Chaos and Order

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Guest host Richard Hake fills in for Leonard. He’ll speak with Peter Elkind and Jennifer Reingold from Fortune magazine about a scandal at Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company. Charles Lachman tells us about President Grover Cleveland’s sex scandal and the child he fathered out of wedlock. Graphic designer and typographer Paul Shaw talks about the use of Helvetica in New York’s subway system. Plus, Our latest Backstory segments look at the brutal government crackdown in Syria, and at a large dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.


Richard Hake

What Happened at Pfizer

Peter Elkind, Fortune editor-at-large, and Jennifer ReingoldFortune senior editor, discuss the inside story of revenge, betrayal, and power at the top of Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company. Their article “What Happened at Pfizer” is the cover story for the August 15 issue of Fortune.

Comments [6]

The Lies and Scandals of President Grover Cleveland

Charles Lachman, executive producer of Inside Edition, explains how a sex scandal nearly took down a president. A Secret Life: The Lies and Scandals of President Grover Cleveland is the story of how the man who held the nation’s highest honor eventually came to take responsibility for his son. It’s a thrilling, sordid tale, which includes allegations of rape, physical violence, and prostitution.

Comments [5]

Helvetica and the New York City Subway System

Paul Shaw, an award-winning graphic designer, typographer, calligrapher, and teacher at Parsons School of Design and the School of Visual Arts, tells the story of how New York City's subway signage evolved from a "visual mess" to a uniform system using the Helvetica typeface. His illustrated book Helvetica and the New York City Subway System looks at how politics, economics, and bureaucratic forces shaped decisions made about the subway’s appearance as much as design ideas did.

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Backstory: The Gulf Dead Zone

A major oxygen-depleted dead zone has returned to the Gulf of Mexico this year, killing large numbers of marine life and damaging the region’s already fragile economy. Dr. Nancy Rabalais, chief scientist of the Louisiana Marine Consortium, who recently returned from an expedition in the Gulf, and Matt Rota, Director of Science and Water Policy at the Gulf Restoration Network, explain the causes and consequences of dead zones.


Backstory: Developments in Syria

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council issued a statement, condemning the violent government crackdown in Syria. Blake Hounshell, managing editor of Foreign Policy, discusses the situation in Syria, where shelling continues in the city of Hama, and the impact of the Security Council’s statement, and why Lebanon refused to sign on to it.

Comments [3]

More on Typography

Every seasoned New Yorker and every tourist riding on the subway for the first time knows how important clear signage is to help riders find their way to the right train heading the right direction. On today’s show graphic designer and typographer Paul Shaw explains how the typeface Helvetica was used to impose order over the chaos of the subway signage. Listen to that interview here.

Here’s a review of Paul Shaw’s book in The New Yorker’s The Book Bench blog.

History of Helvetica
The typeface Helvetica was developed by Max Miedinger with Edüard Hoffmann in 1957 for the Haas Type Foundry in Münchenstein, Switzerland. Helvetica’s name is derived from the Latin name for Switzerlant, Helvetia. In 1961 Linotype started marketing the font internationally. Swiss design and sleek, sans serif typefaces were popular at the time, and because Helvetica is a scalable font that can be resized without distorting its proportions, it soon appeared in corporate logos and on transportation signage—In 1966 Vignelli Associates designed the New York Subway sign system using Helvetica (more about that here). When Apple included Helvetica on Macintosh computers in 1984, the font became even more common and is now one of the most popular typefaces of all time.  

There’s also a documentary about Helvetica, directed by Gary Hustwit. Find out more about “Helvetica” the film, and download the film here.

More on Typography
We did a Please Explain on typography in 2009, and typographer Jonathan Hoefler, type designer and president of Hoefler & Frere-Jones and Steven Heller, co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts, explained how typefaces are designed, trademarked, and the ways type faces can communicate with just their shape. Listen to that interview here.


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