • It tells the browser to start executing the end-mark function
  • It tells the browser what the end-mark is, and
  • It tells the browser how to recognise your request to display the end-mark

I have already written the most basic structure of that code for you, so all you have to do is copy it and hold on to it for now. (Hover over the code and click the second icon that appears to copy it.)

[php]

<!–?<span class="hiddenSpellError" pre=""–>php
function UniqueFunctionName() {
return ‘<p>fin</p>';
}
add_shortcode(‘end’, ‘UniqueFunctionName’);
?>

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If you’d like, you can paste it onto a text editor like Notepad and edit certain areas. First of all, change the  UniqueFunctionName , in the two places that it appears, to a name of your choice. You can call it anything you like, but avoid spaces and use under_scores instead.

Next change the text that says  end  to whatever you want the shortcode to be. In this case, calling [end] will get the browser to load your end-mark. You can change it to anything you like; for instance, I keep mine as [ vhb ] so I can sign off with it each time I finish an article and have the end-mark displayed. While making changes at these places, be careful not to alter inverted commas and other punctuation.

Once you are done with the changes, copy the altered code to your clipboard (i.e. Ctrl+C on your PC, or Cmd+C on your Mac.)

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 Step #2:  Adding the code to your theme and calling it

Our next step is to add this code to our theme. There are several ways to do this, but if you are not too good with code, it is better to make as little change as possible to the original files, so below is the method I suggest.

[hr_padding] [notice type="blue"] The best way to edit a theme is to leave the original files alone and create a child theme instead, but I will not explain that here since it is a huge topic on it own!
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First go to your core files (your control panel/ftp area where your website files are stored) and create a new file; call it something like endmark.php. Of course, you can call it whatever you want, but this is the name I will be using in this tutorial.

Paste the code you copied (or the one you altered) in step #1 to the endmark.php file and save it.

Now we are going to make sure the lines of code that load your website onto a browser remember to call the new endmark.php file, else your shortcode will not work. Again, there are several ways to do this — including conditionally — but, since this code is light-weight and will hardly delay the page load time, we can afford to do it in a simple, straightforward manner.

Open your theme functions file (named functions.php) or a child-theme you have created and add the line of code that I have written below to it. If you do not know where exactly to add it, just make sure you put it before the  ?>  symbols at the very end.

[php]include(‘shortcodes.php’);[/php]

Now, onto the next step!

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 Step #3:  Designing the end mark

By now I take it you have decided what your end-mark will be. Most prefer to use a small square block or an ancient, intricate glyph. I, for one, use my wordmark (see the end of this article.) If you have not, you have one more step before you start using the end mark, so start thinking!

In this step, we will make sure our end mark is displayed where we want it to. To start, open the endmark.php file.

If you have not made any alterations (except the ones stated in step #1) then, in the line 3, you should find this:  <p>fin</p> .

Alongside this I also suggest you open a new post editor on your WordPress dashboard, type in your endmark shortcode (in this case, [end]) and use the preview button to see how it is working out. The chances are you see the word fin at the end of the article, but it is on a new line. The reason for this is that html does not support multiple <p> tags on the same line. (One <p> tag is already being used by your body, and using a second one moves it to a new line — after all it is the paragraph tag!)

Now there are two things you might want to do here. You can either use this and, perhaps, center the end-mark on its own line; or you can push the end-mark to the same line as the last line of the article, like you see on this website.

Let us examine the first case: you can, of course, simply edit the  <p>’fin'</p>  tags in the endmark.php file to  

‘fin’

 , however, the align attribute of the paragraph tag is unsupported after HTML4.0 — in other words, you may not be able to do this successfully.

So our next solution is to use CSS, which does work. Simply change the line to something like  <p style=”text-align:center”>fin</p>  where the center attribute may be used as left also, to left-align the endmark.

The second case is if you do not want the end mark in a line of its own: edit line 3 to put the paragraph tags inside span tags like  <span><p>fin</p></span> . Preview your post now and, voila, you see the end mark in the same line as the last line of the paragraph.

[hr_padding] [notice type="blue"] You might notice how I have a little space between the last full stop and the end mark on this website, but you cannot see so much space in your preview before the fin end mark we have added.

The trick is to use an HTML code called the non-breaking space (i.e. white space that the browser does not collapse.) You can do this by typing in  &nbsp;  where you need a space. Do it several times to leave lots of space.
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 Step #4:  Making the end-mark yours!

Who wants a lousy fin as their end mark? In this final step, we will make the end mark truly yours!

You have probably decided on what you want the end mark to be be now. Perhaps a square, or a circle, or a half-circle or a weird scribble, or an elvish initial, or maybe even your own signature like I used to use before. The simplest way to use this is to create an image; keep it within 10 – 14px in height, depending on your text, and making it square is always your best bet.

Upload the image somewhere — I strongly urge you to use your own website — and copy the image location. We will call this  http://mysite.com/location/of/my/image.jpg . JPG files are slimmest, and therefore the fastest to load, but you can use any common format you like.

All you have to do is replace the word  fin  in your endmark.php file with  <img src=”http://mysite.com/location/of/my/image.jpg”> . Replace our fake image location with yours and there you have it: your own unique end mark!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me with a comment here or simply by dropping me an email, and I will help you as best as I can. Have fun with your new end mark. [vhb]

Everything you need to know about typography: Part III

IN THIS FINAL installment of our 3-article series on typography, we are going to get our hands dirty and take up a fairly complicated project and design typesets in a circumstance mirroring the real world.

[hr_padding] [notice type="red"] Did you know that this is the third article on a series introducing you to the basics and intermediate levels of Typography? Head over to the first article, and then visit the second one too to get a better idea of what we’re doing in this post.
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Getting hired on a typesetting project

It is going to be a hands-on, real-world experience, so do not take the back seat and read through this. Try, instead, to participate every step of the way and go to a step only after you have finished the last. I have coded this article to make that easy for you. To start, click step 1, and once you are done, click step 2 to reveal it and so on. That way you will not sneak a peak involuntarily.

And before we go on, here is a word about our client of today: he is going to need us to typeset a heavily textual, offline work, covering consistency, readability and overall appearance, and he has several demands that we will learn from him soon. But we shall try to handle it in ways that can be used for either an offline or online work — and for you to get a good picture about on-set typography.

Ready? Dive in! Here is our client walking through the door. We have no idea what his name is, so we’ll just call him Richie.

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Richie’s newspaper typography requirements

Richie is a newspaper editor who owns a local daily called the City Lights Tribune. He needs us to design a newspaper for him, and his requirements are –. Let us hear them in his own words:

[hr_padding] [notice type="green"] “I’m going to need you to typeset my newspaper for me. Use the usual dimensions. I want the title to stand out, but none of that old English typefaces that everybody uses. Go for something different. I like it modern, but not so modern that it loses the touch of a newspaper and people don’t take it seriously.

“My articles are going to be of three levels. I’ll have a major headline or two, a few important stories and few unimportant news items. Your typesetting must make that clear. And don’t forget colours! I’ll also need a space for just titles and page numbers for navigation and such. That’s what I need. I’ll leave the rest to your discretion. Do a good job of it!”
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So there goes the man out the door. Now let us begin working on his paper. By the usual dimensions he probably refers to the rectangular layout of a newspaper, so we shall disregard specifics for now and head right to typesetting it. We shall be using lorem ipsum as dummy text, so if you have no idea what that is or do not know how to get it, take a look at this article.

When you’re ready, head to step 1.

[hr_padding] [toggle title="STEP #1 - TEMPLATES"] We shall begin by letting you make your version first (keeping Richie’s conditions in mind!) Then, once you have done that, return here and head to step #2 from where you can begin working on the design alongside me.

Here is a quick checklist of what you will need to be making:

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  • Newspaper title
  • Main headlines with sub-headings and body typeface
  • Second order headlines with sub-headings and body typeface
  • Default news item, including headlines, sub-headings and body
  • Colours

And here is a template broadsheet file I created for you to download. I have already equipped it with images and borders, but have left spaces for you to typeset the above-mentioned texts with ease. You can even use a programme as simple as Microsoft’s Paint to get the job done beautifully. For general convenience, I have put it up in .png format. Just right click (or ctrl+click) and ‘save link as…’ below:

[hr_padding] Download Richie’s newspaper layout [hr_padding]

Downloaded it? Great, so here is an explanation: The first horizontal bar, right on top, is where the newspaper name goes. The next one has a grey block, which is the image, so wrap your text around it and play with your headline and body for the main story. Moving down a row, we have three blocks: the centre one is for the second order headlines with its body etc., and the sides are for less important stories. Finally the last bit can be anything you like: little asides, perhaps? Or you could use one of the boxes to state what is inside today’s edition using just article headlines? Work it out yourself — and do not forget to choose good colours — then come back and follow me all the way from step #2 below.

[P.S. You can close a step once you're done with it by hitting the minus symbol next to the subheading step# above.] [/toggle][toggle title="STEP #2 - THE TITLE"]

We’re going to go top-to-bottom so that’ll give us a fairly good idea of hierarchy when typesetting. First, then, is the title of the newspaper. Now, throughout the process, I will refrain from mentioning exact font-size and other dimensions because that is largely dependent on the dimension of our play area. That would mean you’ll have to keep a close eye on the relative dimension of each element yourself. So, here goes:

Richie is looking to avoid the old English typeface entirely. That would have been a great choice, but to choose something else in its place would be quite a good challenge for us too, so I am going to begin with a basic question: serif or sans-serif?

My idea, since this is print media (and for reasons we have seen in the previous part of this series) is that it is better to go in for a good serif typeface for the body, which means the upper level is going to be sans-serif and the level above that (i.e. the heading) would balance out as a serif font. This is entirely personal taste, but we shall see how things turn out by the end!

I had several options, and I have narrowed it down to the two you see below. (You can just click on the font names to download most of these fonts — which is why I have opted to write off stock fonts altogether.)

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After much speculation, I have decided to opt for a bold version of the Optimus Princeps typeface for the City Lights Tribune. Incidentally, I am not going to be using Bambi for its weight — I shall explain more in the next step. I worked on the layout and here is what my paper’s title is going to look like:

Alright, that’s looks pretty good. Now I am going to keep that aside and start working on the headline fonts.

[/toggle][toggle title="STEP #3 - THE HEADLINES"]

We are going to have three levels of headlines as I explained already; and in this step I am going to work on all three of them, namely, the main headline, the second-order headline and a general headline typeface for all other news items on the paper. And we’re going to worry only about the typefaces on the front page for this project.

Like before, I have a few typefaces in mind, and as you have probably guessed, I’m going to opt for sans-serifs now. I played around with the weights and widths and finally chose these three, in order, for the main, second-order and tertiary headlines. Notice how the first one stands out among the three for it plays on heavier weights and is wider. (Again, click on the fonts to download them; I have personally made sure that they are all free!)

My choice for the main headline is one of my favourite sans-serif thick typefaces, called Alte Haas Grotesk. It’s soft inner curves add to the heavy look it carries, and the reason why I did not choose Bambi, comes in here. Think about this carefully: if you subscribe to the City Lights Tribune daily, then you know you subscribe to it and you do not have to be reminded about it every time you pick up the paper. But, as the typesetter, I need to make sure that what does beckon your eyes is the day’s main news item. In other words, if the name of the paper takes precedence over the main headline, it becomes disturbing to read the paper!

Remember that at any point of time, you can break the serif/sans-serif rule and go ahead and choose a serif font for one of the headlines too. But you just have to make sure you do it perfectly right, or you can wreck the design and turn off your readers.

In this regard, for all second-order news item headlines, I’ll be using the infamous Liberation Serif typeface.

 

Our last level of headings is going to be set in our beloved Arial. I shall be using the narrow variant, but the exact dimensions will be more relative than discrete, but here is the font itself as eye candy:

Now that we have our headline typefaces set, I’ll move to the body contents and create balancing serif typesets.

[/toggle][toggle title="STEP #3 - THE BODY"] For our main news item as well as our second-order news item/s I have opted for an extremely well-balanced, uniform typeface with an excellent x-height; the typeface, called Angleterre Book, is somewhat Bookman Old Style meets Georgia, and is well-suited for large chunks of fairly tiny sized text.

For our tertiary blocks of news, I’ll narrow down to fit more text into a smaller area, but still keep it legible by reverting to an old classic that you will surely smile at:

Satisfied? Now we’ll quickly go through the last step of our typesetting (we are rather quick, aren’t we?) There we will decide colours and any other leftover stuff.
[/toggle][toggle title="STEP #4 - MISCELLANEOUS"]

We have two more things to discuss: colours and a fallback typeface.

I am going to opt for Arial regular as my fallback typeface. If you have no idea what it means, let us see you work your grey matter and find out — just spot Arial regular on my finished work and there you have it!

As for colours, I played in the sandbox and finally came up with three productive colours to use along with my typesetting. I have put up the details below. Everywhere else, the text is going to be standard black on a white background. I have also mentioned the RGB settings in case you would like to reproduce them.

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So, have you taken yourself through the above steps? It is time to take a look at the final product. As your third and final typography lesson comes to an end, and you prepare to brave out the world with your newly found knowledge, here is a final piece of typographical work for you, as part of this three-article series. Click on the thumbnail below. (On the top right corner, you’ll find a tiny grey box. Click it to magnify the image.)

[hr_padding] [pictureframe image="http://vhbelvadi.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Newspaper-typesetting_City-Lights_VHBelvadi.png" align="center" lightbox="true" title="The City Lights newspaper typeset by VHBelvadi.com" link="" width="108" height="164"] [hr_padding]

So that ends our fun typography blog/workshop! I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it for  you. And I certainly hope it will be of use to you at some point of time in the future. As always, if you have any doubts or would like to drop a kind word, you know how to get in touch with me!

Everything you need to know about typography: Part II

WELCOME BACK TO the 3-aricle series on the A to Z of typography. This part continues from part I that we saw previously, so if you have missed out on that, make sure you head over to part I and familiarise yourself with all the jargon and basics of typography before continuing with this; you are bound to benefit best that way.

If you have already come through that route, keep going right on! In this part we will discuss several more interesting — and, more importantly, fun — things like I had promised last time. Here is a quick look at the highlights of this article:

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  1. Considerations when selecting typefaces
  2. Web-safe typefaces
  3. Standard print typefaces in the publishing industry, and
  4. Some good, important rules and practices when handling typefaces
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In this article I am going to make fairly open use of some of the terminology you have learnt in the preceding article, so try to keep up. Any time you cannot, just keep the first article open in a alternate tab on your browser!

[hr_padding] [notice type="green"] After Part 1 of this series, I got several requests to deal with the problem of the near-infinite scrolling, since these are considerably long posts. (This part, for instance, is around 3,000 words long.)

So I sat down, and, with a handful of code and a slightly altered design around that region, managed to break down this post into three pages.

Once you reach the bottom of this page, you have a direction-link to the following pages. Use that to navigate and reduce any stress of scrolling!
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The A, B, C of type selection

You are faced with the dilemma of choosing the right typeface for your work more often than you think. Over 65% of the working population out there does not really bother about the type they set their work in (but they do later spend a lot of time wondering why it does not look as good — I’m particularly talking to Richard Campbell, one of my readers who mailed me regarding this and requested me for a series on Typography.) 25% — which includes you — actually take interest in the field and try to learn from the rest of us who know. That said, the next time you start typing something, start paying more attention to the typeface of your document or book or webpage and you will find it helps immensely.

Plaque for Elrod machine
Plaqe for Edinburgh’s Elrod machine. Image courtesy: Flickr/edinburghcityofprint

When you are considering a typeface, you will naturally have to keep three key points in mind: readability, complementary behaviour, and consistency. Now these are terms you can easily understand: readability refers to how easy the typeface is on the eyes; complementary behaviour is how well one typeface works with another (or several others) in the document/webpage; and consistency is how the typeface works over several weights, styles, sizes and so on.

[hr_padding] [notice type="yellow"] Remember! Do not confuse readability with legibility.

Readability refers to how easy the font is on the readers’ eyes, and in turn how well suited it is especially for long periods of reading; this is especially in the case of books or articles.

On the other hand, legibility is how high the chances are of every single reader being able to read the typeface with ease. For instance a curvy, flourishing font — while obviously disturbing as part of a large block of text — wold be perfectly fine to use fleetingly as a heading text so long as an O does not look like Q. You get the point.
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Of course this would entirely depend on what you are going to use it for: if it is a book title or webpage heading, you do not have to bother as much about readability as you do about legibility. The same goes for consistency, as the rate of variation of such choice of fonts is narrow at best.

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A CaSe LiKe LeX in typography

There are 6 factors to remember when choosing a typeface, and — since we can afford to rush through this list quickly — I have created a simple mnemonic to help you remember it. If you are a fan of Superman (comics of film) you can definitely not forget an iconic villain, a nutcase like Lex Luthor! So let us take Lex’s help in remembering this list: CaSe LiKe LeX

Needless to say, pay attention to my weird spelling. This is what the six capital letters stand for: Cap-height, Serif, Ligature, Kerning, Leading and X-height. Five of these you have already learnt, but since we have not seen what a ligature is previously, I created a simple equation to help you remember. (And if you are not a fan of equations, just think of this as a typographical diagram!)

Some font have — and many a time typographers make sure that — the kerning between two letters gets so fearfully close that the set-up looks clumsy as two letters, but much more beautiful as a single entity.

The finest example in type-history is the ligature between an f and an i. In some fonts (the one you see above is Robert Silmbach‘s beautiful Minion from the 90s — an entirely digital font) typing f and i in a word, in sequence, creates a ligature that looks very similar — but should not be confused with — an h.

In particular, the term ligature refers to the crossbar-like horizontal stroke joining the two letters.

The thing about CaSe LiKe LeX is that you need to make sure, for an idea you previously had in mind, that a given typeface satisfies all these six needs just right. It is as simple as having an idea, picking possible typefaces, and making sure the six properties of a typeface matches with your idea.

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Web safe typefaces: what are they and why do we need them?

Whenever we talk about typography in the twenty-first century, a standard assumption is that we create a distinction between print typefaces and websafe typefaces.

The distinction is mainly based on availability. If we reeled back to the 1800s or even the early 1900s, and you were thinking of publishing a pamphlet (which was all the rage then) you could only choose between select typefaces — the ones whose slugs the type-caster or publisher had. If you did not find what you were hoping for, he would probably tell you, ‘Head over to Gustaveson’s press, he’s got the typeface you’re looking for,’ or something to that effect.

Fast forward to the 21st century and that problem is solved. With digital printing for books, if you want a font, you will, of course, get it. But a new problem has cropped: this is not true for the web. Much like in the 1800s, if  I want my webpage in a certain typeface and you do not have its font installed on your computer, you can never see my webpage! History repeating itself? Not quite, as we have a work around this — meaning we can now build webpages with almost any font and have in shown in almost any computer regardless of whether a font is installed in it or not; but we will see more about this technique in the final installment of this series.

For now, what you need to understand is that some fonts (mostly the ones that come pre-installed with your computers, be it a mac or a PC) are available in all computers all over the world. These are called web safe fonts and are just as safe as their name suggests. If you are familiar with codes, you will know how we often set a fallback font — or several fallback fonts — to make sure the webpage is delivered as close to what we envisioned as possible.

Everything you need to know about typography: Part I

[dropcap1]I[/dropcap1] AM A self-confessed type-nerd and hobbyist typographer. To me, typography is more than a subject and typefaces more than designs. And I believe the choosing right typefaces can convey a powerful message, and — unfortunately — choosing the wrong ones can be devastating.

[hr_padding] [notice type="red"] This is part of a 3-article series that continues onto the second article. Continue reading here.
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Introduction

But choosing fonts is more than just liking one and picking it: there are factors to consider, from legibility to atmosphere; and technical details to pay attention to, such as the ones we will see in this post series. And that is why I choose to write this quick, three-part series on how to choose typefaces for any work you take up in the future: in particular, the ever-growing population of websites, web designers and the like; and alongside them people whipping up their own ebooks or, equally importantly, to those looking to bring out books offline (particularly my good friend, Raghul Selvam, who I hope is benefited by this post as much as I intended.)

The point is that one needs to know quite a lot about typefaces and typography before they are able to take a good enough decision and make their work look professional.

[hr_padding] [notice type="yellow"] Did you know?

Contrary to popular belief, there are a handful of sentences containing all letters of the English language. Here are some of them:

  • Grumpy wizards make toxic brew for the evil Queen and Jack.
  • The quick, brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
  • Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.
  • Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz.
  • Amazingly few discotheques provide jukeboxes.

Such sentences are actually called pangrams. Can you think of more?

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While the subject is exhaustively large, in these three articles I intend to bring out as much information as is necessary, and sufficient, for anybody hoping to embark on dealing with typography on their own. (And if, at any time, you require suggestions, do feel free to contact me — or perhaps consider using my own fonts: I have two fonts under my belt, as a typographer.)

Now, with all this in mind, here is how I am going to divide this series of posts into three parts:

 

  1. The technical stuff: This is where we discuss the geeky jargon and get to know our alphabets and styles better. By the end of this, you will be able to communicate type-stuff with ease; besides, you’ll sound smart!
  2. Typographical practices: Moving onto more interesting stuff, this is where we go over the standards in professional typography. Here you’ll also gather some tips (secrets?) that will get you great results.
  3. Real-world experiments: In this final article, we’ll go through some great, real-world examples and create a neat design ourselves and put our newly-acquired knowledge to practice before shouting “Eureka!”

 

Trust me, to dive into book publishing without knowing your types is a recipe for disaster. It’s not just useful, but absolutely important, to understand typography as an art, inside-out, before jumping in. And I assure you the things I’ll teach you over the next three articles will condense all of known typography into a quick reference guide to look back at any time.

But that’s enough talking. So are you ready? Let’s begin!

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Alphabets, glyphs and other basics

Any typeface is basically categorised into two symbols: one, the letters we use in our languages, the ones we call alphabets; and, two, the symbols, including punctuation — such as full stops, commas etc. — and, by-and-large, all special characters. These we call by a different term called glyphs.

Alright, now that’s a new term you learnt, so for quick reference you may need any time later, let us put that into a box:

[hr_padding] [notice type="yellow"] Glyphs are special characters that a font creator has decided to include in the font; these are compulsorily the basic Latin punctuation, and often include some symbols unique to the font that its creator has made up for the user. [/notice]

Glyphs are not to be confused with dingbats which we will discuss later.

Before we progress any further, let use clarify the difference between a typeface and a font. This is where many people go wrong, and many actually use these terms interchangeably — which is quite wrong. The basic difference between a font and a typeface is that the term typeface refers to the design, the way sets of letters and symbols look; while the container they are in, a computer file (in modern times) or heavy iron slugs (in ancient presses) are called fonts.

As Stephen Coles puts it, “When you talk about how much you like a tune, you don’t say: ‘That’s a great MP3.’ You say, ‘That’s a great song.’ The MP3 is the delivery mechanism, not the creative work; just as in type a font is the delivery mechanism and a typeface is the creative work.”
To illustrate this example, if somebody were to ask me the type (or typeface) in which my website content is set, I would say it is set in one of my favourite fonts, Georgia — frankly, I think Georgia is one of those perfect typefaces! Now if you want to download Georgia onto your computer, you would look for the font called Georgia i.e. a .ttf or .otf file, which is like a container carrying the typeface. Savvy?

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The five landmarks of character recognition in typography

There are well over twenty-five or thirty terms in typography, most of which you will never use unless you take up publishing as a career (trust me, I’m still looking for an excuse to use some of them!) That said, we will not define five basic terms you simply must know: I call these jokingly as the five landmarks of typeface recognition. On a serious note though, if you can account for these five, you will be able to differentiate almost all typefaces in existance; their character anatomies all differ from each other in at least one major landmark.

Characteristic letters such as the small-case m, n, or capital-case Q, O etc. all have, at their uppermost limit, a downward curvature. This curvature is called a bowl. It may also be sideways, such as in the cases of p and R.

[hr_padding] [notice type="yellow"] A bowl or a loop is the fully closed, rounded part of a character, as seen in p, m, R, Q etc.
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You may have recognised, by now, that we are mainly dealing with Latin alphabets — and we will keep it that way.

On Google+ Netiquette

Having recently deleted my Facebook account, I hardly took time to realise how most of my networking would now take place on Google+ — which is how I preferred it in the first place. And the main reason I chose to switch, is exactly for reasons I have explained before in my four-part series of articles on Google+.

[T]oday, though, as I was scrolling through my Google+ stream, a thread I had conversed in, with Olav Folland ((Take a look at his I am project. It’s a masterpiece in conceptual photography!)), Mark Rodriguez and few other great guys, came to mind. In the pith, it turned out to focus on how certain etiquettes cannot be forced; so I decided to round-up a few that I could think of, similar to my older article on 16 ethics on Twitter. Right now, the list is short, but I expect it to grow with time (and the Google+ user base.) If you have your own etiquettes, feel free to suggest them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list!

1. The +1 button is no less than a comment

I have noticed how an increasing number of people have been commenting things like Cool! or Awesome or LOL or Funny and so on. While this is all very generous, my suggestion is not to comment unless you are really adding something to the conversation, have so much to praise that you have to spill out words effectively by commenting or you are the OP. In all other cases, cool, awesome, LOL, funny are effectively equal to a simple +1.

The +1 button saves time, both the OP’s and the commentor’s and is generally received with no less enthusiasm than a comment. So if you can gesture a neat +1, don’t bother commenting; it works both ways!

2. Use the notification button sparingly

Google+ brings forth a new concept in the form of its notify option where you can ring a bell on somebody’s profile to let them know about the post you just made.

But everybody knows bells are noisy, so use them sparingly. People with a large following are the most likely prey to this unchecked notification spree many people go on. As Tracy Crawford pointed out, if even a hundredth of her followers notified her once a month, “it would be far too many!” ((She has about 14,900 followers as of the time of this posting, so that would mean 149 notifications every month; almost 5 a day.))

Notification has its uses in times such as conversing in groups when notifying participants will prevent them from having the thread drowned in their stream by bringing their attention to it. But overuse of this for lame reasons such as just trying it out or to garner attention to one’s self is almost unforgivable–not to mention annoying if overdone. This isn’t Facebook, you have an open option not to force everything on everybody, so make the most of it; yet, minimise notifications even to concerned circles unless you can thoroughly justify what you did.

So the next time you think of notifying somebody, think again is it’s really (really) necessary. If it is, go ahead,; and if it is not, have pity on the other party.

3. To (re)share or credit?

It’s one thing to share somebody’s post; it is an entirely different thing to give credit to them. Well, they put it up, you better give them credit!

Of course, the original poster is notified of the share when you share it, but there are some things to keep in mind. Especially when you and the OP have followers in common, sharing soon after the OP shared it is pointless. It just appears in everybody’s stream multiple times. Added to this, if a post has already been shared several times, you can be sure it would have reached a large number of Googlers (and improved its chances of appearing in Google Search!)

Courtesy, Blogger Buzz

The alternative is to give credit: this can be as a comment to their post, a separate update voicing your views (if they are numerous enough and go deep enough to be worth a read.) Even adding a simple adjective and +Mentioning them will make a visible difference.

4. The Circle Formula

Another major difference (and a great one, if I may add) is Google’s abolition of the You follow me, I’ll follow you attitude that really took nobody anywhere on other social networks.

When you circle somebody, do it genuinely, not fervently hoping they will circle back. However, when somebody circles you, take a look at their profile. You can never tell when an interesting person is around you until you endeavour to find out. But the point is that you can do it in the comfort of knowing there is no compulsion to circle anybody back. Unlike most other social networks, following on Google+ is not mutual and this allows for better connection between people.

The attention herders from point #2 above are present here too. One can find them strolling Google+ with rather useless comments to make, but make it often enough that you read their name over and over again until you decide to check their profile — or something to that effect. You get the point.

5.Hangouts

I think hangouts are where netiquette turns into etiquette, another fine example of how the Google+ formula reflects real life closer than ever.

I need hardly go into the decencies in hangouts: a web camera is not the sole requirement in a hangout. You also need a bucketload of respect and a tub full of politeness, among other things you ought to know by now. There is of course the social dictum, ‘Don’t talk when you have to listen;’ Or perhaps it says you should not talk over somebody else? Such manners we involuntarily adopt in daily life go a long way in making a hangout worth everybody’s time.

6. Huddle selectively

Just because you know calling many people will increase your chances of getting a positive reply, it does not mean you should randomly invite you 500-strong circle to a huddle.

If sharing posts is to selective circles, huddling goes twice the distance. When an Android and/or iPhone user decides to start huddling with the people in his circle, he is literally calling everybody for a casual conversation that often turns out to be aimlessly wandering with too many people saying too many things, picturing a different end. It helps to tailor your huddle to select people, all of whom you know would be really interested in the issue at hand.

Remember that a huddle is not a soapbox speech where one talks and the others have the option of disregarding them. A huddle is where people have accepted invitations to a group chat, so make their chat — like in all other aspects so far — worthwhile.

7. Scrutinise your shares

This is not so much a netiquette as it is something you ought to give time to. In short, avoid ridiculous talking cats (and cats playing pianos) and animated GIFs of any species.

Share things that you would enjoy reading/seeing if somebody else shared it and it came on your stream. It’s like that old rule of “do not do what you would not want done to you.” The point of Google+ is that a different, and even mature, community has formed around it which welcomes everybody so long as they know how to conduct themselves well. While on Google+ make sure you use, rather than abuse, the network’s features; and make double sure that you are not doing anything without the intention of enriching others’ streams.

Behave.

Now these seven points are not the only unanimously agreed rules of netiquette on Google+, but they are a start. Personally, I think it is a list worth building so if you have your own views (or are opposed to any of the the seven already put up here) share it below!

For more on improving your Google+ experience, you might want to read my series on Google+. You can also join me on Google+.