Tidbits, 11 May

  • In a classic case of Manhattan myopia, Ed Glaeser makes an oversimplified argument that high-rises can spur economic diversity in Economix. Two crucial shortcomings to the argument: (1) high-rises have inordinately high construction costs per unit, due to expensive steel/concrete structures and elevators; and (2) their highly standardized units and interiors, and high ratio of communal-but-not-common space, resist any efforts to meaningfully mix price points within.
  • “The Deepwater Horizon spill illustrates that every gallon of gas is a gallon of risks — risks of spills in production and transport, of worker deaths, of asthma-inducing air pollution and of climate change, to name a few. We should print these risks on every gasoline receipt, just as we label smoking’s risks on cigarette packs. And we should throw our newfound political will behind a sweeping commitment to use less gas — build cars that use less oil (or none at all) and figure out better ways to transport Americans.” — Lisa Margonelli in the NYT (h/t Ryan Avent)
  • Brookings (via TNR) unveiled an interesting new metro-area cluster typology. Larger growing regions can be low-education “border growth,” better educated and whiter “New Heartland” (Charlotte, Columbus, KC, MSP, SLC), or diverse and highly educated “Next Frontier” (they bet on Albuquerque, Austin, DC, Denver, DFW, Houston, Sacramento, Seattle, and Tucson). The “rust belt” divides into stable, better educated “Skilled Anchor” (Hartford, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh) and declining, less educated “Industrial Core” cities (Memphis, New Orleans, Toledo).
  • Seems like I’m not the only one who’s disappointed by the New United Airlines’ adoption of Continental’s whiffleball clip-art logo. It offers some peculiarly ugly typography — notably the stem on the uppercase U, which appears to be, in a sad twist on the false small caps of UA’s 90s look, an inverted and enlarged n. Contrast that with the “Helvetica on fast forward” look of the current wordmark, so clean and detailed that it draws attention to the angles snipped into the T. What also worries me is that the new company seems, so far, to be taking its design cues from Continental’s graphically blunt advertising, which features all-caps headlines, underlines (more appropriate for emphasis on typewriters than in digital media), high contrast colors, and predictable visuals — quite different from UA’s almost too elegant, soft-sell approach of spare watercolor illustration, in greys and pastels, set against lots of whitespace. In fact, Continental’s ad agency deliberately says about its strategy: “forgo the flowery imagery and messaging of typical airline ads and focus on what really matters to business travelers: getting basic needs met with consistency. Our campaign… talks to travelers in a simple, straightforward style and voice…” The visual contrast is nowhere more evident than in comparing their recent TV spots; particularly the parting shot that introduces the logo:


    (Interestingly, in choosing blue as the new airline color, it appears that US aviation is joining other duopoly markets that have coalesced around red vs. blue. Coke-Pepsi, Colgate-Crest, Labour-Tory, Republican-Democrat, TWA-Pan Am, and now Delta-United.) [originally posted to FT]

  • A recent article on “Chinglish” in the NYT reveals that the Shanghai government has been cracking down on poor English translations. That might explain why the amusing picture book cited in the article was one of the few English-language books widely available at most bookshops, gift shops, and the like — having it everywhere sure seemed strange given China’s strong aversion to embarrassment.
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