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The designer’s thirst-quencher served weekly

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Magic Potion

Cool ideas & design solutions
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Color IQ Test

How sharp is your color acuity? Find out by taking X-Rite's Color IQ test. It's as easy as restoring a checkerboard of color chips to their proper ROYGBIV formation. The first and last chips in each of the four rows are fixed. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: drag and drop the ones in between to arrange them in hue order. Once you're confident in your efforts, click "Score Test" to see where you fall on the color IQ spectrum. The site will also provide historical score ranges by sex and age bracket. The real challenge: achieving the perfect score of zero. Meanwhile, don't let a low color IQ bring you down—just blame an improperly calibrated and profiled monitor.

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Kool Ade

Old school, retro picks
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Boxful of Book Covers

We'll spare you the part about making book cover-based judgments and jump right to recommending that you crack open Postcards from Penguin. Cleverly packaged like a book, the boxed set of cards (none of which we can bring ourselves to actually slap a stamp on and mail) offers a visual tour of 70 years of British design through 100 covers of iconic Penguin paperpacks. Along with classics of American and British literature, the set includes vintage covers for more recent fare, including mod takes on the work of Mary McCarthy and Roald Dahl. The set makes a great gift for creative types who prefer critiquing covers to actual reading.

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Font Fizz

Typography
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Identifont

You can spot Helvetica a mile away and have an entire theory about why Woody Allen can’t bear to make a film without deploying Windsor Light Condensed, but where do you turn when confronted by a typeface of unknown provenance? Try Identifont, the Web’s largest independent directory of typefaces. Among the site’s multiple ways to filter information from hundreds of font publishers and vendors is its tool enabling users to answer a series of illustrated multiple-choice questions about the appearance of a particular font (even if a sample is restricted to a handful of letters in a logo or heading). What type of tail is the uppercase “Q” sporting? How is the question mark dotted? Click to provide answers and before you can say “ascender serif oblique,” Identifont will have winnowed down the nearly 10,000 possibilities to the very font you're seeking to name.

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Book Brew

New and upcoming books
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The Signs of Italy

Louise Fili has done it again. The designer of all things bello, including stunning packaging and branding for the likes of Jean-Georges, Tiffany & Co. and Sarabeth's, turns her Italophilic eye to signage in the pages of Grafica della Strada, out this month from Princeton Architectural Press. The chunky yet compact book is a photographic diary of sorts, revealing the most inventive restaurant, hotel, street, and advertising signs spotted by Fili over three decades' worth of Italian travels. "These signs chart the highs and lows of Italian typography, from a classically elegant gold leaf script for a Turin jewelry store to a very spirited (and unreadable) type rendered in orange and blue dimensional plastic letters for a shop selling doormats in Rome," notes Fili by way of introduzione. "From the sublime to the ridiculous, each and every one, in its unique way, is dear to me."

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Magic Potion

Cool ideas & design solutions
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Six Monkeys

Take a break from your perpetually overstuffed inbox to contemplate the future of email with the help of Six Monkeys, an exploration of our interactions with email through Internet-connected objects. Commissioned by Mailchimp (hence the simian theme: each of the objects is named after a famous chimpanzee used in linguistic research), the project considers how we might change our relationship to email by placing it within our everyday spaces, with the help of kinder, gentler gadgets.

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Font Fizz

Typography
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Type Connection

Will Avenir live happily after in the strong yet graceful arms of Adobe Garamond Pro? Can Martha Stewart-y Archer ever make it work with Eurostile? See for yourself by playing Type Connection, a fontastic online dating game created by designer Aura Seltzer. Choose a single and get ready to mingle by selecting one of four strategies for finding a good match for your bachelor or bachelorette typeface. In addition to honing typeface-pairing skills, players explore typographic terminology and brush up on type history. Meanwhile, you'll never look at Gil Sans the same way again -- the British octogenarian is revealed to be an emotional eater who wears quirky spectacles.

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Hot Shots

Meet some creative people
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Mvstard

Between Quirky and Kickstarter comes Mvstard, which aims to offer a new way to discover, shop for, and support design. Launched yesterday to coincide with London Design Week, the web-based platform was born out of a frustration with the current process for getting product to market. "We found it difficult to introduce new products at a sensible cost without scale, and tough to get scale without big investment," says founder James Coombes. "We believed there was a better way." Sign up to help solve the chicken-and-egg scale issue and directly support designers by committing to pre-purchase products you love. The opening selection includes an iPhone-charging desk lamp, a mobile made of varnished leaves, and a nifty cast-aluminum stool.

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Kool Ade

Old school, retro picks
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On Repasts Past

Order up some delicious inspiration with Menu Design in America, 1850–1985, published by Taschen. Design writer Steven Heller provides the appetizer, an introduction on the history of menu design, but the main course consists of almost 800 color graphics from vintage menus. And for dessert? Fascinating captions by the book's editor, Jim Heimann, who reveals the backstories of defunct establishments and calls out oddities such as the mention of "Eastern Oysters" on the menu of a San Francisco eatery. "The menu has gone beyond a mere element of a restaurant to a marketing tool, a branding opportunity, an indicator of cuisine, a barometer of taste, and a highly sought piece of ephemera," writes Heimann in his foreword. Creative types are sure to work up an appetite perusing the jumbo-sized coffee table tome, so avoid reading it on an empty stomach.

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Magic Potion

Cool ideas & design solutions
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Circle Up

Why should square and rectangular frames have all the fun? Advocating for a more well-rounded distribution of shapes is Hamburg-based Jo Marie Farwick, creator of "Everything Looks Better in Circles." The delightful Tumblr reveals the fetching results that only an angle-free profile can provide, whether in showcasing an Eames House Bird perched on a log, a beach scene, or a veritable army of kittens.

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House Blend

Interesting products
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Loomi

Let there be...Loomi! The modular, makeable, paintable, recyclable light is a design-minded DIYer's dream. It arrives in pieces: 33 quadrilaterals of sturdy matte card stock that can be interlinked to create lights of all shapes and sizes. "It's not that hard! Honest," promise the Brooklyn-based team of friends who developed Loomi—with the help an expired Danish patent from the 1970s and a successful Kickstarter campaign. "If you follow our instructions, you'll be up and lighting in about 20 minutes. And remember, you only have to build it once!"

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