Hello to you out there. It's me from over here. Nice to meet you at the replacement for the
town square—the glowing rectangle.
Pretend the picture above (taken last weekend in the simmering tropics of Northern
Australia) is your seat on the train. You've got a window seat, 5pm sun at your left shoulder
so you'll see the last hour of light reach out into the distance until it disappears. Now
your phone glows. Turn down the brightness. Find something worth reading. Read on.
I don't know what the Littoral Line is about yet, except that I like “littoral”
places—places on the shoreline, occurring at the edge of things, like the last hour of
daylight. So I'll sit here with that idea and see where we get to.
Just to be sure, you've probably signed up for this because I told you I was going to do
write an email newsletter, so we've probably spoken in a past online thread, or by email, or
hell, maybe even in person. I guess the typical designer would write about design industry
things. That makes sense. Except I find the majority of those listicles a little boring at
the best of times. To give you some context, LL is about design, the web and our attention.
What are the patterns of our attention? What captures our attention? Why? Is there room for
wonder while we're busy with our lives? I think there is. You can think of LL as a kind of
running diary of those times when I notice such things and actually remember them long enough
to note them down.
5 a.m. Nepholopsia
Oliver loved words so much, he often dreamed of them, and sometimes dreamed them up. One
morning, six years ago, I found a phrase he’d written on the white board in the kitchen.
All it said was “5 a.m. Nepholopsia.”
Do you ever struggle to find the right words? Does it delight you when you can finally take
hold of the word that's been on the tip of your tongue for seconds, minutes, weeks? I've been
admiring the way Oliver Sacks could absorb himself into imaginary worlds through his love
of words. At the other end of the spectrum, I'm reminded of David Lynch's stark,
gnomic mantras—“This is the girl!”:
Lynch has said, more than once, that he had to “learn to talk,” and his very particular,
somewhat limited vocabulary seems in many ways an outgrowth of his aesthetic. In keeping
with his interest in the intangible, he has a curious, syntactically awkward fondness for
There's something in my Y chromosome that just needs to do this too. To collect these
curious words, to imagine their lettering structure, what they might connect to and how they
might break a spell. Or not. Maybe it's just my nature to like 'em. Like playing a record
because you just want to. I've been trading these “spangly words” with a few friends over the
years, and sometimes I make graphics out of them (like the above “Stick-to-it-ive-ness”
graphic, taken from the sublime James
Polk & Yvonne Joseph 45). Indeed, “to savor the thingness of words is to move away from
their imprisoning nature.”
A typeface to write about
archaeological finds. “The pictograms have a Unicode, allowing the font to be used on
all text editors”. Please share this with me if you have it. I have no immediate use. I just
like looking at it. In the wonder cabinet it'll go.
Hundred Imaginary Gifts from the Simulators. Stuck? Use this list of imaginary
attentions as a kind of Borgesian Oblique Strategies. “98. a microcircuit printed on a
forgot about Fridge. Luckily I had Steve to remind me. We used to play this in the
Cambridge Oddbins while I drew mad things on the butchers paper that we'd wrap the purchased
liquor in. That was a dozen years ago now. Still sounds good.
2 is out. For a while there, static site generators were liberating and fun. But for
the past 18 months I've been using Vue.js for almost everything (with a little React
sprinkled in occassionally). Waiting for page loads on Jekyll sites now feel agonising.
Zoom, zoom, Nuxt.js is the future.
Information Grows is my favourite book of the year so far. A Bugatti Veyron sports car
sells for $2.5m. After driving it into a wall, it's worthless. Yet all of the atoms in the
car would still be there. What has changed is the order of the atoms in the car, which
reflects the information embedded in the product. And the product reflects the know-how of
its designers and manufacturers. Hidalgo's book helped me understand information theory from
the atomic level through to the economic level. Most interestingly, he notes that the
products we make are “crystallised imagination”, a phrase that I'm sure will stick in my head
for the next few years.
It's a wrap
I think that's enough for today. To close the loop on the idea of "littoral", the
picture gave me the name for this newsletter thing. As ideas become fully formed,
moving from zone-based fragments into narrow focus, they become directional lines. That's
when you have to act and catch them. Or they wash away to the back parts of memory, again.
One last thing. I published a
blog post on taste this week. I think it complements a
post on beauty that I wrote a few months ago. I have in mind another about originality
and authenticity, which should be a natural extension of these same ideas, but given that the
last few posts have taken 500% longer than I anticipated, I'm inclined to start publishing
smaller pieces and see how well they compile as a blog. Your thoughts?
Yours in curious syntactic awkwardness,