Subscribe to The Atlantic and get 2 free issues

Font Wars

Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones were the boy wonders of the design world when they joined forces to form the type foundry Hoefler&Frere-Jones. For fifteen years their partnership seemed charmed, until it dissolved, with $20 million at stake.

Among those who draw letters for a living, Gotham is most notable for being the crowning achievement of two of the leaders of their tribe, Frere-Jones and Jonathan Hoefler. The two men seemed to be on parallel paths since the summer of 1970, when they were both born in New York. Hoefler and Frere-Jones were already prominent designers when they began operating as Hoefler&Frere-Jones in 1999, having decided to join forces instead of continuing their race to be type design’s top boy wonder. Each would serve as an editor for the other, and they would combine their efforts to promote the work they did together.

Colleagues still struggle to explain what a big deal this was at the time. Debbie Millman, president emeritus of AIGA, the major trade organization for graphic designers, begins by comparing them to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, then stops. “They were famous before they got together, so that’s how they’re not like the Beatles. It’s more like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young,” she says, before pausing again. “You know what—I’ll tell you what they were like. They were like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.”

PUBLISHED: April 8, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3758 words)

Taking Care of Business: A Reading List

This week's picks from Emily include stories from Orange Coast Magazine, The New York Times, Business Insider, and Bloomberg Businessweek.
PUBLISHED: Feb. 16, 2014

E-Cigarettes: A $1.5 Billion Industry Braces for FDA Regulation

Are e-cigarettes a revolutionary way to make smoking safer—or are they a huge step backward on our path toward a tobacco-less society?

Among the FDA’s most difficult decisions will be determining whether e-cigarettes will be a gateway product, encouraging young smokers to develop a nicotine habit that might lead to tobacco use. After all, many of the things that make e-cigarettes attractive to smokers make them even more attractive to minors. It’s actually pretty unpleasant to start smoking—it causes dizziness, it causes coughing, and it usually takes kids a while to learn to inhale—but anyone can inhale e-cigarette vapor on the first puff. And since e-cigarettes don’t have much odor, they’re harder for parents to detect. During the debate over New York’s policy, a September report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing e-cigarette use on the rise among teenagers was prominently discussed. Spokesmen for Altria Group (MO), Reynolds American (RAI), and Lorillard—the Big Three of tobacco—are in agreement that children should be prevented from buying e-cigarettes, just as they are prevented from buying the regular kind.

PUBLISHED: Feb. 6, 2014
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3236 words)

Meet the 103,000 People Who Could Become the First Climate-Change Refugees

A visit to the island nation of Kiribati, which could be the first country to be lost from rising tides due to global warming:

Kiribati is a flyspeck of a United Nations member state, a collection of 33 islands necklaced across the central Pacific. Thirty-two of the islands are low-lying atolls; the 33rd, called Banaba, is a raised coral island that long ago was strip-mined for its seabird-guano-derived phosphates. If scientists are correct, the ocean will swallow most of Kiribati before the end of the century, and perhaps much sooner than that. Water expands as it warms, and the oceans have lately received colossal quantities of melted ice. A recent study found that the oceans are absorbing heat 15 times faster than they have at any point during the past 10,000 years. Before the rising Pacific drowns these atolls, though, it will infiltrate, and irreversibly poison, their already inadequate supply of fresh water. The apocalypse could come even sooner for Kiribati if violent storms, of the sort that recently destroyed parts of the Philippines, strike its islands.

PUBLISHED: Nov. 22, 2013
LENGTH: 28 minutes (7040 words)

Mega Death: Meet the Company That's Taking Over the Funeral Industry

SCI has 1,800 funeral homes and cemeteries in the U.S. and Canada, 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of $4 billion. Should a company this large have this much control over how we care for the dead?

“‘We are going to be poised to benefit from the aging of America, the baby boomers,’ Foley said. Deaths in the U.S. are forecast to increase at an average annual rate of 1.1 percent over the next five years. At SCI, earnings per share rose 26 percent in the first half of 2013. ‘This growth,’ Foley said, ’was driven in large part due to the strong flu season’—i.e., a lot of old people got sick and died last winter.”

PUBLISHED: Oct. 25, 2013
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3673 words)

Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our story picks of the week, featuring Texas Monthly, Bloomberg Businessweek, New York Times Magazine, Washingtonian and Paris Review, plus a guest pick by Drew Grossman.
PUBLISHED: Oct. 11, 2013

The Secrets of Jeff Bezos

In an excerpt from his new book The Everything Store, Brad Stone explores how Jeff Bezos turned Amazon into an online retailing giant—and tracks down Bezos's biological father:

"I found Ted Jorgensen, Jeff Bezos’s biological father, behind the counter of his bike shop in late 2012. I’d considered a number of ways he might react to my unannounced appearance but gave a very low probability to the likelihood of what actually happened: He had no idea what I was talking about. Jorgensen said he didn’t know who Jeff Bezos was and was baffled by my suggestion that he was the father of this famous CEO.

"I mentioned Jacklyn Gise and Jeffrey, the son they had during their brief teenage marriage. The old man’s face flushed with recognition. 'Is he still alive?' he asked, not yet fully comprehending.

"'Your son is one of the most successful men on the planet,' I told him. I showed him some Internet photographs on my smartphone, and for the first time in 45 years, Jorgensen saw his biological son. His eyes filled with sorrow and disbelief."

AUTHOR:Brad Stone
PUBLISHED: Oct. 10, 2013
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7280 words)

Ramona Pierson Spent 18 Months in a Coma and Woke Up Blind. She's Now a CEO in Silicon Valley

Pierson, nearly killed by a drunk driver, has recovered to become the head of a new tech company called Declara:

"Over time, and more than 100 surgeries, Pierson’s body improved. She had procedures to fix her eye socket, nose, and teeth. 'One of my doctors did Wilt Chamberlain’s nose,' Pierson says. 'My face seemed to come together well. Part of my butt is in my face.' Her skills improved, too, and she realized it was time to try and leave the home. 'I just kept moving forward,' she says.

"We’ve all met people who seem to make more of their years than the rest of us. They become experts at whatever they try and collect friends wherever they go. Driven, in part, by a maniacal fear that she had fallen behind the world, Pierson became one of those people."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 26, 2013
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3576 words)

The Honey Launderers: Uncovering the Largest Food Fraud in U.S. History

How a food-trading company based in Germany illegally imported Chinese honey into the U.S.—"the largest food fraud in U.S. history":

"ALW relied on a network of brokers from China and Taiwan, who shipped honey from China to India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, South Korea, Mongolia, Thailand, Taiwan, and the Philippines. The 50-gallon drums would be relabeled in these countries and sent on to the U.S. Often the honey was filtered to remove the pollen, which could help identify its origin. Some of the honey was adulterated with rice sugar, molasses, or fructose syrup. "In a few cases the honey was contaminated with the residue of antibiotics banned in the U.S. In late 2006 an ALW customer rejected part of Order 995, three container loads of 'Polish Light Amber,' valued at $85,000. Testing revealed one container was contaminated with chloramphenicol, an antibiotic the U.S. bans from food. Chinese beekeepers use chloramphenicol to prevent Foulbrood disease, which is widespread and destructive. A deal was made to sell the contaminated honey at a big discount to another customer in Texas, a processor that sold honey to food companies."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 19, 2013
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2747 words)