This website is set in Filosofia, a font designed in 1996 by Zuzana Licko and published by Emigre. I’ve long been a fan of Licko’s designs; they feel to me like avatars of an age. I also love the fact that Emigre funded its iconic magazine with the sale of digital fonts: one of the all-time great cross-subsidies.

Early in my design explo­rations for this site, I visited a few Emigre fonts I’d bookmarked, but none of them were Filosofia. In the past, fonts of this style struck me as stuffy and old fashioned; depart­ment store fonts. But tastes change, and ambitions do, too. It’s easy and predictable to set a site like this in a sleek sans serif; I wanted to try something a bit more surprising. So, when my tour of the Emigre collec­tion landed me on Filosofia, I saw it with fresh eyes.

Then, when I opened the PDF specimen, those eyes widened.

Go ahead: look for yourself.

Could I, at that point, have chosen any other font? No way.

This site also uses Trade Gothic Next, Akira Kobayashi’s 2008 revision of Jackson Burke’s 1947 design. I love fonts of this style, called “grotesque”. It was years ago that I learned the Star Wars opening crawl is set in, of all things, News Gothic, and that cracked it open for me. (Here’s a fun visual guide to gothic options circa the 1950s.)

The site’s background is cosmic latte, the average color of the universe.


This website is managed using Middleman, a static site generator. Middleman is simple and flexible and written in the Ruby program­ming language, which is the one I know best; that means I can gener­ally make it do what I want. (For example, I wrote a simple plugin to scan the text and prevent typograph­ical widows. It also adds some custom hyphenation.)

The site is hosted on Cloudfront, part of Amazon Web Services. Cloud­front keeps copies of the site close to readers around the world; it’s like having a copy of a book in your local library. The speedup is very slight, fractions of a second, but those fractions are perceptible; they do matter.

A few scraps of support code run as Google Cloud Functions, all of them written in Ruby, using Google’s Functions Framework. These scraps previ­ously lived in AWS Lambda, but the whole experi­ence with Google was, and is, just a lot better.

I send emails using Mailchimp. Its inter­face is in no way designed for a user like me, so I operate it mainly through its API, chore­o­graphing messages with a simple Ruby script that I run on my laptop.

This site doesn’t collect any infor­ma­tion about you or your reading. I do track the open and click­through rates of the emails I send through Mailchimp; that’s both to monitor for technical problems and notice if, or when, I am sending messages no one wants to read.

Style guide

I’m noting a few sitewide prefer­ences here, mostly for myself:

February 2021, Oakland