Flag Stories

Flag Stories — a project by ferdio, an infographic agency.

Basically we started looking at all the flags in the world and squeezed all the data we could possibly gather in to a blank spreadsheet. The more we dug into it, the more stories we managed to reveal, so our plan is to keep digging and continuously adding new stories to the project.

Many, many more flag infographics at Flag Stories. (via Co.Design)

See also

  • The Flag of Planet Earth — Oskar Pernefeldt’s graduation project at Beckmans College of Design.
  • Airport CodesEvery airport has a unique three-letter IATA code. Some make sense if you know the city or the name of the airport and others, well, what the heck?
  • Mapping the Online Worldan atlas redrawn according to the number of registrations within each country’s internet domain* — whether .uk for the UK, .de for Germany, .cn for China, and so on.
Craft and creativity

Flag Stories: Infographics revealing the hidden stories behind flag designs

“Sure, there are a lot of books and websites covering the different aspects of flags like history, demography and culture, through heavy text, but we wanted to add new aspects to this field by only looking at the graphics and telling the story visually. So we started this Flag Stories project to discover the hidden stories behind the graphics.” — ferdio


Primitive Technology: Bow and Arrow

I made a bow and arrows in the wild using only natural materials and primitive tools I’d made previously from scratch (as usual). The tools used were a celt stone hatchet, a stone chisel, various stone blades and fire sticks.

Filmed in the wilds of Far North Queensland, Australia, our silent craftsman ventures out into the bush to camp and make these videos. Self taught from books, the internet and trial and error, this is a hobby and not a way of life: “I live in a modern house and eat modern food. I just like to see how people in ancient times built and made things.”

“Primitive technology is a hobby where you make things in the wild completely from scratch using no modern tools or materials. This is the strict rule. If you want a fire- use fire sticks, an axe- pick up a stone and shape it, a hut- build one from trees, mud, rocks etc. The challenge is seeing how far you can go without modern technology. If this hobby interests you then this blog might be what you are looking for.”

See also

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Jheronimus Boschan online interactive adventure.

Hieronymus van Aken honed his skills to become a world-famous artist. Once his fame had spread outside the city walls, he would sign his work with ‘Hieronymus Bosch’, after the name of his native city.

The Garden of Earthly Delights is a story about morals and sin in a particular time. The painting however is timeless. The journey that the visitor sets out on in the interactive documentary is a personal one. Beneath the surface we aim to invite the visitor to reflect upon and question their sins and morals.


See also: Classic paintings brought to life & Ben Sack’s mad maps.

Craft and creativity

Explore ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ in high resolution

“In the late Middle Ages, a master-painter lived in the south of the Netherlands. […] Bosch was out to amuse and surprise us, he wanted us to enjoy the sight of this multitude of figures, animals, plants and objects.”


History of Japan

By Bill Wurtz.

See also

The Enterprise separated into its component parts

Smithsonian: The Enterprise model has been carefully separated into its individual components—saucer section; secondary hull; port and starboard nacelles and pylons; deflector dish array; hangar bay doors; and the bridge. Each section is being meticulously studied to determine its construction and condition and will be documented with visible, ultraviolet, and infrared photography.

For areas repainted during previous restorations, a new base layer will be applied on top that exactly matches the original hull grey. “We don’t have to speculate about the original grey color,” says conservator Ariel O’Connor. “Our examinations have revealed a large section of original, first pilot-episode grey hidden and protected under the saucer bolt cover.”

(Includes some pictures from The Washington Post.)

TrekCore: We’ve just gotten back from our catch-up session with the Enterprise model conservation team at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum facility in Virginia! Here’s a discussion with conservator Malcolm Collum about a NEW deflector dish for the Enterprise!

See also

(via MeFi)

Popular Mechanics has a few more pictures →

Craft and creativity

The original USS Enterprise returns to spacedock for detailed restoration work

“The Enterprise was designed to look unbound by gravity, ready to explore strange new worlds at faster-than-light speeds week after week. Five decades later, the pull of our home world has taken its toll on the model, particularly the secondary hull and nacelles.”


RetroAhoy: Doom

Stuart Brown: Doom is a massively important step in the development of 3D action games. One that defined the first person shooter and changed gaming forever.

If you had a PC — you had to have Doom.

See also

Nerdwriter: Why Thanksgiving Should Be Redefined

Traditions like Thanksgiving aren’t natural, by any means. They’re invented, and at the time of their invention they called to a past that’s not really there. An imagined past; a constructed authenticity that serves the purposes of the present.

Nuclear Fruit, Part One: Mechanical Minds

Stuart Brown’s five part exploration of the Cold War’s effect on video games.

Watch parts two, three, four & five →

Project Apollo Archive
Thousands of high-resolution (3200DPI) Apollo images scanned by NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Here (in no particular order) are about sixty of my favourites picked from a quick trip through the 9,200 on offer!

See the rest of the Project Apollo Archive that caught my eye →

Light-based media

Project Apollo Archive

The Project Apollo Archive serves as an online reference source and repository of digital images pertaining to the historic manned lunar landing program.


Ghost In The Shell: Identity in Space

Nerdwriter discusses Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell after last week’s exploration of Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. Both video essays look at the backgrounds of these films and what they reveal about their respective worlds.

Children of Men: Don’t Ignore The Background

Mummy Brown and Other Historical Colors

Korwin Briggs looks at the history of some fascinating colours with this ‘digital approximation of paint-blobs-on-paper’. There is more information in his blog post. Mummy Brown itself was pretty popular…

it tended to crack with age, and people stopped making it partly because manufacturers started running out of mummies and partly because artists realized their paint was people.

See also: Pantone announces new colour: ‘Minion Yellow’ (not made from dead Minions!)

Craft and creativity

Mummy Brown and other historical colours

“Veritable Hokum is a comic about mostly history, maybe science, and possibly some other stuff too. Think of it as a comic-encyclopedia, or a picture-almanac.”

Beam me up Scotty
Use your words

Churchillian drift: Great quotations find their way to famous names

Aaron Hutchins, Great quote! But who really said it?: William Shatner’s character in Star Trek never said, “Beam me up, Scotty.” The closest he came was: “Beam us up, Mr. Scott.” Quotes often get condensed in people’s memories. “Memory may be a terrible librarian, but it’s a great editor,” writes Ralph Keyes in his book The Quote Verifier.

Great quotations seem to find their way to famous names.
(not) Mark Twain

Nigel Rees, Policing Word Abuse: Long ago, I coined the term “Churchillian Drift” to describe the process whereby the actual originator of a quotation is often elbowed to one side and replaced by someone more famous. So to Churchill or Napoleon would be ascribed what, actually, a lesser-known political figure had said. The process occurs in all fields.

Why are people so culpable when it comes to using quotations? In the run-up to the war in Iraq, Barbra Streisand, the well-known Shakespearean scholar, quoted this and said it came from Julius Caesar: “Beware the leader who bangs the drum for war.” Sheer invention. Why did she do it? Ignorance, laziness or what? It’s impossible to know for sure, but she wanted–as we all do–to use the supposed words of someone better than ourselves to lend weight to her argument.

See also


“A Complete History Of The Soviet Union Through The Eyes Of A Humble Worker, Arranged To The Melody Of Tetris” (2010) by “Pig With The Face Of A Boy”

The food on your plate; now belongs to the state

Brilliant visuals.

These photographs were taken by National Geographic Society photographers using early Autochrome, the first commercially available color photographic process.

See also

Light-based media

American Autochromes: Early 20th century colour photography

National Geographic Society photographers eventually moved on to other slightly more advanced photographic processes and finally to Kodachrome by 1938, but not before amassing a collection of more than 12,000 Autochromes.


Pigeons are gross. They’re also wildly underrated.

Vox: Sure, there are bad things about these birds (like the way they deface statues of our own species’ great leaders). But over the centuries, their unique abilities to be trained and to find their way home have been used in interesting and surprising ways (that almost make up for their constant cooing).


Iranian anti-US graffiti
Humans and other animals

Seven things you didn’t know the United States and its allies did to Iran

Jon Schwarz writing for The Intercept:

Not only have the U.S. and our allies done horrendous things to Iran, we’re not even polite enough to remember it.

Street art in Iran

  1. The founder of Reuters purchased Iran in 1872Lord Curzon called it “the most complete and extraordinary surrender of the entire industrial resources of a kingdom into foreign hands that has probably ever been dreamed of.”
  2. The BBC lent a hand to the CIA’s 1953 overthrow of Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammad MosaddeghSoon enough the U.S. was training the regime’s secret police in how to interrogate Iranians with methods a CIA analyst said were “based on German torture techniques from World War II.”
  3. We had extensive plans to use nuclear weapons in IranIf the Soviets began massing their troops, we would use small nuclear weapons to destroy the mountain passes in northern Iran the Soviets needed to move their troops into the country.
  4. We were cool with Saudi Arabia giving Saddam $5 billion to build nukes during the Iran-Iraq war…and the Reagan administration knew all about it and didn’t care.
  5. U.S. leaders have repeatedly threatened to outright destroy Iran“Bomb bomb bomb Iran.”
  6. We shot down a civilian Iranian airliner — killing 290 people, including 66 childrenTwo years later the U.S. Navy gave the Vincennes’s commander the highly prestigious Legion of Merit commendation.
  7. We worry about Iranian nukes because they would deter our own military strikesThis perspective — that we must prevent other countries from being able to deter us from waging war — is a bedrock belief of the U.S. establishment, and in fact was touted as a major reason to invade Iraq.

Seven Things You Didn’t Know the U.S. and Its Allies Did to Iran

William Smith's Geological Map of England and Wales

‘A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales, with part of Scotland; exhibiting the collieries and mines, the marshes and fen lands originally overflowed by the sea, and the varieties of soil according to the variations in the substrata, illustrated by the most descriptive names’

A first edition copy of one of the most significant maps in the history of science has been rediscovered in time for an important anniversary.

Tucked away in a leather sleeve case, the mislaid artefact was last seen roughly 40 or 50 years ago. Smith spent the better part of 15 years collecting the information needed to compile the map. It is said he covered about 10,000 miles a year on foot, on horse and in carriage, cataloguing the locations of all the formations that make up the geology of the three home nations.

The roughly 1.8m by 2.5m map is made up of 15 sheets.

The outline of the geography and the strata were printed from copper plate engravings, but the detail was finished by hand with watercolours.

The lower edge of a formation is saturated and then the paint is made to fade back to the high edge. It is this colouring technique, combined with the tendency of many of England’s rocks to dip to the south or southeast, that gives Smith’s map its iconic look.

Further information

See also

Craft and creativity

Seminal William ‘Strata’ Smith geology map rediscovered

“This map, produced by William Smith, is acknowledged as the first geological map of a country ever produced. Although there were ‘geological’ maps in existence before this, these invariably only identified rocks by types and are therefore more accurately described as ‘mineralogical’ maps. Smith’s innovation was to attempt to classify rocks according to age and manner of deposition – that is stratigraphically.”

Iconic Arms is a series by Stuart Brown on YouTube about legendary weapons in FPS history.

“In games, your gun is player agency made manifest.”

Iconic Arms looks at the history of famous weapons like the double-barreled shotgun, AK-47, M16, the Magnum, their place in popular culture and how their performance characteristics and functionality have been tweaked – sometimes radically – for more balanced gameplay.

Though I’m no fan of guns, I particularly love the graphics in this series with their flat colourful silhouette shapes, bold uber-tightly kerned Helvetica and fast diagonal wipes.

See also

Light-based media

Iconic Arms: Legendary weapons in FPS history

Stuart Brown’s series about legendary weapons in video game history.


Airport Codes

Every airport has a unique three-letter IATA code. Some make sense if you know the city or the name of the airport and others, well, what the heck?

Turns out there’s usually a reasonable explanation. Knowing what each IATA code stands for isn’t super useful, but it sure can be fun.

See also: Wikipedia: International Air Transport Association airport code


Airport Codes

A fun little site about the secrets behind those three letter airport codes.

Use your words

Fantasy worlds that break history’s back

Katherine Cross writing for Boing Boing’s new gaming blog Offword about Microscope, “a fractal role-playing game of epic histories” created by Ben Robbins.

The three concentric circles that form Microscope’s logo are perhaps the simplest description of the game. You begin by bookending the history you wish to explore, defining the limits between, say, cavepeople and interstellar colonisation, or something more focused like the founding of a religion and its ultimate schism. Once set, players take turns being “lenses” who set the focus for a given round of play, say a specific era in that history or a specific point in time, person, or event. During this round, every other player takes turns adding something to the setting and its history. The main rule is that they cannot contradict anything already established.

The game emphasizes the crisp spontaneity that emerges when time has no meaning for you. You can, at your leisure, wander through history filling in the blanks as you go. You can nuke a city and then travel back 5000 years to paint in all its little details for the rest of the evening, or travel forward in time to when the city is rebuilt. Only when the lens zooms in on a specific moment in time where character interaction is involved does everyone come together to roleplay a given scene. Here the microscope lens is at maximum magnification: You take a historical moment, say the assassination of an empress, and act it out in detail, explaining what happened and why.

The game forces you to answer that crucial question, why, again and again, and this is where it chisels away at tropes.
Fantasy worlds that break history’s back

Doves ffl ligature
Use your words

Recovering The Doves Type from the bottom of the Thames

Creative Review: In 1916, the Doves Type was seemingly lost forever after it was thrown into the River Thames. Almost 100 years later, and after spending three years making a digital version, designer Robert Green has recovered 150 pieces from their watery grave…

Doves letters

The Doves Type was commissioned by Thomas Cobden-Sanderson as a bespoke typeface for the Doves Press, the London printing company he co-founded with Emery Walker in 1900. A modern take on a Venetian serif, it took two years to create and was used in all of the Press’s publications, including books of verse by Shakespeare and Milton and the Doves Bible, which featured drop caps by Edward Johnstone.

After falling out with Walker, however – their partnership was legally dissolved in 1909, after the business encountered financial troubles – Cobden-Sanderson spent nine months tipping 2,600lb of it into the Thames in secret, ensuring that if he couldn’t use it, nor could anyone else. Disguised by darkness, he made around 170 trips to the Hammersmith Bridge to tip small parcels into the water at night, the splashes concealed by passing traffic, before announcing that it had been “bequeathed’ to the Thames.

Doves Bible

Read more about The Doves Type revival.



The history of Helvetica, by Anna Zubkova

1957: The Neue Haas Grotesk face is introduced with it’s debut at design trade show Graphic 57. The most distinctive features of the new typeface were consistently horizontal stroke terminals, large x-height, and extremely tight spacing. These features together resulted in the typeface’s characteristically dense and vigorous texture. The type was well received and adopted as the face of graphic design in Switzerland.

1963: The typeface changes its name from Neue Haas Grotesk to Helvetica. The name “Neue Haas Grotesk” was deemed less than ideal for an international Linotype market though. Heinz Eul, sales manager at Stempel, suggested “Helvetia”, which is Latin for “Switzerland”, but Hoffmann was not convinced, especially since a sewing machine manufacturer and insurance company already carried the name. He instead suggested “Helvetica” – “the Swiss”.

This page on Helvetica is just one of thirty-six, each looking at different Latin alphabet typefaces. The pages were made by the second-year graphic design students of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in autumn 2013.

Use your words

History of Helvetica

A fascinating history of the creation and adoption of this ubiquitous Swiss font.

Humans and other animals

World War I: The Seminal Tragedy

Extra Credits is an excellent series of videos about computer game design presented in a very entertaining and accessible way.

Occasionally Extra Credits turn their attention to history for a series called Extra History. First they looked at The Punic Wars, and now they’ve just finished an excellent four part series on the events that led to World War I.

You can support Extra History on Pateron.

Chapter 1: The Concert of Europe

“The world hinges on small things.”

The Concert of Europe held the continent together for years after the Napoleonic Wars, but as the leadership of great nations weakened over time, the stage was set for a colossal tragedy.

Watch parts 2, 3 and 4 →

Use your words

The process of type-founding

A fascinating short series of videos detailing the process of type-founding:

1. Punchcutting

This is the first in a short series of videos detailing the process of type-founding. Stan Nelson, historian of printing history, hosts these segments. First developed in the 15th century, this process was critical to the world’s ability to communicate until the rise of modern offset printing technologies in the 1950s.

Parts 2, 3 & 4 →

Shape of things to come

Apple’s “1997” concept video from 1987

Wired: Watch Apple’s Awkwardly Wrong Prediction of the Future From 1987

In 1987, two years after founder Steve Jobs was run out of the company, Apple produced a video that predicted a phantasmagorically glorious future for the maker of the Macintosh. It may be the oddest, most brilliant, and horribly wrong prediction anyone has ever made.


Retronaut: A vivid colour photograph of New York from 1944.

New York, 1944

The various billboards splashed with film titles – Tomorrow the World, 3 is a Family, Winged Victory – are all films released in late 1944. Notice the sign for the Orpheum Dance Palace; it was once New York’s most famous “dime-a-dance” hall. The famous New York City taxi cabs can be seen here in their two-tone Chevrolet/Deseto phase.

It looks almost like a contemporary photograph from a movie set or something.

I don’t know if it’s a factor of me getting older, or something else, but I’m only recently looking at old photographs (and paintings) of people and places and starting to see them as real. It’s not that I didn’t believe in history, just that I never really related to it. They may say that the past is a foreign country, but to me it has always felt much more distant than that.

Light-based media

1944: New York in colour

‘Winged Victory’ was a film that was co-produced by 20th Century Fox and the U.S. Army Air Forces to act as a rousing military propaganda piece encouraging people to join the war effort. On the sidewalk a group of soldiers in long khaki coats enjoy Times Sq. on their leave.

Image of Lena Söderberg used in many image processing experiments
Light-based media

Lenna, the JPEG girl

The Rathaus:

Lenna is a standard test image whose rise in computer nerd popularity led her to become the first JPEG compression file ever created. The picture was chosen spontaneously in 1972 when engineers were searching for a high gloss image of a human face and someone walked in with an issue of Playboy. The tech engineers couldn’t resist and so the photo was cropped and scanned at the University of Southern California image processing lab and Lenna went on to become a staple of the imaging and later digital imaging world.

‘Lenna’ is actually Lena Söderberg – her name was anglicised by Playboy.

Lena Soderberg posed as a centerfold in the November 1972 issue of Playboy. Notorious for enforcing copyright laws, Playboy has intentionally ignored the excessive copyright infringement of the 5.12″ x 5.12″ image. In May 2006 the company reported the Soderberg issue as the best selling Playboy of all time.

There’s lots more information on Wikipedia’s page about ‘Lenna’ and yet more at lenna.org. The original image is still available as part of the USC SIPI Image Database in their ‘miscellaneous’ collection.

See the full centrefold image after the jump [Mild nudity] →

Meyrin: CERN Terminal Font
Craft and creativity

Creating the Meyrin CERN terminal font

Brian Suda:

In mid September 02013, a small team of talented programmers, designers and thinkers all got together to recreate the experience of browsing the web on the first popular web browser. As part of that process, Mark Boulton and myself teamed-up to attempt to recreate the original font used on the terminal screen. This would give the look and feel of the simulator even more of that green glowing cathode-ray tube warmth.

CERN screen photograph

We’ve put the font-file, the template and all the pieces up to share for anyone to use. If the font can work for you, please feel free to use it any projects. Take the files and modify them.

You can download the files from Github: https://github.com/optional-is/Meyrin