Light Bath

I saw hundreds of performers, widely separated but somehow acting in unison, performing purely for David Byrne’s pleasure—each in their own ecstatic trance.

I dreamed David Byrne had moved to a small town in Iowa. At first, I wondered why. But then I saw that he’d persuaded all the town folk to participate in a never-ending surreal parade:

Facing backwards, a white man dressed as Uncle Sam, complete with stilt-elongated legs, cheerfully pedaled a strange bicycle. A black woman in flashing platform sneakers walked gracefully on a musically undulating wall.

As I dollied up and back, I saw hundreds of these unpaid amateur performers, widely separated yet somehow acting in unison, performing purely for David Byrne’s pleasure—each in their own ecstatic trance.

Each townsperson had their own strangely perfect costume, invention, and task. The choreography extended for miles in all directions.

“In New York or Hollywood, this would cost millions,” I thought.

Not only had David Byrne charmed an entire town into performing these tightly choreographed rituals that only he understood, but he was also inventing new alphabets and designing typefaces to go with them. Of course.

This work was secret, and he performed it in a tiny darkroom, but somehow I either gained his confidence or sneaked up quietly behind him while his attention was focused on the large sheets on which he was creating his new visual language.

His typefaces were composed of oversized, organically curving black dots, and they were wonderful. I reached out my hand to touch them.

By Jeffrey Zeldman

“King of Web Standards”—Bloomberg Businessweek.

Hi! I’m a principal designer at Automattic, Inc. Also: Publisher and founder, A List Apart “for people who make websites.” Publisher and co-founder, A Book Apart—brief books for people who design, write, and code. Co-founder and co-host, An Event Apart UX & front-end conference. Faculty, MFA Interaction Design, School of Visual Arts, NYC. Host, The Big Web Show. Have written two books, notably ”Designing With Web Standards,“ currently in its 3rd Edition, and, on last count, translated into 15 languages and used as a text in 85 universities.