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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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Hanx Writer

Tom Hanks loves typewriters. "Everything you type on a typewriter sounds grand, the words forming in mini-explosions of SHOOK SHOOK SHOOK," wrote the actor in a 2013 New York Times editorial. "A thank-you note resonates with the same heft as a literary masterpiece." For those that seek analog charm without sacrificing digital convenience, there is Hanx Writer, a new app that turns your iPad into a maker of "pieces of graphic art with a singularity equal to your fingerprints" (Hanks's defintion of typewritten letters). No White-Out required.

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Out of Print

Show the world that you know good design and great literature with the help of Out of Print, which sells t-shirts, tote bags, and more printed with iconic and often out of print book covers. "We work closely with artists, authors, and publishers to license the content that ends up in our collections," note the founders, who are currently offering wearable versions of American Lit. syllabus standbys such as Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, Invisible Man, and Of Mice and Men. For each product sold, one book is donated to a community in need.

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Good Idea

Design is a good idea. This simple truism, printed on a tomato red mousepad, was an unlikely hit for the type maestros at Berkeley-based Emigre, and demand for the item quickly outstripped supply. Fast forward a few years—to today—and they've brought back the design-boosting desk brightener, topped with spill-proof Lexan to ensure that it stays bright and ready to spur you to new creative heights.

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Gift Shop of Horrors

Before you plan your summer vacation, pay a visit to Crap Souvenirs, a photo blog that delights in commemorative kitsch. "This site is meant to serve as a collection point, or perhaps a refuge, for the tackiest of mementos," notes editor Doug Lansky, who solicits snapshots from around the globe, adds witty descriptions, and invites readers to vote for their favorites. Among the early hits are a bottle opener featuring the face of Pope John Paul II, a stuffed camel whose flashing red eyes almost make you forget that its flank is embroidered with "EGYBT" (oops!), and a Mount Rushmore oil lamp that would appall and frighten even the most grizzled Antiques Roadshow appraiser.

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Typewriter Rescue

Miss the old-timey clackety-clack and sturdy buttons of manual typewriters but not about to abandon the digital world? Check out the USB Typewriter, described by Philadelphia-based inventor Jack Zylkin as "a new and groundbreaking innovation in the field of obsolescence." Originally conceived as a kit to teach basic electronics, the retro-modern creation allows you to use a manual typewriter as a keyboard for any USB-capable computer, including an iPad, with the addition of newfangled keyboard functions such as Ctrl, Esc, and arrow keys.

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Omni

Before the digital revolution there was Omni. The strangely enchanting popular science magazine was created by Penthouse founder Bob Guccione, which explains the touches of sex and flashy graphic design amidst the science news and science fiction. Omni folded in 1998 after a two-decade run, but The Mind's Eye: The Art of Omni, due out in June from powerHouse Books, will serve up the publication's vintage science fiction imagery. Meanwhile, an Omni reboot is already underway online, where the search for lost images and kindred sprits will continue.

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Honest Logos

What if a logo revealed the true nature of a company, as opposed to the image it aspires to present to the world? Such is the parallel universe imagined by Swedish graphic designer Viktor Hertz, who has created a series of "honest logos" for megabrands ranging from Apple (the text below the silvery fruit becomes "Appearance Costs") to YouTube ("CatVideos"). Some may have a future as guerrilla public health campaigns, aimed at too-frequent customers of McDonald's ("McDiabetes"), Camel ("Cancer"), or Marlboro ("Moneywaster").

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Write On

Do you know what the handwriting of your closest friends looks like? Probably not. "We are at a moment when handwriting seems to be about to vanish from our lives altogether," writes Phillip Hensher in The Missing Ink, recently released in paperback (Faber & Faber). "It has stopped being a necessary and inevitable intermediary between people—a means by which individuals communicate with each other, putting a little bit of their personality into the form of their message as they press the ink-bearing point on to the paper."

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Everyday Design

Why do some objects delight, while others frustrate? What is "good design," and what does your brain have to do with it? Find out in the pages of The Design of Everyday Things by Dan Norman. First published in 1988, the beloved book has been revised and expanded for a new edition out this month from MIT Press.

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