Rubrication Design Examples

A gallery of typographic and graphics design examples of rubrication, a classic pattern of using red versus black for emphasis.
bibliography, technology, design, NGE
2019-05-302021-02-11 finished certainty: certain importance: 2

Dat­ing back to me­dieval man­u­scripts, text has often been high­lighted us­ing a par­tic­u­lar dis­tinct bright red. The con­trast of black and red on a white back­ground is highly vis­i­ble and strik­ing, and this has been reused many times, in a way which I have not no­ticed for other col­ors. I call these uses rubri­ca­tion and col­late ex­am­ples I have no­ticed from many time pe­ri­ods. This de­sign pat­tern does not seem to have a wide­ly-ac­cepted name or be com­monly dis­cussed, so I pro­pose ex­tend­ing the term “rubri­ca­tion” to all in­stances of this pat­tern, not merely re­li­gious texts.

Why this rubri­ca­tion de­sign pat­tern? Why red, specifi­cal­ly, and not, say, or­ange or pur­ple? Is it just a his­tor­i­cal ac­ci­dent? Cross-cul­tural re­search sug­gests that for hu­mans, red may be in­trin­si­cally more no­tice­able & has a higher con­trast with black, ex­plain­ing its peren­nial ap­peal as a de­sign pat­tern.

Re­gard­less, it is a beau­ti­ful de­sign pat­tern which has been used in many in­ter­est­ing ways over the mil­len­nia, and per­haps may in­spire the read­er.

Red is among the most ar­rest­ing and classi­est of col­ors, as a glance through fine book edi­tions re­veals. What is snazz­ier than a good which has been (some­times called “print­er’s red”)? And yes, rubri­ca­tion is usu­ally red—hardly ever or­ange, or green, or pur­ple, or any of the other pos­si­ble choic­es.

Rubri­ca­tion is not merely col­or­ing every­thing red, but a care­ful use of some red against mostly black in or­der to em­pha­size im­por­tant el­e­ments. We have for hol­i­days, Chris­tians will sub­con­sciously as­so­ciate red text with in type­set­ting the New Tes­ta­ment, some edi­tions of the Qur’an put Ara­bic di­a­crit­ics in red, and maps or charts may high­light key des­ti­na­tions in red while every other lo­ca­tion is printed in black.

Fur­ther, I no­ticed that these all seem to use not just red, but al­most the same shade of red: a cer­tain bright but medium red, never an­other shade like a pink or a deep scar­let. That might be an ar­ti­fact of tra­di­tion­ally us­ing (even­tu­ally up­grad­ing to ) and then every­one im­i­tat­ing it, but once I be­gan pay­ing at­ten­tion to red/black com­bi­na­tions, like the fa­mous “law of fives”, I be­gan notic­ing it every­where—as Bringhurst re­marks, red is “the ty­pog­ra­pher’s ha­bit­ual sec­ond color”.1 (One place I haven’t seen rubri­ca­tion used well is in pre­dom­i­nantly black set­tings, such as the in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar .2)

Why Red?

“This [red bi­cy­cle] is than the usual bi­cy­cle!”


I could imag­ine that be­ing true in me­dieval times when rubri­ca­tion started (iron gal­l-based rust/ox­ide pig­ments are surely ex­tremely cheap com­pared to many things), but that seems like it should have stopped be­ing a prob­lem at least by the 1800s when syn­thetic dyes & inks were in­vent­ed. It also would­n’t ex­plain the pres­tige of not merely as a red in gen­er­al, but as a ver­mil­ion ink re­served for im­pe­r­ial use in cal­lig­ra­phy & doc­u­ments in both the Byzan­tine & Chi­nese em­pires.

, who high­lights many ex­am­ples like in his data vi­su­al­iza­tion books and is a skill­ful user of rubri­ca­tion him­self3, notes in En­vi­sion­ing In­for­ma­tion 1990 (chap­ter 5, “Color and In­for­ma­tion”, pg83–86), apro­pos of unique col­or-di­a­gram book in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Eu­clid’s El­e­ments4:

Byrne’s col­ors keep in mind the knowl­edge to be com­mu­ni­cat­ed, color for in­for­ma­tion. Use of the pri­mary col­ors and black pro­vides max­i­mum differ­en­ti­a­tion (no four col­ors differ more).5 This yel­low, bro­ken with or­ange, is dark­ened in val­ue, sharp­en­ing the de­fi­n­i­tion of its edge against white pa­per; and the blue is rel­a­tively light (on a value scale of blues), re­in­forc­ing its dis­tance from black. In the di­a­grams, the least­-used color is black, and it is care­fully avoided for large, solid el­e­ments—adding to the over­all co­her­ence of the proofs by mut­ing un­nec­es­sary con­trasts.6

One pos­si­ble an­swer comes from an­thro­pol­o­gy, in­ves­ti­gat­ing cross-cul­tural per­cep­tions of col­ors. , as sum­ma­rized by Wikipedia7:

…in lan­guages with fewer than the max­i­mum eleven color cat­e­gories, the col­ors fol­lowed a spe­cific evo­lu­tion­ary pat­tern. This pat­tern is as fol­lows:

  1. All lan­guages con­tain terms for black and white.
  2. If a lan­guage con­tains 3 terms, then it con­tains a term for red.
  3. If a lan­guage con­tains 4 terms, then it con­tains a term for ei­ther green or yel­low (but not both).
  4. If a lan­guage con­tains 5 terms, then it con­tains terms for both green and yel­low.
  5. If a lan­guage con­tains 6 terms, then it con­tains a term for blue.
  6. If a lan­guage con­tains 7 terms, then it con­tains a term for brown.
  7. If a lan­guage con­tains 8 or more terms, then it con­tains terms for pur­ple, pink, or­ange or gray.

In ad­di­tion to fol­low­ing this evo­lu­tion­ary pat­tern ab­solute­ly, each of the lan­guages stud­ied also se­lected vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal fo­cal hues for each color cat­e­gory pre­sent. For ex­am­ple, the term for “red” in each of the lan­guages cor­re­sponded to roughly the same shade in the . Con­se­quent­ly, they posited that the cog­ni­tion, or per­cep­tion, of each color cat­e­gory is also uni­ver­sal.4

Are there deep evo­lu­tion­ary rea­sons for red be­ing so im­por­tant to hu­man color vi­sion, per­haps be­cause red is over­rep­re­sented in na­ture in im­por­tant things like blood or berries?8 I have to won­der why a color like green is not more psy­cho­log­i­cally im­por­tant, though, as green is surely even more com­mon than berries (which often aren’t red)—thanks to the in­effi­ciency of chloro­phyll in ab­sorb­ing those par­tic­u­lar wave­lengths of vis­i­ble light from our sun9—and hu­man eyes are in fact phys­i­cally most sen­si­tive to green light in . Why aren’t hu­mans most at­tuned to green, the bet­ter to nav­i­gate jun­gles etc? (Is in­volved some­how?) So this is a lit­tle puz­zling.


“Many years ago—but not that many!—one of our print­ing & type­set­ting in­struc­tors said with great grav­i­tas that ‘there are only two col­ors: red and black.’”

My­Fonts, 2020-03-8

Be­low is a gallery of rubri­ca­tion ty­po­graphic or di­a­gram­matic ex­am­ples, which I’ve se­lected for their ap­pear­ance or sub­ject; they sorted in re­verse chrono­log­i­cal or­der, from roughly post-WWII, post-Re­nais­sance, and Re­nais­sance/me­dieval.


“Red has to be in every poster.”

, (cf )

The iconic , de­signed by (1958; MoMA photo); though some­what fad­ed, the red (one of only 3 col­ors on the de­vice) nu­mer­als still clearly de­note ra­dio fre­quen­cies (black for length). It strik­ingly re­sem­bles the Ap­ple , which, how­ev­er, is al­l-white.10
Japan­ese cal­lig­ra­phy with rubri­ca­tion com­men­tary, Uboku Nishi­tani 1972 (“The First Seed of Koy­a­giri”, v17 Tech­niques in Cal­lig­ra­phy); from pg54 of chap­ter 3, “Lay­er­ing and Sep­a­ra­tion” of En­vi­sion­ing In­for­ma­tion, Tufte 1990
IBM parts di­a­gram from a 1976 man­ual for pho­to­copiers; pg52–53 of chap­ter 3, “Lay­er­ing and Sep­a­ra­tion” of En­vi­sion­ing In­for­ma­tion, Tufte 1990; rubri­ca­tion links hun­dreds of parts to their IDs
Pho­to­graph of a Cam­bridge KJV Con­cord Ref­er­ence Bible (1999?), show­ing ‘red let­ter verses’; by Randy A. Brown, 2011
Data-vi­su­al­iza­tion artist often used red to high­light key de­tails of the con­spir­a­cies he doc­u­ment­ed, such as the Mi­ami drug-s­mug­gling ring 11
Mark Lom­bardi, close up of sec­tion of “Oliver North, Lake Re­sources of Pana­ma, and the Iran-Con­tra Op­er­a­tion, ca. 1984–86”, fourth ver­sion (zoom to see red high­lights)
2004 () uses pri­mar­ily grayscale but—true to his com­ments on red—­turns to it for the oc­ca­sional in­sid­e-cover text or for di­a­grams of let­ters (s­tart­ing pg12).
Cov­er, , 2005 (Eng­lish pub­li­ca­tion)
Ger­man de­sign stu­dio Cat­a­logtree’s VINEC 001-009” project: “March 2005—A se­ries of nine screen-printed posters com­ment­ing on the growth of and nearby . The se­ries fo­cuses on the high­way which con­nects the two cities. … A325-005 [#6 out of 9 poster­s]: All ac­ci­dents on A325—lo­ca­tion, speed, time of day and day of week—­be­tween De­cem­ber 16, 1998 and Jan­u­ary 1, 2003.” Like the IBM pho­to­copier di­a­gram, this uses rubri­cated lines to call out de­tails on a schemat­ic, but the rubri­ca­tion is de­lib­er­ately over­done, blot­ting out the orig­i­nal road in fa­vor of paint­ing a bloody spine out of the im­plied in­juries/­mor­tal­i­ties.
Edi­tion #13 of “The Beauty of Let­ter­press: The Art of Mak­ing an Im­pres­sion”, Earl Gee 2006 (back­ground; im­age via Type Wor­ship)
Rubri­cated drop cap (cus­tom vari­ant by Sam We­ber likely based on Pe­tit Fleur) on pg101, chap­ter 13 of , , 2019 Fo­lio So­ci­ety lim­ited edi­tion
Hand-drawn sign ad­ver­tis­ing North­field Far­m’s ba­con, photo Twit­ter 2019


The anime se­ries is iconic for its graphic de­sign, fea­tur­ing strik­ing use of col­or, , , and char­ac­ter de­sign. Red/black is as­so­ci­ated with the main char­ac­ter , but two other ex­am­ples em­ploy red-on-black to iconic effect: the NERV lo­go, and the SEELE “mono­liths” (video con­fer­enc­ing UI de­sign).
Fan-made ren­der­ing of a SEELE mono­lith
The com­mon data struc­ture in­vites rubri­ca­tion in di­a­grams ex­plain­ing its func­tion; iron­i­cal­ly, the name is ty­po­graphic in orig­in: “The color ‘red’ was cho­sen be­cause it was the best-look­ing color pro­duced by the color laser printer avail­able to the au­thors while work­ing at Xe­rox PARC.[8] An­other re­sponse from Guibas states that it was be­cause of the red and black pens avail­able to them to draw the trees.[9]” Ex­am­ple by Madz in 2012.
Rubri­ca­tion used in la­beled equa­tions, akin to Byrne; “TikZ & PGF: Man­ual for Ver­sion 3.1.5b”, Till Tan­tau 201312
The World Psy­chi­a­try jour­nal of the uses rubri­ca­tion for its lo­go, and sec­tion head­ers in its ta­ble of con­tents (ex­am­ple: Oc­to­ber 2012 is­sue)
Tufte 1997 (Vi­sual Ex­pla­na­tions pg110–111) in­tro­duces (Tufte web­site com­pi­la­tion), and uses red to em­pha­size var­i­ous things: the fi­nal dat­a­point, the nu­mer­i­cal form of a graph, or a spe­cific time-series in an over­lap­ping set, among oth­ers. One rep­re­sen­ta­tive ex­am­ple comes from (“SUPPLEMENT FIGURE F1 (all pairs, part 1 of 11)”), graph­ing heart da­ta.
The An­nual Re­views jour­nal­s/pub­li­ca­tions, such as , use rubri­ca­tion for sec­tions (as does Cell & New Eng­land Jour­nal of Med­i­cine to a lim­ited ex­tent, eg Pe­ter­son et al 2019 or Xu et al 2019).
First page of from the ; rubri­ca­tion an­no­ta­tions by Thomas Shoe­maker (2015?); a sim­i­lar an­no­ta­tion ap­pears on Tufte’s web­site (re­drawn by Tufte?)
“Fig­ure 9: High­lighted in red are black­-fig­ure artists (solid cir­cles for signed artists; open cir­cles for at­trib­uted artists) whose pots were ex­ca­vated in the Athen­ian Ago­ra. A se­lec­tion of them are la­beled.” Har­ris & Hasaki 2019
, crops of 3 pages from the 2019-09-14 is­sue; use of rubri­ca­tion for pull quotes, The Spec­ta­tor name & fav­i­con (a rubri­cated ‘S’), and a some­what con­fus­ing use in some but not all ti­tles/­sec­tion­s/au­thors.
Co­lum­bia Jour­nal­ism Re­view, No­vem­ber 2019 ar­ti­cle, “Bad Ro­mance: What hap­pened to the Na­tional En­quirer after it went all in for Trump?”, demon­strat­ing el­e­ments of their de­sign us­ing rubri­ca­tion for em­pha­sis.
Naval Gaz­ing (mil­i­tary navy group blog), “The Falk­lands War Part 19”, 2019-11-24; demon­strates side de­sign’s rubri­ca­tion for links & side­bar sec­tion­ing
, “In the 2010s, White Amer­ica Was Fi­nally Shown It­self: Ta-Ne­hisi Coates on”Oba­ma’s decade," repa­ra­tions, and Kaeper­nick": sim­i­lar to CJR or Spec­ta­tor but offer­ing a nifty use of rubri­ca­tion in im­ple­ment­ing the rarely-seen side­note
Gw­ mockup for a rubri­cated site de­sign.
Vi­su­al­iza­tion of a neural net tran­scrip­tion (red) of old Japan­ese text writ­ten in (black); NN & vi­su­al­iza­tion by Tarin Clanuwat, 2020-01-14.



Cover of Le pit­ture an­tiche d’Er­colano e con­torni in­cise con qualche sp­ie­gazione. Tomo primo, 1757, doc­u­ment­ing the ex­ca­va­tions; al­ter­nat­ing rubri­ca­tion of ti­tle lines for em­pha­sis.
pg65/81/87 of Chem­i­cal At­las, Or, The Chem­istry Of Fa­mil­iar Ob­jects, demon­strat­ing con­sis­tent use of rubri­ca­tion for de­not­ing oxy­gen/wa­ter/; from an 1856 chem­istry text­book by Amer­i­can sci­ence pop­u­lar­izer (& co-founder of mag­a­zine) who took pains to de­fend his sys­tem­atic use of il­lus­tra­tion14.
The Story Of A Dil­doe: A Tale In Five Tableaux, 1891 (from a dis­cus­sion of Vic­to­rian erot­ica)
Rubri­cated ti­tle page of the “pro­fusely il­lus­trated” men­stru­a­tion/preg­nan­cy/­mar­ried-life man­u­al, Woman in girl­hood, wife­hood, moth­er­hood; her re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and her du­ties at all pe­ri­ods of life; a guide in the main­te­nance of her health and that of her chil­dren, Solis-Co­hen 1906
Plate 48, pg441 of Her­cu­la­neum, Past, Present & Fu­ture, Wald­stein & Shoo­bridge 1908: Villa of the Pa­pyri ground plan; rubri­ca­tion de­notes wal­l/pil­lars (li­nes/­dots) and ar­ti­fact lo­ca­tions (num­bered cir­cles).
Cover of the first edi­tion of of 15 (cf Lady Bur­ton’s Edi­tion).
Dog , neu­ron by (Sulla fina anato­mia degli or­gani cen­trali del sis­tema ner­voso 1885)
, 1919 Com­mu­nist pro­pa­ganda poster by (see also Hen­ryk Berlewi’s 1924 Mechano-fak­tura bialo-cz­er­wono-czarna (“White, red and black mechano-fac­tura”))
The (), 192016 (see al­so: , , , )
Fu­tura ty­po­graphic sam­ples often showed it off us­ing rubri­ca­tion; in this sam­ple from the Bauer Type Foundry, new­ly-for-sale geo­met­ric are used to make amus­ing ad­ver­tise­ments.
A par­ody of “cul­tural doc­u­ments of Bol­she­vism” (ie. “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge”) by Nazi de­signer Hans Vi­tus Vierthaler (1910–1942); poster ap­par­ently de­signed in 1936 for the Naz­i’s 1937 “” con­demn­ing En­tartete Kunst/
An un­for­tu­nate­ly-faded Nazi form us­ing rubri­ca­tion to main­tain leg­i­bil­ity of black­let­ter text17 on a black back­ground; pg99 of the 1937 Or­gan­i­sa­tions­buch der NSDAP year­book, ed Robert Ley
“Four Billy Goats”, Lis­sitzky 1922
Rubri­cated black­let­ter font; in “Stem­pel foundry cat­a­log from the 1920s”, photo by , slide from “Re­build­ing the Ty­po­graphic So­ci­ety” 2012
More rubri­ca­tion ex­am­ples from Stem­pel foundry cat­a­logue, But­t­er­ick 2012
Fab­re’s Book of In­sects, 192118
Ti­tle & ta­ble of con­tents of is­sue #1 (1919) of Les Feuil­lets d’Art (The Pages of Art), a promi­nent Parisian fash­ion mag­a­zine (1919–1922); scanned by Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Li­brary
Drop caps in a es­say; pg31, is­sue #1 (1919) of Les Feuil­lets d’Art
Rubri­ca­tion de­notes odd vs even elec­tron in this schematic di­a­gram, “Prin­ci­pal Fea­tures of Atomic Struc­ture in Some of the El­e­ments—Atomic Struc­ture of ”; color plate #2, pg217, The atom and the Bohr the­ory of its struc­ture: an el­e­men­tary pre­sen­ta­tion, Holst & Kramers 192219
Rubri­cated ‘’ (“cal­li­graphic let­ter­forms used for ad­ver­tis­ing”), pg51, vol­ume 15, The Com­plete Com­mer­cial Artist, Hamada et al 1929
“Ital­ian Schools of Paint­ing: The Re­nais­sance in Italy” phy­lo­ge­netic time­line, printed in the brochure Ital­ian Schools of Paint­ing: His­tory of Art Charts for the - Gallery in 1930 (Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art scan)
Cover of cat­a­logue for the 1936 MoMA ex­hi­bi­tion Cu­bism and Ab­stract Art de­signed by (source). Ed­ward Tufte has a re­drawn ver­sion based on a 1941 Barr man­u­script. Red dis­tin­guishes in­ter­nal from ex­ter­nal in­flu­ences on art move­ments.
2 ex­am­ples of , , In­ter­na­tional pic­ture lan­guage, 1936 (source20)
“Iron gall ink for foun­tain pens, re­fill bot­tle, 0.5 liter (500 ml), , Gün­ther Wag­n­er, ca 1950s with stor­age con­tainer”; 2008 pho­to,


As ex­pen­sive and re­stricted as ma­te­ri­als were, and labor-in­ten­sive the process of man­u­script copy­ing, me­dieval and later scribes nev­er­the­less ac­com­plished great things, in­clud­ing effec­tive use of rubri­ca­tion, drop caps, and di­a­grams (some of which put most con­tem­po­rary web de­sign­ers to shame):

Vad­Slg Ms. 296 (1100s man­u­script of De arith­metica/_): “The poly­chrome schematic il­lus­tra­tions in this 12th cen­tury man­u­script are par­tic­u­larly care­fully made.” In­deed. This im­age com­bines pages 79/89/93/99, which show off the di­a­grams, ta­bles, drop caps, and rubri­cated text em­ployed in the dis­cus­sion of mu­sic the­ory & mul­ti­pli­ca­tion.
Pg13 of Mel­lon MS 1 man­u­script of Ars no­to­ria, sive Flo­res au­rei (“The Art of Magic or Golden Flow­ers”), al­chem­i­cal text as­cribed to
W.73 Cos­mog­ra­phy man­u­script (Wal­ters Li­brary), late 1200s (via ); from left to right: the phases of the moon, plan­e­tary paths through the Zo­di­ac, and sol­stices & equinox­es.
“Add MS 35254: the hymn Ave Maria Gra­tia Plena in­cor­po­rat­ing a large red ini­tial with con­trast­ing blue pen­work.”21, Free­man 2014; from cut­tings of a 1375 choir­book, il­lus­trated by Don Sil­ve­stro dei Gher­ar­ducci of the Camal­dolese monastery of Santa Maria degli An­geli in Flo­rence.
“Trini­tar­ian Cir­cles en­clos­ing the Tetra­gram­ma­ton (from the Liber Fig­u­rarum). Cor­pus Christi Col­lege, Ox­ford MS. 255A, f.7v” (), il­lus­trat­ing be­liefs of the (un­known date; 1100s–1200s?)
MS. Ash­mole 370, c.1424: a lu­nar for cal­cu­lat­ing phases of the moon, fo­lios 24v–25r. Nicholas of Lynn, Kalen­dar­i­um, com­posed 1386; copied 1425, cour­tesy Bodleian Li­braries, Uni­ver­sity of Ox­ford
The first edi­tion of the (~1454) used two print­ing pass­es, with the sec­ond for rubri­ca­tion, but switched to a sin­gle pass & hand rubri­ca­tion. (Rubri­ca­tion was often used on ‘ca­put’/ sym­bols to ; a fun homage is Dowl­ing & Dun­can’s ex­hibit on the .)
“‘A copy made around the third quar­ter of the 15th cen­tury of (1390s); at the di­vi­sion be­tween’’ and ‘The Tale of Me­libee’, the ini­tial, bor­der, run­ning head and ti­tle help the reader to nav­i­gate the tex­t.’ (MS. Rawl­in­son po­et. 223, fol. 183r., cour­tesy Bodleian Li­braries, Uni­ver­sity of Ox­ford)”; rubri­ca­tion marks ‘the end’.
Ge­neal­ogy of the god Jupiter, 1400s? (Vat­i­can man­u­script)
Plate 43, 14th cen­tury Lom­bardic al­pha­bet, The Art of Il­lu­mi­nat­ing As Prac­tised in Eu­rope from the Ear­li­est Times, Tymms 186022, mod­eled after ear­lier Lom­bardic cap­i­tals
Plate 67, Tymms 1860
page, printed 1474 by Nico­las Jen­son; rubri­cated (ini­tial­s), both red & blue
“Fig. 1—­Mu­nich, Bay­erische Staats­bib­lio­thek, Cgm 331, f.172r.”, 1480; on the
Ital­ian monas­tic mu­sic man­u­script ex­plain­ing the mu­si­cal mnemon­ic, us­ing rubri­ca­tion for em­pha­sis against the mu­si­cal scales, falling back to blue for ad­di­tional ma­te­ri­al; pg121–122 of Litur­gi­cal Man­u­script (Ms. Codex 1248) dated 1450–1500AD.
1500s Span­ish prayer book in Cam­bridge Uni­ver­sity Li­brary, pro­vided to for ar­ti­cle on dirty books (note wax drip­pings on page).
Am­braser Helden­buch (fol. 75v), c.1516; rubri­cated Lom­bardic cap­i­tals, both red & blue
4 pages (pg49, 131, 151, & 188) from MSS Fol­ger V.b.26, the anony­mous Book of Mag­ic, with In­struc­tions for In­vok­ing Spir­its (1577–1583?; tran­scrip­tion/­trans­la­tion)
Cover of (1666); fairly con­ven­tional book ex­am­ple, but in­ter­est­ing for its rel­a­tively sys­tem­atic use of rubri­ca­tion on cover to em­pha­size key nouns.
Ti­tle page of Ti­betan man­u­script of the (bilin­gual Bud­dhist dic­tio­nary), un­known date, scanned 2001 by Chris Fynn
“Ink cor­ro­sion: iron gall ink has ox­i­dized the cel­lu­lose, caus­ing the pa­per to dis­in­te­grate. The man­u­script is ex­hib­ited be­hind glass in a church in Evo­ra, Por­tu­gal.” Photo taken 2007 by Cein­tu­rion, un­known man­u­script date (pos­si­bly a grad­u­al?)

  1. pg63, (third edi­tion), 2004:

    …if the text, or a new sec­tion of text, be­gins at the top of a page with no head­ing to mark it, a lit­tle fan­fare will prob­a­bly be re­quired. The same is true if the open­ing page is busy. If there is a chap­ter ti­tle, an epigraph, a side­note, and a pho­to­graph and cap­tion, the open­ing of the text will need a ban­ner, a ten-gal­lon hat or a bright red dress to draw the eye.

    (ty­po­graphic or­na­ments) are often used to flag text open­ings, and are often printed in red, the ty­pog­ra­pher’s ha­bit­ual sec­ond col­or. The open­ing phrase, or en­tire first line, can also be set in small caps or in bold u&lc. An­other ex­cel­lent method of mark­ing the start of the text, in­her­ited from an­cient scribal prac­tice, is a large : a ver­sal or let­trine. Ver­sals can be treated in many ways. In­dented or cen­tered, they can stick up from the text. Flush left, they can be nested into the text (ty­pog­ra­phers call these drop caps, as op­posed to el­e­vated or stick­-up cap­s). If there is room, they can hang in the left mar­gin. They can be set in the same face as the text or in some­thing out­landishly differ­ent. In scribal and ty­po­graphic tra­di­tion alike, where the bud­get per­mits, ver­sals too are gen­er­ally red or an­other color in pref­er­ence to black.

  2. When us­ing white-on-black, what is the func­tional equiv­a­lent of red? A green? A blue? For all the tra­di­tional pop­u­lar­ity among pro­gram­mers of the clas­sic green-on-black phos­phor color scheme ex­em­pli­fied by the —what I my­self use—­most dark mode de­signs I see cur­rently seem to opt for a blue…↩︎

  3. Tufte rou­tinely uses rubri­ca­tion in his graphs & sparklines to em­pha­size key num­bers or points: his 2006 Beau­ti­ful Ev­i­dence, for ex­am­ple, uses red on prac­ti­cally every other page. The use of pro­pri­etary Be­mbo fonts and rubri­ca­tion mean that even Tufte ads are rec­og­niz­ably by Tufte. (This does pose some chal­lenges for the fam­ily of Tufte CSS pack­ages for var­i­ous for­mats: there are now open-source Be­mbo fonts, but do red links re­ally work on­line? Some Tufte CSS im­ple­men­ta­tions like Eric J. Wang’s go for it, and oth­ers do not.) The sheer num­ber of Tufte uses makes it diffi­cult to se­lect any ex­am­ples for this gallery.↩︎

  4. Byrne’s edi­tion is beau­ti­ful and un­usual enough that there are at least two at­tempts at recre­at­ing it worth look­ing at: Slyusarev Sergey’s for PDFs; and Nicholas Rougeux’s on how he cre­ated a beau­ti­ful in­ter­ac­tive HTML ver­sion.↩︎

  5. Is say­ing that rubri­ca­tion works be­cause it ‘max­i­mizes con­trast’ ques­tion-beg­ging?↩︎

  6. Use of pri­mary col­ors like Byrne (yel­low/red/blue) high­lights an ad­di­tional ad­van­tage of rubri­ca­tion for em­pha­sis: it avoids prob­lems with the most com­mon forms of —pretty much every­one can see red or at least see the con­trast with red.↩︎

  7. While ex­cep­tions have been found to this flow­chart and the Berlin & Kay re­sults ques­tioned, the red re­sults (that it fol­lows black­/white dark­ness terms, and pre­cedes all other col­ors, and red is con­sis­tently red cross-cul­ture) ap­pear to be sup­ported by the sub­se­quent da­ta.↩︎

  8. “Why Red Means Red in Al­most Every Lan­guage: The con­found­ing con­sis­tency of color cat­e­gories”, Nau­tilus:

    It’s un­clear, though, why our in­fant brains chunk col­ors at all. In a 2011 study, a team led by re­searchers at Mount Sinai School of Med­i­cine, in New York, found a math­e­mat­i­cal for­mula that de­scribes how in­puts from the retina could re­sult in the sep­a­ra­tion of col­ors into warm (white) and cool (black) tones, sug­gest­ing that the phys­i­cal prop­er­ties of our vi­sion sys­tem may cre­ate nat­ural “fault lines” in color space. Other re­searchers spec­u­late that col­ors in our en­vi­ron­ments may clus­ter around cer­tain shades, such as the bright red of blood and berries, or the solid green of fields and fo­liage. As ba­bies, we may be primed to pick up on these sta­tis­ti­cal reg­u­lar­i­ties.

  9. Given how waste­ful that seems, one might won­der about al­ter­na­tives; there might have been ear­lier ones, lead­ing to the . Are there bet­ter chloro­phylls which could ab­sorb more light? Pos­si­bly, the ab­sorb light that plants can­not, and are .↩︎

  10. Cu­ri­ous­ly, al­though Ap­ple did make heavy use of rubri­ca­tion at some times, like its 1995 Ap­ple 600 Se­ries User Man­u­al, ap­pears de­void of that tech­nique. Did Steve Jobs not like red?↩︎

  11. This is likely from Mark Lom­bardi: Global Net­works, ed Hobbs 2003, which demon­strates rubri­ca­tion on its cov­er, and in an homage to the artist, uses rubri­ca­tion in the ac­com­pa­ny­ing tex­tual bi­og­ra­phy/dis­cus­sion of Lom­bardi; it also uses . Lom­bardi, in­ci­den­tal­ly, read Tufte’s En­vi­sion­ing In­for­ma­tion, and Richards et al 2003 spec­u­lates he was in­flu­enced by the Uboku Nishi­tani cal­lig­ra­phy ex­am­ple (also re­pro­duced on this page)—per­son­al­ly, I sus­pect the type­writer & other rubri­cated di­a­grams were more in­flu­en­tial. His use of yel­low back­grounds is also Tufte-like.↩︎

  12. The TikZ com­mu­nity uses rubri­ca­tion heav­i­ly, as can be seen in the TikZ ex­am­ple gallery. Ex­am­ples which use red:

  13. An­other com­put­er-gen­er­ated work, Liza Da­ly’s Ser­aphs par­o­dy, makes el­e­gant use of a faded red font on sepia back­ground with (usu­al­ly) black il­lus­tra­tions, but be­cause it uses it for all text rather than em­pha­sis, I ex­clude it.↩︎

  14. Tufte notes (pg142, 1997) that Youman­s’s di­a­grams are “ac­com­pa­nied by a hes­i­tant and apolo­getic text that car­ries on about the pos­si­bil­ity of un­duly lit­eral read­ings, as if di­a­grams are chron­i­cally threat­ened by mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions”. How­ev­er, Youman­s’s text­book was aimed at school­child­ren, and ap­pears to have been some­thing of an in­no­va­tion: he de­fends his “novel” “sys­tem of il­lus­trat­ing Chem­istry” in his pref­ace “To Stu­dents and Teach­ers”, and takes pains to in­clude 2 pages of “Opin­ions of Dis­tin­guished Chemists and Ed­u­ca­tors”, tes­ti­mo­ni­als that his “new Chem­i­cal Di­a­grams” are clear, cor­rect, and con­ducive to chil­drens’ chem­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion. When we con­sider the con­tem­po­rary hos­til­ity of many ed­u­ca­tors to any kind of ac­cel­er­a­tion like or to­wards ‘young adult lit­er­a­ture’, which might strain or dam­age frag­ile young minds, and re­flect on how much greater such hos­til­ity may’ve been in 1856, we can­not fault Youmans for at­tempt­ing to pre­empt such crit­i­cism.↩︎

  15. For a good dis­cus­sion of the var­i­ous trans­la­tions’ virtues & vices and what Bur­ton was try­ing to achieve, see .↩︎

  16. Like most tech­nolo­gies, rubri­ca­tion can be used for evil (Naz­i/­Com­mu­nist pro­pa­gan­da) as well as for good… Speak­ing of fa­mous flags, why not ? Be­cause the Red Cross or­ga­ni­za­tions’ em­blem is based on fig­ure-ground in­ver­sions of the , which uses only red/white, with no black ever em­ployed, and this in­ver­sion ap­proach has car­ried through to its al­ter­na­tives like the Red Cres­cent sym­bol.

    Sim­i­larly for the Japan­ese or cur­rent —there do not ap­pear to be any no­table offi­cial flags em­ploy­ing black, aside from, un­sur­pris­ing­ly, the pro­to­col (a­side from vari­ants in­volv­ing South Ko­rea or the 1936 ).↩︎

  17. & ty­pog­ra­phy are as­so­ci­ated with both black­let­ter & also with sans . This is be­cause the Nazis them­selves were di­vided about what to use, al­though the “” ul­ti­mately came down on the side of more con­ven­tional Lat­in/Ro­man scripts & the Nazis banned black­let­ter from gov­ern­ment use.↩︎

  18. I was amused to dis­cover Fab­re’s cover while skim­ming Pub­lic Do­main Re­view es­says, as the name Fabre rang a bel­l—not long be­fore, I had read “The Sphex sto­ry: How the cog­ni­tive sci­ences kept re­peat­ing an old and ques­tion­able anec­dote”, Kei­jzer 2013, crit­i­ciz­ing which Hof­s­tadter & Den­nett so en­joy. And imag­ine what phrase I ran into within the first screens of read­ing Fab­re’s cat es­say, but “red-let­ter day”! The Baader-Mein­hof effect‽↩︎

  19. 1923 trans­la­tion of Bohrs Atom­te­ori, al-men­fat­teligt frem­stil­let by Lind­say & Lind­say, color plates ap­par­ently in orig­i­nal; note that sev­eral of the scan­s/e-books are in­com­plete & omit di­a­grams.↩︎

  20. Iso­type made heavy use of red as its de­fault sec­ond col­or; see pg41–50, where the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion is pri­mar­ily that many print­ers may only do black & red. In­ci­den­tal­ly, I use the WP photo here in­stead of the on­line scans be­cause they are low-res­o­lu­tion and the orig­i­nal copies may have been fad­ed, so they do not con­vey the sharp­ness of the print­ing & the bright­ness of the red ink.↩︎

  21. MS 35254 also offers some ex­tra­or­di­nar­ily elab­o­rate —so much so I did­n’t re­al­ize un­til read­ing the cap­tions!↩︎

  22. Tymms 1860 in­cludes many in­ter­est­ing color plates which use red start­ing on pg104, but most I would­n’t con­sider as ex­am­ples of rubri­ca­tion, specifi­cal­ly.↩︎