On the Typography of "Mad Men"

Mad Men is a fantastic drama currently running its second season on AMC. It has racked up a bunch of awards, and rightfully so -- all aspects of the production are excellent, and the show also appeals to a broad cross-section of ages (all the way from grownups to old people...sorry kids). The show is set in the very first years of the 1960s, and the production is carefully designed to use period-appropriate sets, clothes, cars, everything. The attention to detail is stunning, and is often cited as a mark of the show's quality. So imagine the fans' shock when a typeface expert (er, font nerd) noticed that the closing credits were using the Arial typeface which wasn't invented until 1982 -- over twenty years after the show's period. This particular issue infuriates the fontinista because Arial is considered a "tawdry, inferior knock-off of Helvetica," which would have been the period-appropriate choice for Mad Men. (Read more on why Arial is a shameless imposter.) The Font Nerd World was abuzz over this discrepancy. But now things have gotten worse.

Designer Mark Simonson has reviewed the series for anachronistic type usage, and has found some problems (as well as much to praise). For example:

Mad Men opening shotThe show starts out with stylish opening titles featuring glimpses of real ads from the period -- and a clinker: What's Lucida Handwriting (1992) doing here? I usually consider the titles to be outside the world of the story, but considering all the period cues in these titles, this typeface, which was designed specifically for computer screens, is out of place. ...

Then there are the ad layouts, supposedly produced by the art department at Sterling Cooper. ... These lipstick ads feature Fenice (1980) with Balmoral (1978) for the script caps. Amazone (1958) for the script lowercase is fine here, but the outline looks too much like a modern computer graphics effect (which is what it is).

Read the rest for a nice discussion of what's right and wrong with regard to type (and some props) used in the series. Frankly, I think most people don't really care (I certainly don't) about these minor missteps -- but isn't it fun to see people who really, really know their stuff dissecting such things? If you haven't seen the series, the first season is currently out on DVD, and the second is airing (in the US) Sunday nights on AMC.

Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Scientists Just Found the Oldest Known Piece of Bread
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen
Alexis Pantos, University of Copenhagen

An old, charred piece of long-forgotten flatbread has captured the interest of archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians around the world. Found in a stone fireplace in Jordan’s Black Desert, this proto-pita dates back 14,400 years, making it the oldest known example of bread, Reuters reports.

To put the significance of this discovery in context: the flatbread predates the advent of agriculture by 4000 years, leading researchers to theorize that the laborious process of making the bread from wild cereals may have inspired early hunter-gatherers to cultivate grain and save themselves a whole lot of trouble.

“We now have to assess whether there was a relationship between bread production and the origins of agriculture,” Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, a researcher with the University of Copenhagen, told Reuters. “It is possible that bread may have provided an incentive for people to take up plant cultivation and farming, if it became a desirable or much-sought-after food.”

A report on these findings—written by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, University College London, and University of Cambridge—was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It was once thought that bread was an invention of early farming civilizations. A 9100-year-old piece of bread from Turkey was previously regarded as the oldest of its kind. However, the Jordanian flatbread was made by a group of hunter-gatherers called the Natufians, who lived during a transitional period from nomadic to sedentary ways of life, at which time diets also started to change.

Similar to a pita, this unleavened bread was made from wild cereals akin to barley, einkorn, and oats. These were “ground, sieved, and kneaded prior to cooking,” according to a statement from the University of Copenhagen. The ancient recipe also called for tubers from an aquatic plant, which Arranz-Otaegui described as tasting “gritty and salty."

[h/t Reuters]


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