Layout

Like most carvers of my age, I laid out and drew lettering by hand when I started. I despised manual layout. As soon as computer-aided typography became available, I embraced it. I put the cussed layout tools in a box that I buried in the back of the shop. I never lamented their absence from the bench and reveled in the time savings. Manual layout was a prolonged process for me.
My first type layout program cost me all of twenty-two dollars. It had no bells and whistles, but I loved it. Unfortunately, it went out of production about three years later, and I replaced it with a graphics program that cost about a hundred dollars. It had too many features, but the ones I needed were easy to use. Eventually, it went out of production also.
Since then, I’ve used a sequence of increasingly obtuse programs that have too many features. For example, there are multiple menus stacked, hidden on sliders, and dropdowns. I can’t turn off what I don’t want or need, and every week it seems new features get added.
I have learned that there is a term for this; it’s called feature bloat. It reminds me of an apocryphal quote from some mythic software engineer that “if a program isn’t broken, it doesn’t have enough features.”
And that reminds me of the wood planer that sits in the shed waiting for my gadget-loving friend to come to get it. It, too, was jammed with features. So full of them that it wasn’t a very good planer. I replaced it this winter with a simple, no-nonsense machine that only does one thing – plane wood.
Some people want all those features, and they sell the product. I have a business, and I understand consumer demand. I also understand the frustration with products with buttons that don’t work unless dials are first set, levers pushed, and a valve gear calibrated.
There has been enough frustration that some companies have released new products promising to be basic with no frills. I was inveigled into this and bought a few. Then I noticed the upgrades and the creeping bloat of features as the simple became the more complex.
While I am not planning a reunion with the old layout tools soon, I am trying to remember which storage box I may have placed them in.

2 Replies to “Layout”

  1. My mom used to say “the more buttons, the more things that can go wrong.” She kept the refrigerator, washing machine and stove from her newly-wed days for close to 40 years.

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