Matthew Buchanan portrait by Photobooth SF

About the author

I’m a designer and practitioner of fine typography in Auckland, New Zealand. I co-founded a design and development studio, Cactuslab, in 2001, and a social network for film fans, Letterboxd, in 2011. I design themes for Tumblr, speak occasionally about web techniques and typography, and think up reasons to visit New York City.

Matthew Buchanan

Issue 8 of Kai Brach’s Offscreen magazine is out today, and includes a Founder Story by yours truly on the background of Letterboxd. Here’s a short excerpt:

In an ecosystem of fast-growing, venture-backed Silicon Valley startups, people that are part of online communities have growing expectations and aren’t shy about making themselves heard. Being the bootstrapped side-project of a small Antipodean design studio has its consequences: “I can’t believe there’s no iPhone app!” and “Why is feature X still missing?” are refrains we hear often, the result of a default position that anything shiny on the web must have a huge staff and unlimited resources. With our limited and realistic resources we carry on innovating and tending Letterboxd, exhibit steady growth, and continue to have great expectations.

Big thanks to Kai for asking me to contribute. Looking through the contents list, I’m in great company.

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Picturefill 2.0

Out today, the first alpha release of Filament Group’s polyfill for the Picture element draft specification. This new version implements fallback support using <picture> tag markup (the prior version used <span> elements to work around browser compatibility issues), and includes support for srcset and sizes attributes on both <source> and <img> elements (more on those here).

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Neutral is a new typeface from Kai Bernau — underway since 2005 — that aims to homogenise a number of popular 20th-century sans serifs &#8220;to create a typeface free of all connotations or associations that could distract a reader from the text, a font that delivers the character of the written material untouched by the character of the typeface design&#8221;. His influences included Plato’s doctrine of Ideas, the Conceptual Art movement, and, most interestingly:


  … the ideas of 16th-century tea ceremony master Sen no Rikyū, who greatly influenced the wabi-cha style of chanoyu tea ceremony. This style tries to attain perfection in the essential aspects of the ceremony by the removal of anything which could divert the focus from the essential elements: the tea and the interaction of host and guests.


The entire history and rationale is an enlightening read.

Neutral is a new typeface from Kai Bernau — underway since 2005 — that aims to homogenise a number of popular 20th-century sans serifs “to create a typeface free of all connotations or associations that could distract a reader from the text, a font that delivers the character of the written material untouched by the character of the typeface design”. His influences included Plato’s doctrine of Ideas, the Conceptual Art movement, and, most interestingly:

… the ideas of 16th-century tea ceremony master Sen no Rikyū, who greatly influenced the wabi-cha style of chanoyu tea ceremony. This style tries to attain perfection in the essential aspects of the ceremony by the removal of anything which could divert the focus from the essential elements: the tea and the interaction of host and guests.

The entire history and rationale is an enlightening read.

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Doing some research on stencils ahead of an upcoming Paul Barnes workshop and rediscovered some of Kelvin Soh’s work for Stolen Rum. Florian Hardwig writes about the stencil typeface for Fonts In Use:

Avia was originally designed by Raphael Boguslav as Visa for Visual Graphics Corporation (VGC) in 1966. The bold cut that is used here was added by Jill Pichotta for Font Bureau’s digital version. As an “elegant stencil” with detached triangular serifs, it is a precursor of Decoder (Gerard Unger, 1992) and Dala Floda (Paul Barnes, 2010).

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The just-launched Carousel app from Dropbox is a thoughtfully-designed and welcome replacement for the built-in Photos app on iOS. It chronologically combines your device’s camera roll with the photos stored in your Dropbox, and you can use a swipe gesture to share, or to hide individual images from your stream (they remain in Dropbox). I’d like the ability to hide by folder (for images that aren’t photos), and it would be nice to have some control over which photos show up larger in the grid.

Update: Dropbox illustrator Alice Lee takes a look at how the branding and illustration process unfolded.

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