Off To A Good Start: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

I’m only a few pages into Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Here’s the setup:

“[The company] was founded by a pair of ex-Googlers who wrote software to design and bake the platonic bagel: smooth crunchy skin, soft doughy interior, all in a perfect circle. … There was lots to do. First, one of the ex-Googlers asked me to take a crack at redesigning the company’s logo. It had been big bouncy rainbow letters inside a pale brown circle; it looked pretty MS Paint. I redesigned it using a newish typeface with sharp black serifs that I thought sort of evoked the boxes and daggers of Hebrew letters. It gave NewBagel some gravitas and it won me an award from San Francisco’s AIGA chapter.

… But then the economy took a dip, and it turns out that in a recession, people want good old-fashioned bubbly oblong bagels, not smooth alien-spaceship bagels, not even if they’re sprinkled with precision-milled rock salt.

The ex-Googlers were accustomed to success and they would not go quietly. They quickly rebranded to become the Old Jerusalem Bagel Company and abandoned the algorithm entirely so the bagels started coming out blackened and irregular. They instructed me to make the website look old-timey, a task that burdened my soul and earned me zero AIGA awards. The marketing budget dwindled, then disappeared.

Off to a good start.

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