July 08, 2005

The new summer color from Paris: Rouge

In reading a Le Monde article about the London bombings, I came across the news that the French are elevating their alert status to red. The French system is called (I'm not kidding) Vigipirate and was introduced in 1978.

Here's the relevant web site from the French Prime Minister's office. There's an explanation of the program and its history on Wikipedia.

Peculiarly, red isn't the highest alert level in their system. Scarlet is. which if you see the accompanying illustration, is a darker red. Isn't that a bit subtle, even for the French? Of course, they could refer to the highest level as "Burgundy", while the next level could just be "Vin ordinaire."

Some jokers suggested last year that the 4 levels of French alert are Run, Hide, Surrender, and Collaborate.

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July 04, 2005

Happy 4th of July!

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July 01, 2005

Happy Canada Day!

Courtesy of Montage-a-Google, a random set of images from a Google search of Canada. I think this about sums it up, really.

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July 01, 2004



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March 02, 2004

Toni Onley 1928-2004

Sad news. Toni Onley died Sunday when his seaplane crashed in the Fraser River.

Here's some of his work.

I last met him here:

Goodbye, Toni.

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December 22, 2003

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August 12, 2003

Great Moments in Branding - 2

Wyse Technology introduces software to control, lockdown, secure and schedule employee computers. What better name to characterize the modern office environment than Alcatraz?

Alcatraz is the ultimate PC control software because it maximizes both employee and IT productivity, and delivers immediate and significant cost savings. Alcatraz gives users the power and freedom to get their jobs done, and simultaneously eliminates desktop visits and slashes PC support costs.

Sure makes you feel warm and fuzzy about your company when they trust you so much they put Alcatraz on your computer. Next release: San Quentin.

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August 10, 2003

Great Moments in Branding - 1

Looking for a name for a new vodka product? Kyndal of Scotland (I know...Scottish Vodka?) chose: Lush, adding an extraneous apostrophe for a foreign flair. Pretty hilarious.

It turns out that in Britain, according to Websters Unabridged, lush can be defined thus:

\Lush\, n. [Etymol uncertain; said to be fr. Lushington, name of a London brewer.] Liquor, esp. intoxicating liquor; drink. [Slang]

Perhaps the branders also had in mind: luxuriant, opulent, voluptuous, sensual.

Naturally, in American English, a lush is a drunkard. So I guess it does work on multiple levels. How about D'ipso or W'ino?

By the way, the thought of a vodka tasting of cream with vanilla or strawberry is pretty terrifying to me. Yuck.

Seems intended to appeal to (very) young drinkers, even younger than the twenty-somethings targetted by L'ush marketing. Looks like a new concept in liquor marketing: Vanilla Coke as a gateway drug. I guess that's what they mean when they suggest we "Live Life Lush".

August 07, 2003

Dash it all

The 15th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style has been published. Yee-haw, Susie Mae! Saddle the mule. We're headin' to town!

According to the New York Times, the world has narrowly avoided disaster:

Not surprisingly, given the passionate nature of editors, there were disagreements along the way. A big one, Ms. Samen said, was about hyphens and dashes. There are three kinds. The biggest are "em" dashes [...] The middle-size or "en" dashes [...] The smallest, the hyphens, are used in compound words like "a tie-in for a television show."

Maybe it was time, Ms. Samen suggested, to retire the middle-size one. It wasn't necessary anymore, she said, and it didn't aid comprehension. But no. Ms. Samen's idea was met with strong opposition from people on the Internet discussion groups. Finally, in an e-mail message (spelled with a hyphen in the Chicago Manual), Ms. Samen capitulated.

"I surrender!" she wrote to another editor. "I'm the only managing editor on the planet who does not looooove the en dash!"

I have always found that the em dash just looks way too hefty in most typesetting work. I prefer an en dash (–) with extra space around it – to the em dash (—) with or without space. The actual space used is, well, discussable. In the old days (sonny), we used to use the thin space on Mergenthaler systems. But now I just positive kern the dashed thing until it feels right.

In "real" type:

I prefer the bottom setting. In display type, as here, there is a need for the shorter dash to keep the white space becoming too massive. But in text settings, the appearance of a massive white hole breaking up the grey of the type can be equally annoying. Especially since modern writing seems to thrive on the dash, whether to simulate disjunction or just as a crutch for a lack of grammatical imagination.

I have always suspected (but haven't verified by experiment or research) that the original lead em dashes may have been set on an em body, but had a small shoulder to allow the type to stand away from the adjacent characters. (And the type designer just fudged it to look right, in the best tradition of the craft.) When phototypesetting came in, someone (Mergenthaler) just created an em dash that was edge-to-edge on the em dimension, with no shoulder. Thus, the modern monstrosity.

I don't have any lead em dashes lying around, but my 1923 American Type Founders specimen book shows a gorgeous 14pt Bodoni setting with a dash that looks more like a modern 10pt em dash. This is larger than a 14 pt modern em (7 pt). That's why the added space looks about right, spacing it to a dimension about 70% of the em

There is one case where I prefer the em dash. In financial table settings where there is a null value column, typists use a double hyphen. An em dash holds better in comparison to the numbers. Usually. Again, depends on the font — and the number of digits in the table.

For a discussion on this and other typographic niceties, see A List Apart. Peter K. Sheerin details the "official" application of all the dashes, which I have already admitted to ignoring. (Of course, on my computer, the em dashes in that article all look exactly like the en dashes, rendering the whole discussion moot.)

Sheerin also promotes the correct HTML codes for a bevy of dashes, etc. Worth learning. I have taken the pledge to only use proper codes (rather than the — that I often fall back on when typing).

Best quote from a friend about the whole flap: "She must be attaching too much meaning to length — but that's a woman for you."

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August 06, 2003

Design Pseuds Corner #1

The great magazine Private Eye has a long-standing column called Pseuds Corner.

I have been inspired to start my own version, for Design Pseuds. Here's the first entry, from an article in Graphis Magazine #342 (not online). Speaking of the founding of Visionaire magazine in 1991:

The patina and stylized artifice of fashion images were beginning to merge with the constructed realities of conceptual photography. And the idea of the book or magazine as purveyor of sequential narratives with illustrations attached was coming to the end of a 500-year run — challenged by conceptual art's "packages," an emerging digital/visual culture, and a generation that didn't read print so much as graze it.

What is there left to say, except "Mooooo"?

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June 17, 2003

Segway Verdict: Dorky

OK, So I guess this is officially a trend: two Segways in 3 days. First, one passed me on Fifth Avenue near the office. That was the first one I've seen live. Then on Sunday, some guy was riding his down the Riverside Park bike path while his female companion jogged alongside.

Apparently, they are quasi-legal on New York sidewalks. (Which is just as well, since our sidewalks are in way better shape than our streets, witness the wading pool size potholes on my block. Driving has definitely taken on an obstacle-course quality in much of Manhattan.)

Meanwhile, the Harvard Business School has printed an excerpt from a book on the Segway that describes the reaction of Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos to the Segway. Vintage Jobs:

"Its shape is not innovative, it's not elegant, it doesn't feel anthropomorphic," said Jobs, ticking off three of his design mantras.

"You have this incredibly innovative machine but it looks very traditional."

Perhaps more to the point, it looks dorky. Driving one seems about as sexy as driving the forklift at Wal-Mart. The company seems to understand this as their website is filled with pictures of goofy Middle Americans attending to mundane tasks on their Segways.

And the stories of how their lives have been changed — I mean, seriously, people, get a grip. Apparently, the hype machine is gearing up, though, as Justin Timberlake rode one on the MTV awards. If anything is going to kill this machine, that kind of exposure will.

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May 31, 2003

Josef Albers at Pace Wildenstein

Saw the Josef Albers paintings at Pace Wildenstein Gallery on 57th Street.

Nearly all the works are "Homage to the Square" or "Study for Homage to the Square". It's wonderful to seem them all in one space. Some observations:

• These are paintings, not screenprints. When seen up close, they have texture, brushstrokes, gesso showing through. So much of that is toned down in the "known" museum works, the screenprints, the posters.

• The show is grouped by color. The result is to have paintings that seem to refer to each other in a fairly taut conversation, yet are dated 5 years apart. Ah, to have that kind of attention span.

• One gem of the show is the small side room of Albersiana: paper sketches (including intense mathematical calculations), photographs of Albers by Henri Cartier-Bresson, and some lengthy text. There are four unframed sketch pieces on Masonite with Albers squiggles and notations and a range of masonite chunks with color swatches. Just so no one thinks that Albers phoned this all in.

• The printed, hardbound catalog ($60), while attractive, seems to have been made without photographs, but instead has reconstructions of the pieces in offset colors. And the colors don't seem to relate to the actual works. Not worth the price, in my opinion.

Here's an undated study:

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May 13, 2003

Art Underground

As part of the renovation of the Times Square subway station (Goodbye eclectic record store), capital "A" Art is being installed therein. Roy Lichtenstein and Jacob Lawrence are prominent.

The Lawrence terrazzo piece is spectacular, though partly hidden by columns. The Lichtenstein enamelled panel suffers from a) poor positioning (overhead) and b) banal familiarity. Commissioned 12 years ago and finally installed — I feel as though I've seen it or its like too many times over the past 40 years.

By far my favorite Subway "artwork" is nearby in the newly-widened connecting tunnel from the 1/2/3 line to the Shuttle. It's a wonderful — accidental — 100 foot expanse of wall twice as long as the Lichtenstein and three times the Lawrence.

Raw concrete streaked with salt stains and dotted by construction workers with cryptic green, red and orange markings, it has a subtlety well set off by the perfect lighting.

Click on the image for a larger (300K+) version.

I fear this work will soon be covered, whether by tile or another piece of institutionally-correct public art. I have been meaning to photograph it for months and finally managed to get there and assemble this panorama of about half the length.

As they say in the Michelin guide, worth the detour (and the $2 admission).

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May 07, 2003


On the streets of Manhattan, there are thousands of plastic boxes that contain free newspapers and brochures. Recently, someone began leaving cryptic messages in some of them.

They look like small bits of an artist's sketchbook, but they are covered with complex symbols and formula — like a logician's notes. They have been made as though torn or cut from a notebook, although they are also obviously photocopies. As I look at the page, words and phrases start to form through the odd punctuation, but a coherent sense never gels. Here's a small example, about 1/2 inch worth on a page covered in similar phrases:

The ramblings of a demented metaphysician seeking to proselytize his theories? An artist's stunt? A clever advertising gimmick by some movie company looking to promote an upcoming apocalyptic film about a paranoid madman? A combination of the above?

Anyway, there was something very intriguing about a number of the glyphs, so I decided to set the one above in type:

Wow! Not bad at all. I'd say this qualifies as the logo for THE FUTURE.

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May 06, 2003

More on Haag-Drugulin

The Robert Grabhorn Collection on the History of Printing and Development of the Book at The San Francisco Public Library owns two volumes that seem related to the book I am scanning:

Haag-Drugulin. Nachtrag zur Schriftprobe der Offizin Haag-Drugulin AG. Leipzig: 1930.

Haag-Drugulin. Schriftproben der Offizin Haag-Drugulin A.-G. Leipzig: 1929.

Next time I'm in San Francisco, I'll try to get a look at these. Has anyone seen them?

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May 03, 2003

More on Haag-Drugulin

werkstätten und museum für druckkunst leipzig, Workshops and Museum for the Arts of Printing Leipzig has an elegant website with English and German versions. The Museum and the type foundry seem to be the labor of love of Eckehart SchumacherGebler, described on the site as "Master compositor and printer and a real hunter-gatherer."

There are some gems in their collection.

Among the oldest is a font of matrices by the famous punch cutter Jakob Sabon of 1572, as well as an original cutting of an Old Schwabacher from the well-known type foundry of Johann Christoph Zanker in Nuremberg, Frankonia, which likewise stems from the middle of the 16th century.

Anyone want to fund a type excursion? We could take in the bauhaus in Dessau at the same time.

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Haag-Drugulin 1932 Type Sample Book

One of my favorite possessions is the 1932 "Anwendungsproben der schönsten Drugulin Schriften erstes heft" published by Offiziin Haag-Drugulin in Leipzig.

Apparently, the type house is still operating although it had passed into state hands (East Germany) after the war. It has been preserved as part of a Printing History Museum. In September 2000, the Association Typographique Internationale conference was hosted at the Museum. There's an interesting history of the firm at the conference site.

The Offizin Haag-Drugulin has played a significant role in publishing, printing and literary history. Its origins can be traced back to the 18th Century. 1829, when Friedrich Nies from Offenbach acquired the printing workshop, is regarded as the year of its foundation. As early as 1831, Nies had attached a type foundry to the business, which he equipped with typefaces for setting Oriental languages. Since then, the printing workshop has always been a synonym for typographic diversity and quality. At the end of the 19th Century, it was even trying to take the place of the lavishly equipped state printing works in Vienna and Paris in the field of Oriental languages.
In spite of these conditions, business did not always develop smoothly. After the First World War the interest for Oriental books waned. And people no longer had any money for lavishly designed books, once a speciality of the company. In 1928 the company merged with the Haag printing house, which had moved into the area, and it has traded as Offizin Haag-Drugulin since that time.

Each page is a magnificent example of letterpress setting. Samples of Hebrew, Arabic, and other languages as well as a range of styles and fonts from classical Fraktur to the "à la mode" Bauhaus style.

I'm scanning the book now (of course, I'm starting with my favorite pages). Anyone interested in the finished product, or even the progress, should get in touch at haag @ clicknation.com.

The large version of the cover is in the extended entry.

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May 02, 2003


I just received my first ... what shall I call it ... blogvert*. By way of the Great Gray Lady, an entertaining note from John Malkovich, written in blog-style, with insights and stories about his new picture:

After some time, we set up the film with an English distribution company, a singularly disreputable group of people who after paying to option the book spent several fruitful years ensuring that it would never be made into a movie."

Reaction: Works surprisingly well, at least on me! Fox's one mistake: it's not available as an actual blog, with a link so I can insert that in my weblog, e-mail it, etc.

*in homage to Max Headroom's "blipvert".

I put the entire text in the extended entry section. Worth reading:

In the winter of 1995 I was making a film in Poland. I got from somewhere a copy of an English newspaper - The Daily Telegraph - which often has articles about what various people are reading. Actually, they're less articles than little blurbs or encapsulations. "I found so and so's book blah blah blah rather stimulating" etc. Someone, I can't remember who, was reading a novel called The Dancer Upstairs by Nicholas Shakespeare and gave the briefest synopsis of the story, and if I remember correctly, commented favorably on the tone of the book. I called my crack staff in Los Angeles for them to hunt up a copy of the book and send it along to my little cabin in the forest next to the requisite icy lake. I read the book, liked it immensely and we immediately set about trying to option it in the hopes of eventually making a film of it through our company Mr. Mudd.

After some time, we set up the film with an English distribution company, a singularly disreputable group of people who after paying to option the book spent several fruitful years ensuring that it would never be made into a movie. Why would they do that? Why would they behave that way? I actually couldn't tell you, and during the two or three years I wasted with these felons I actually didn't much think about it. I've spent many years in the film industry and have on occasions dealt with other liars, some accomplished, poetic and just plain likable, others lacking imagination, creativity or inventiveness.

The film eventually fell apart five or so years ago in Spain when we were only a few weeks from the start of shooting. Every couple of days we were told that the money to make the film would be arriving in the bank on Monday morning. Sorry, Wednesday afternoon, Thursday during siesta hours, and on and on. After a few weeks and a few hundred-thousand dollars of this, I called the owner of the distribution company, made some not so veiled threats, employed the "c" word and shortly after our relationship ended. I tried to rescue the film in a government bailout sort of way, and in the movie industry the government is the studios. I sent the script to several companies in the States and most responded promptly, some (I'm thinking of a gentleman at DreamWorks) were quite fulsome in their praise of the screenplay, but were in no way interested in financing the film.

The film was cancelled; the actors and crew notified, and The Dancer Upstairs became another of the film industry's dreams deferred.

During the ensuing few years we searched high and low for film financing, had scores of meetings and heard some immensely curious and entertaining reasons for financiers' distinct lack of interest. "Who is Javier Bardem?" "It's political." "It's too political." "She's old and has a fat ass." "Who cares about terrorism?" "It's about European Mexicans." "It's not political."

Eventually I met a Spanish film producer and although our relationship was at times less than fully gratifying, he said he would make the film, and wonder of wonders, he did. The Dancer Upstairs started shooting in May of 2000. We shot in Spain, Portugal and Ecuador over a nine week period. The film cost around $4,500,000 or so. Among the nationalities represented in the cast and crew were Spanish, Portuguese, Ecuadorian, Italian, British, German, Belgian, Mexican and American.

During the shooting we lost our electrician and our first and second assistant directors due to deaths in their respective families. The production company had neglected to open a bank account in Ecuador and so we arrived there after having shot in Europe for seven weeks with no money to give the crew, so I spent my two days of final preparation for the shoot going around to cash machines in Quito. The maximum amount one could withdraw was fifteen dollars, still quite a bit of money in Ecuador. A highly trained and tenured university professor might make $40 (U.S.) per month. We had a very dedicated cast and crew and with some per diem money which I had left over from other films probably still Con Air I should hope-we were able to pay people until we eventually received our production money a few days later.

Looking back over the seven years it took us to bring the film to fruition, it seems astonishing to me that it took so long, that so few people were interested, and I must say in closing, that they were so incredibly and so pompously wrong.


John Malkovich makes his directorial debut with The Dancer Upstairs - now playing in select cities.

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Caution Men Working

May 1, 2003, Chambers Street, New York

International Worker's Day!

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April 26, 2003

Soap and Design, Again

The earlier post on method liquid detergent reminds me that I should also plug the products of people I actually know. Laura Cabot markets aromatherapy-related bubblebaths and shower gels under her Not Soap, Radio label. Simple packaging and smart body copy. The web site could use some work, but it has its entertainments. Shown here: Liquid Freud, when you need to turn up the volume on your inner voice of reason. Fun stuff.

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April 17, 2003

method packaging

Some categories just cry out for redesign. Household cleaning products seem so locked into the Ajax/Comet/Mr. Clean, 1960's era, that it is refreshing to see an alternative.

Target Stores are selling dish detergent from method. It come in innovative, opening-on-the-bottom bottles designed by Karim Rashid.

Very nice graphics and bottles. I love the shape of the teardrop, but the dumbbell shape is more ergonomic with wet hands.

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April 16, 2003

Honda as Art

Cars swooping over oceanfront landscapes, speeding across dry lake beds. Nah. This Honda commercial from the UK is moving in a different way.

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March 27, 2003

The Design Police are never around when you need them.

This is disturbing. UPS has gone over to the dark side with their new logo, dumping the classic by Paul Rand.

The original:

The tarted-up, by Futurebrand of New York:

The first comment I've gotten: "It looks like a gas station."

So here we have the design cliché of the 90s — the swoop — mixed with the metal shine cliché. I give it 5 years.

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February 18, 2003

Quark PR on 6: Boring

Ooh. Reorganized menus. More than one undo.

Folks, can you feel the excitement? This upgrade will probably only cost us hundreds of dollars a copy.

Oh, there's no promised ship date. As Emily Latella used to say, never mind.

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October 15, 2002

Quark: OS X. Only. Someday.

Quark plans an OS X-only version for its next release.

Problem 1: The next version is a top-to-bottom rewrite. Quark traditionally has issued buggy initial releases (except for 5, which is really only 4.2 with a desperate bid for more money from the gullible). With a complete rewrite, the chances for this puppy working out of the box approach zero.

Problem 2: Don't look for this version until sometime after next June. Given Quark's usual pattern, this may mean 2004.

Problem 3: Quark is bleeding out. I receive offers to update some old 3.1 versions I own. But I'm putting my money on Indesign. How trendy.

Posted by campbell at 11:35 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2002

Advertising and Its Discontents

What an unpromising place for such amusing content! "The Top 10 advertisers by complaints" links from the Advertising Standards Authority in Britain shows what people take offense to in advertising. Some complain of nakedness, others of irreligious attitudes. And some complain about vegetables!

Posted by campbell at 04:04 PM | Comments (1)

June 06, 2002

Edward Tufte Seminars

Edward Tufte is holding his course Presenting Data and Information in New York this July (2002). I took it a few years back and it is worth the 320 bucks, particularly if you figure that you get $130 worth of Tufte books for the price. It is highly enjoyable and very thought-provoking.

His site is at www.edwardtufte.com, where you'll see such classics as Napoleon's March, which has to be one of the greatest informational graphics ever, visually describing, in multiple dimensions, the French attack on Moscow.

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June 05, 2002

Fonts: Elderkin

Elderkin Some very nice fonts from Process Type Foundry. To see what these are for: Jack Stauffacher had an exhibit at SFMOMA which shows examples like this and this.

Emigre 45 had an article, if I can find it somewhere.

His book Wooden Letters from 300 Broadway seems to be selling for $4500.

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Stunning Scanner Art

These remarkable images are not photographs in the conventional sense. Katinka Matson uses a CCD flatbed scanner. Well, see for yourself.

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May 21, 2002

InDesign 2.0 replaces Quark

I have had the usual love/hate relationship with Quark Xpress over the years. It has certainly been bread and butter for me in most situations. When InDesign first came out, I saw no reason to switch. Partly inertia, partly just lack of interest. But WOW, InDesign 2.0 blows Quark away. Here's the review from MacAddict Magazine.

I was given a low-budget typesetting job for a magazine last week. Mostly complex tables. After many hours of struggling with Quark and Tableworks, I hit my frustration limit. I was desperate for my old Mergenthaler type terminal. (c. 1980)

Rather than abandoning the job and the client, I switched to InDesign. Within fifteen minutes, I was comfortable with the interface. The secret is: it's very similar to Quark, with a whole bunch of typographic niceties tossed in. In fact, the interface mixes Quark, Photoshop and Illustrator, with a little bit of Corel Draw tossed in (don't ask).

The best part: I was able to recreate the 5 pages from scratch in 4 hours and ship it. It even created the PDF file inside the application!

The client (a production house) is somewhat leery of using the app, given it's installed base of Quark expertise. But they are coming around.

I spoke to a Quark 5.0 user a few minutes ago. He is very frustrated. Quark is not OS X native, so it runs in Classic mode on his new G4. Quark notoriously takes 3 years to introduce upgrades, and many months to fix bugs. He says the underground word is that Quark is in some serious trouble.

Based on the evidence, I think that Quark is about to cede the high-end typographic market to Adobe.

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