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10 Secrets of the White House Calligraphers

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In 2013, pundits criticized the Obama administration for spending nearly $280,000 a year on three White House calligraphers. Here’s what you need to know about every art major’s dream job.

1. They’re a White House staple.

Calligraphers have worked at the White House since John Adams started sending guests fancy dinner invites back in 1801.

2. They design everything!

Proclamations, citations, military commissions, special announcements, menus, place cards, invitations, official greetings, and even signs for the White House vegetable garden. One day, a calligrapher might inscribe the name of the Presidential Medal of Freedom winner. The next, they might pen a menu for a visiting monarch.

3. Like other experienced civil employees, they get paid handsomely.

The chief calligrapher makes $98,669. Considering that nearly every head of state in the world handles their artwork, we think it’s worth it.

4. Hand cramps can’t stop them.

During Clinton’s tenure, the White House hosted more than 100,000 official guests. On a typical day, calligraphers may make hundreds of place cards just for meals.

5. November is the toughest month.

That’s because the White House is prepping for an onslaught of holiday receptions. In 2013, calligraphers hand-addressed 10,000 envelopes for the season.

6. They prepare for emergencies.

In case special guests appear for State dinners or official events unannounced, the administration keeps a calligrapher waiting in the wings. (You never know when you might need an emergency place card.)

7. The team does about 40 percent of its work by hand.

The rest is done on the computer when tight deadlines demand it.

8. They stash an arsenal.

Calligrapher Rick Muffler’s toolbox contained 28 pen holders, eight brushes, a bunch of nibs, and one hair dryer, which he used to make the ink dry faster.

9. Which even includes a copier.

It’d be impractical not to use one. After a calligrapher designs an invitation, for example, the design is sent to an engraver, who copies it. The copies return to the calligrapher, who grabs a pen and personalizes the invitation with the guest’s name, matching the original hand style.

10. The scripts are called “hands,” not fonts.

Which, considering calligraphers are using their hands, makes sense.

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Courtesy Umbrellium
These LED Crosswalks Adapt to Whoever Is Crossing
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Courtesy Umbrellium

Crosswalks are an often-neglected part of urban design; they’re usually just white stripes on dark asphalt. But recently, they’re getting more exciting—and safer—makeovers. In the Netherlands, there is a glow-in-the-dark crosswalk. In western India, there is a 3D crosswalk. And now, in London, there’s an interactive LED crosswalk that changes its configuration based on the situation, as Fast Company reports.

Created by the London-based design studio Umbrellium, the Starling Crossing (short for the much more tongue-twisting STigmergic Adaptive Responsive LearnING Crossing) changes its layout, size, configuration, and other design factors based on who’s waiting to cross and where they’re going.

“The Starling Crossing is a pedestrian crossing, built on today’s technology, that puts people first, enabling them to cross safely the way they want to cross, rather than one that tells them they can only cross in one place or a fixed way,” the company writes. That means that the system—which relies on cameras and artificial intelligence to monitor both pedestrian and vehicle traffic—adapts based on road conditions and where it thinks a pedestrian is going to go.

Starling Crossing - overview from Umbrellium on Vimeo.

If a bike is coming down the street, for example, it will project a place for the cyclist to wait for the light in the crosswalk. If the person is veering left like they’re going to cross diagonally, it will move the light-up crosswalk that way. During rush hour, when there are more pedestrians trying to get across the street, it will widen to accommodate them. It can also detect wet or dark conditions, making the crosswalk path wider to give pedestrians more of a buffer zone. Though the neural network can calculate people’s trajectories and velocity, it can also trigger a pattern of warning lights to alert people that they’re about to walk right into an oncoming bike or other unexpected hazard.

All this is to say that the system adapts to the reality of the road and traffic patterns, rather than forcing pedestrians to stay within the confines of a crosswalk system that was designed for car traffic.

The prototype is currently installed on a TV studio set in London, not a real road, and it still has plenty of safety testing to go through before it will appear on a road near you. But hopefully this is the kind of road infrastructure we’ll soon be able to see out in the real world.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Here's How to Turn an IKEA Box Into a Spaceship
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Since IKEA boxes are designed to contain entire furniture items, they could probably fit a small child once they’re emptied of any flat-packed component pieces. This means they have great potential as makeshift forts—or even as play spaceships, according to one of the Swedish furniture brand’s print ads, which was spotted by Design Taxi.

First highlighted by Ads of the World, the advertisement—which was created by Miami Ad School, New York—shows that IKEA is helping customers transform used boxes into build-it-yourself “SPÄCE SHIPS” for children. The company provides play kits, which come with both an instruction manual and cardboard "tools" for tiny builders to wield during the construction process.

As for the furniture boxes themselves, they're emblazoned with the words “You see a box, they see a spaceship." As if you won't be climbing into the completed product along with the kids …

Check out the ad below:

[h/t Design Taxi]


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