My 2¢: Take a Penny, Leave a Penny

Since the design and lettering of the ‘lowly’ American penny has already been well-documented and researched by honorary Alphabette Tobias Frere-Jones, I’ve settled on an even lowlier topic: the penny tray. If you’re American, or have spent time in the clusterfuck that is currently the United States, then you know what I’m talking about. Found at the cash registers of gas stations, diners, and other small businesses, the object serves as a convenient place for customers and cashiers to dispose of, or acquire, a penny or two (but c’mon deadbeat, don’t even think of taking more than a few).

The basic tray features the phrases “LEAVE-A-PENNY / TAKE-A-PENNY” in subtly extruded shouty-caps that flank the top and bottom of the main bowl. A promotional logo adorns the front of the tray, promoting things like a local newspaper, state lottery, or community bank.

Pretty standard-looking penny tray

Pretty standard-looking penny tray

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For The Love of Unicode

Say the words “character encoding standard” to most people and their brains will congeal into a pile of glazed donuts, like 🍩. See how I embedded a cute little donut directly into that last sentence? You can thank Unicode for that. What is Unicode and how did it become the universal standard for digitally representing the world’s writing systems (yes, including emoji)? Plenty has been written about its history already, but here’s an attempt at a very brief overview.

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Before They Were ’bettes

Cover spread in of “The New Wardens” in The Recorder #3. Illustration by Ellie Cryer. Additional illustrations by Ping Zhu, Ellie Foreman-Peck, Maya Stepien and Kelsey Dake.

Cover spread of “The New Wardens” in The Recorder #3. Illustration by Ellie Cryer. Additional illustrations by Ping Zhu, Ellie Foreman-Peck, Maya Stepien and Kelsey Dake.

Last spring, I was approached by Emma Tucker, the editor of Monotype’s recently revived magazine The Recorder, to write an article about women’s contributions in type for the upcoming issue. I pitched a series of interviews with women who were championing type and typography à la Beatrice Warde, given her deep connections to the original publication. Besides Shelley Gruendler, I had no prior personal contact with Indra Kupferschmid, Mariko Tagaki or Elizabeth Carey-Smith. Selecting only a handful of modern-day Beatrices was challenging; my list of potential interviewees was quite long. Ultimately, I tried to gather a variety of perspectives that included educators, practicing designers, and those active in contemporary discourse. I could have never imagined, only a few months later, they would all become an integral part of this thing called Alphabettes. Before it sells out, check out The Recorder Issue 3, featuring a host of engaging articles and contributors, as well as my interviews with “The New Wardens”. They’re in great company.

Die Mode

Nothing says fashionable like Die Mode

Nothing says “fashionable” like Die Mode!

If you’re a modern bird with a flair for fashion, look no further than Die Mode: a stylish, upright script face with delightful features. Published by the German foundry Ludwig & Mayer, Die Mode is both elegant and casual, with just enough personality to make those victrola dance party invitations feel fancy and jovial. Need to dress up your Callot Soeurs frock with a typeface that matches your modern style? Die Mode has you covered, way below the knee. Uppercase characters spare no details when it comes to curves that say sophisticated and friendly. Because “Fashion Demands Longer Skirts and Waistlines” Die Mode’s connecting lowercase characters gives it a distinctive, flowing style. If Parisian and Phyllis had an eccentric cousin, she’d be Die Mode. Sure, there might be a World War happening, but Die Mode doesn’t care. Inspired by calligraphic traditions in a hot new feathered hat, Die Mode is a fresh take on a new era in post-Belle Époque script type.

Lady Speaker Sorts

Turns out, it’s never been that hard to find Lady Speakers after all

Turns out, it’s never been that hard to find Lady Speakers after all

Although readily available in recent years, it’s still worth mentioning there was no shortage of Lady Speakers in 1915. Yes, both Large Lady Speakers and Small Lady Speakers were made easily accessible and affordably priced. (Special shoutout to Meghan Arnold and Nina Stössinger for their help with finding this image in the 1912 ATF catalogue).

Amy Loves this 1950s Modess Sanitary Napkin Dispenser… Because

Built in 1953, the aptly named Old Library was the first free-standing library building on the campus where I teach. It eventually housed painting studios and since the late ’80s, has been home to the photography and graphic design programs. I love this space for all its mid-century collegial charm. The stately brick exterior is surrounded by mature honeylocust trees, while inside, built-in bookshelves from its past life flank the sides of computer labs and ample hallways. Soaring windows welcome an abundance of natural light and offer views of the grassy quad where students gather in good weather to play frisbee, sunbathe or strum ukeleles.

But perhaps my most favorite thing about the building is this original Modess sanitary napkin dispenser that lives in the 2nd floor women’s bathroom.

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’bettes, Live

Get ready for an action-packed weekend of worldwide type events. Can’t make it but wish you could? Our team of ’bettes from around the globe have you covered. Events include:

· 6et conference in Portugal
· TypoMad in Madrid
· iiitype in Paris
· Sara Soskolne at CooperType East
· and Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, Biannual in NYC
· or DiaTipo, followed by What Design Can Do in São Paulo
with more to come.

Follow along and join in on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag


Lettering by Victoria, of course.