A Tip of the Hat to the Folks Who Designed the AMC Pacer

The Pacer's greenhouse. CC BY-SA 2.0 Daniel R. Blume

The Pacer’s greenhouse. CC BY-SA 2.0 Daniel R. Blume

When the AMC Pacer came out back in the 1970’s, it was freakishly ugly. Now, it’s just plain ugly. The designers of the Pacer took a running leap at the future… and missed. But all these years later, we can see that curved-glass, wide-stance aesthetic in many attractive modern cars. We just hadn’t developed the vocabulary back then to assess what they had done. “The wide-track people have a way with cars” didn’t really sell it.

By golly, AMC was actually decades ahead of its time (at least where style is concerned). But without the materials, and, most importantly, other designs to evolve from, the Pacer remains mired in the ’70’s even while it crosses into the third millennium. It’s a mix that doesn’t work. At all. But I wonder whether any of those big-name designers that went on to build the bridge between 1970’s and now credit the peek into the future the Pacer afforded them.

Idly Pondering Redesign

I was staring blankly at my blog earlier and I thought maybe it’s time to redo the banner. I decided to mention my musings here on the off chance that someone out there cares at all, and has ideas I could mooch. Weighing the good and the bad of the current banner:

  • things move and fade in
  • there's a new haiku every fifteen seconds
  • there's a theme song for the clicking
  • it breaks out of its box
  • never got that wow factor
  • stylistically all over the place
  • Flash - doesn't work everywhere

The last one is the biggie. Flash does not now and never will work on some mobile devices. The number of devices where Flash works is declining now that Microsoft has decided to give up on Flash as well. So… time to move on. Eventually.

One impediment: I don’t know what I want the new header to look like. Something geeky. Gears turning? That would be cool, and could fall back to static gears on older browsers. Maybe some kind of machine that spits out the haiku? Or does a duck poop them out? What should the typesetting look like? How should it reveal?

Maybe a way to pop up a form and submit new guest poems?

Should there be an elevator? An ocelot? A rutabaga?

Frankly, I’m completely stumped.

These sorts of solicitations haven’t met with much response in the past, but if anyone out there has thoughts on the whole design thing, I’d love to hear them.

Appreciating Fonts

The look of this blog when viewed on a Windows machine has always subtly annoyed me. I’ve been using the default font setup for WordPress, which uses Lucida Grande first, and if that is not available it uses Verdana. Verdana to me looks, I don’t know, thin or stretched or something. Loose. Unfortunately most Windows boxes don’t come with Lucida Grande, so Verdana is what most people experience. Today I decided to do something about it.

It’s possible now to tell a broswer to load a font from the Web when displaying a particular page. I could quite easily put @font-face directives in my files, load copies of Lucida Grande onto the server, and I’d be done (except for Internet Explorer, and those people can get by with Verdana). Unfortunately, although technically pretty simple, that course of action would not be legal.

There’s a font on Windows called Lucida Sans Unicode (or something like that) which is very similar to Lucida, but is not nearly as good for italics and bold face. This will be my fall-back solution.

For a while today, however, I thought I might go look for a new font, something that caught the spirit of this blog, yet was easy to read on a screen and had a nice ink density. On top of that, it had to be free or at least reasonably priced, and it had to include good italic and bold versions, and it had to include the wacky Czech diacriticals for those few episodes where I use them, plus the full range of punctuation including a variety of dashes, copyright symbols, and stuff like that.

I came up empty. Making a good font is not at all simple, and the people who make the great ones quite understandably want to be paid for their work. If I found one that measured up to Lucida Grande in usefulness and that would give this site a unique feel, I might be tempted to pony up.

The closest thing I could find was a font called Liberation, which is a favorite in the Linux world. At this writing, those without Lucida Grande will see that font (unless you’re using Internet Explorer). It’s OK, but the text is actually a little smaller for the same font size. That certainly is annoying. I haven’t looked at the text on enough different screens to know for sure, but I think right now the lettering is too small.

How’s it looking for you, my windows-using readers? Do you have any favorite fonts? I think with screen resolutions improving, it’s even possible to consider a serifed font these days.