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
2019-05-302020-11-11 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 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.
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 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 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).
of of 15 (cf ).
, 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
, 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 (20)
“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 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, ; 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).
; 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,
“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.” , 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.10 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 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.↩︎