Category Archives: Design and typography

Community Wayside Pulpit recap

Following up on the Community Wayside Pulpit thought — and the Twitter-ed news that it lives in Britain — I thought I’d start with some background from the Unitarian Universalist Association. Some history, the old sayings and the most recent (but not the newest thing…) series of posters as PDFs for printing locally.

Read these first before we consider what comes next.

Those Orthodox books: an unlikely feature

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about two books I got from the British Orthodox Church. But not from Britain.

That church uses Lulu to publish and fulfill their book orders; it’s a leading print-on-demand service. No back stock to get dusty, volunteer time stuck in mailing books and — as a nice side effect — your books may be made closer to the reader. (Mine were made and shipped within the United States.) They were inexpensive (presumably the British Orthodox Church wasn’t making a profit on these) and the quality of manufacture is good.  (The typesetting wasn’t good, but traditional printing doesn’t fix that.)

The only downside — such as it is — is that it makes booktable sales less practical. But given what a resource hole that is, even in the age before e-book readers, I can’t say I’m sorry.

Type matters

This recent blog post from the New York Times spells out how some typefaces (particularly Comic Sans) make facts seem suspect while others (Baskerville is the winner of a small selection) inspire confidence. Baskerville isn’t my favorite — if you need a open-licensed version, see here — but it speaks well that every church should try to put its best (type)face forward when it wants to be seen as compelling and truthful.

First thoughts about the Union Prayer Book, Sinai Edition Revised

It’s hard to judge this book. I’m not Jewish. I’m not accustomed to flow and customary options within the services. The work comes from a small organization. I expect I will be inspired by it and find several prayers or ideas for prayers when I become more accustomed to the text.

So just two observations now.

First, interleaf photos of historic Classic Reform synagogues gives the prayer book a historic feeling, and can’t afford to be seen as a relic. Coming from parallel movement within liberal Protestantism, I know it is a reputation to be overcome.

Second, I wish it were more attractive. Book design is a tricky art, and would be costly. But there is something too plain about this service book. It was dropshipped to me from GIA, a hymnal publisher. I’ve never found GIAs work to be terribly pretty. (They published the hymnal of NACCC, which I wrote about sometime back.) But following the publication last year of New American Haggadah, (NPR) a notable work of liturgy, scholarship and art, so pedestrian a publication of a long-lasting prayer book seems like quite a waste.

And a cautionary tale for Unitarian Universalists.

ObscuraCam to help build church web sites

ObscuraCam is a phone app for Android to help citizen-journalists obscure faces in crowd photographs and videos, say, in undemocratic societies.

It might be helpful in building your church’s website. You can use it to hide the faces of minors and other vulnerable persons, should your church’s policies require or recommend it.

Two examples:


Your blogger, anonymized.


Your blogger, who doesn’t want his book choices known. (It isn’t perfect.)

Another option for a minister’s loose-leaf services book


I can't believe I'm suggesting this.

Some time in seminary (now many years ago) a seasoned minister advised me to “start getting my ‘book’ together” — by which he meant services for weddings and funerals. And uniformly in a half-letter-sized (5.5 by 8.5 inches) three ring binder. It was covered in black vinyl, which was utilitarian. if not interesting to look at.

I had used identical binders as a kid — we’re talking the early 80s now — for my stamp collecting, but at least they came in different colors! Around 2000, these black ones were all that I could find, and even these became scarce — they do wear out — so I bought a couple in case they vanished completely. But then they returned, even in colors, but in an over-designed way that made them better for a commercial office but ugly for worship.


Well, lo-and-behold if the new Martha Stewart line of home office binders doesn’t fit the bill, including this very nice one in pebbled brown paper. At Staples, $7. Made by Avery, who also make the commercial ones. Indeed, the locking-rings mechanism is identical, so all the now-available tabs, paper and binder whatsits will also fit.

Your song for Epiphany

I’m not alone in having a special heartplace for the feast of the Epiphany. In part, it’s a holiday in the larger Christmas cycle that is hard to commercialize (in the United States) despite its obvious gift-giving tie-in, and so is easy to observe as a religious holiday in exactly the way Christmas cannot be. (Another part of me — with childhood memories in New Orleans — loves it as the first day to get a king cake.)

Now, a lower-calorie way to mark the day. The collected Christmas songs of Sufjan Stevens got me through a rough season. So for your enjoyment:

Or a direct link:

Perhaps you’d prefer a typeface instead? (If you have a modern browser, you’re already enjoying it as this blog’s body type.)

How to type in special symbols

A little tip from my own workflow.

Sometimes you need a special symbol in your blog post, document or what have you. (For example, a single proper ellipsis is one character, rather than using five to confect one from periods and spaces; useful when you’re using Twitter and only have 140 characters….) This is where Unicode encoding comes to the rescue. Rather than comb though various keyboard lists or hunt for a sample from a web search, you can type them directly. If you use an obscure glyph often — say a Maltese cross in an order of service — it can save time, too. It’s just a question of having the Unicode number of the symbol you want to use. Memorize it, or have a cheat sheet handy.

See this page for how to input Unicode characters in your operating system. As an Ubuntu Linux user, I hold Control, Shift and u together. This creates an underlined u character. Then I type in the four or five character Unicode number and hit enter. The desired symbol appears.

Here is a selection of Unicode symbol codes I use often — a cheat sheet for me (and you). But there are tons more.

¶ 00B6 pilcrow
· 00B7 middle dot
½ 00BD one-half
† 2020 dagger
€ 20AC Euro
? 22EF ellipsis
? 266B beamed eighth notes
? 2615 hot beverage (coffee)
? 2116 numero
? 2720 Maltese cross
? 2709 envelope
? 2123 versicle
? 211F response

(And now I see I need to have this blog render in a more Unicode-rich font.)