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May 24, 2018

A Primer on Typography for Non-Designers

When I sat down to write about typography this morning, there was so much I wanted to say that the letters on my keyboard actually sat silent for a good few minutes.

We're in a golden age for typography. Gutenberg totally exploded Europe in the 1500's when he dropped the printing-press-with-moveable-type bomb, but even then, for the next 500 years, the spread of ideas and publishing were in the hands of a collection of specialist craftsmen and the people who hired them. (After all, producing physical objects is expensive.) Then, in rolled desktop publishing in the 80's and—combining computer hardware, software that included digital type, and the ability to effectively "print" on-screen and distribute to other screens instantly via the Internet—you've effectively got a second Printing Revolution happening right now, with type squarely in the middle of it.

Typography was once a niche element, but now we're up to our ears in it. As it is with any craft that takes a lifetime to master, thoughtfulness will set you and your message apart. The craft will give back what you put into it. Using typography in design is a lot like using salt in cooking: when it's used well, it contributes to a greater whole but goes largely unnoticed; when typography calls attention to itself, it's typically been used poorly. 

If you've ever been putting together a quick flyer or PowerPoint presentation and wanted to put a little more thought into your font choices, but you feel like you're shooting blindly in the dark because you're not a trained designer, we've put together a quick guide for you.

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May 24, 2018

Essential Life Skill: How to Make Breakfast in Bed Like You Mean It

In the Grand List of Essential Grownup Skills, somewhere between changing a flat tire and tying a half-Windsor, you'll find an entry for serving your loved one their first meal of the day before leaving the room where they woke up. It's a simple act, but with some care and a little finesse, it can be an incredibly thoughtful gesture that will reverberate throughout the rest of the week.

Let's take a look at some of the considerations for a perfect breakfast in bed!

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May 23, 2018

How to: Simple DIY Brick and Mortar Repair

I side with my colleague Bruno as he stated in his Curbly post on painting his garage floor—some home improvement projects you can DIY, and some you should definitely consult a professional. When I tore out the ailing metal railing on the brick entry steps to my fixer-upper 1970's ranch house, it became clear that it was time to replace some of the crumbled and broken bricks. It seemed like way too small a project to hire a bricklayer, and what can I say? I really like bricks.

Read on for the process to do your own simple brick patch and masonry repair!

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May 16, 2018

Check This Out: The Museum of Online Museums

HQ of the Museum of Online Museums. (Photo credit: chicagomag.com)

 

Author Seth Godin, in his book We Are All Weird, argues that the Internet era has busted open the starting gate and let the tribes out: information has truly become democratized, so now it's much easier for niche interests to connect and collect. One great example of this is the MoOM, or Museum of Online Museums. Coudal Partners, a Chicago design firm who created the famous Field Notes brand of notebooks with design guru Aaron Draplin, have run the site for about 10 years, which is basically just a big list of links, and in it you'll find the full gamut of niche stuff: from major institutions' virtual presence, like Amsterdam's famous art collection at the Rijksmuseum, to the most overlooked stuff like Manhole Covers of the World, it feels like it's all here. 

If you're a designer looking for visual inspiration, a novelist on the hunt for a random detail to spark a story, or a just fan of vintage eggnog labels, look no further than this treasure trove. I first discovered it way back in college and, though I did waste a lot of time combing through it, I was also able use it to do a lot of research on package design.

Read on for some of my favorites in the collection!

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May 08, 2018

How I Finally Became a Morning Person

Let it be stated, for the record, that I'm naturally a night owl. I hate waking up in the morning.

I'm not one of those people who are wired to pop out of bed, to the tune of that Rossini piece that plays at sunrise in cartoons, with a spring in my step and a grin on my face. (Being a morning person is so out of my orbit that I don't know if that's how early birds actually feel, or if it's just my pre-coffee-grump perception.)

You know what I do love? The feeling of accomplishing so many of the day's to-dos, especially the things that are both short-term urgent and long-term important, and looking up at the clock to realize it's barely lunchtime. I love reaching the end of a work day with the relief that comes with giving the whole day my full effort. I love the feeling of being proactive, which means that, though being an early bird isn't my natural inclination, I love its effects.

So, how did I ditch the hoot owls and start rising to catch the proverbial worm? Read on for some tips that helped me.

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May 02, 2018

30 Woodworking Accounts You Should Follow on Instagram

I confess, I'm a shop rat. It doesn't matter what craft—shoemaking, blacksmithing, coffee roasting, even those little watch repair caves with the observation window in jewelry stores at the mall—if there are four walls, some tools, and skilled hands, I'm all over it like white on rice in a glass of milk on a paper plate in a snowstorm.

Other than drawing and writing, I've committed to the handicraft of artisan printing, slinging ink in the letterpress and screen printing arena at my main job. But when I can, I soak up other skills on a hobbyist level to round out my skillset, to apply lessons from other disciplines into my chosen craft, and to just have fun making stuff without the pressure of harnessing it to make a living.

Woodworking is one of those pools that I'm just now starting to wade into, and since I have no idea what I'm doing, I love watching the real deal to see how it's really done. To that end, I've curated the following list of my favorite woodworking accounts on Instagram.

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May 02, 2018

How To: Memorize Any Number Using Mnemonics

As if pens and Post-Its weren't enough, the smartphone era has provided a plethora of memory aids. Apps designed to store, sort, and spit out information whenever we want it seem to have rendered redundant the need for a good memory.

But I'm of the mind that tools work best when they augment our skills and strengths, and that when we start to allow machines to fully replace human work, we ourselves begin to atrophy. Since having begun the assembling my memorization toolkit and putting it to use in the last year, I've found that I think more clearly, remember things better, and rely on my physical and digital tools much less. (Not to mention, I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel awesome to perfectly recall a 12-digit number after less than 10 minutes' worth of work.)

We've covered one of those big tools, the memory palace, in a guide here at Man Made DIY. One of the main techniques incorporated in the article, specifically used to memorize numbers, is called the Major System; it's such a powerful in itself that it's worth its own guide. 

So, let's dig in to how you can custom-tailor your own major system to help you remember long strings of numbers!

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Apr 27, 2018

How To: Repair Rubber Boots

Second only to my shovel, I count my big rainboots as my most essential yard work possession. Ever since I got them as a gift in 2010, they've kept my feet dry as I've tromped through muddy backyard gardens, turned compost piles, and cleared some seriously weedy rows of peppers on a local farm. (They made a cameo appearance on our article about digging a garden patch using only a shovel.)

Constant use has taken its toll on the natural rubber, though, so it was time to put into practice one of my favorite Depression-era maxims on frugality: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

Let's take a look at how I patched up my leaky wellies.

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Apr 24, 2018

6 Tips for Minimizing Distractions from Your Smartphone

I'm a firm believer that tools are like personal strengths: the user's attitude determines the outcome. You can take a neutral tool and channel it for good or evil; a candlestick can class up a dining room table, or it can kill Professor Plum in the billiard room. Not only that, but the more power a tool holds, the more care you have to take with it. (It's like the main takeaway from Spider-Man: with great power comes great responsibility.)

The smartphone is a prime example. Sometimes when it's better to leave it off, like we suggested in our article on filling downtime without staring at your phone. But lest you label me a Luddite, let me admit that I use my phone all day: emailing, listening to music (currently: Spotify app, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers), shooting and editing photos, keeping in touch with overseas family on Facebook, professional networking on Instagram and LinkedIn, mobile banking, making note of future ManMadeDIY articles, and so much more.

In fact, I use my phone so much that I need to give myself guidelines to help keep me from staring into it all day. Here are some of those tips.

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Apr 19, 2018

Watch This Traditional Finnish Log Cabin Being Built...Entirely By Hand

 

I promise, I really do like sports.

I number among my favorite smells in this world the scent of ice rink, and I find the pop of a baseball hitting a leather glove irresistible; I show my hometown roots in my collection of Baltimore Orioles hats, and I love the thrill of victory in sports films, even ones involving sports I couldn't care less about. But I confess, I'm a lackluster sports fan. Scores, standings, and statistics bore me to tears, and my attention span diminishes to nil within 5 minutes of a televised game.

Set me in front of an artisan plying his or her trade, though, and you'd think I were a pitching scout at a showcase tournament: rapt attention, soaking in every detail, occasional grins at particularly strong displays of good craft. Are you the same? Well, you're going to love this.

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