Here is a page full of B's:
And here is some doodling from a client kickoff meeting:
Flourish are hard. These are atrocious.
It's done! All together, my alphabet for 36 Days of Type looks like this:
I'm very pleased with the overall project. There are some letters that I really love (M, S, 0) and also a few that I didn't love but posted just to get something out the door (I, P, R). But when they're all together, I really appreciate my early decision to have 7 colors for the diagonal grid effect.
So how did they perform? There's not a ton to learn from my Instagram analytics, considering how small my following is in general (617 as of writing this), and that I did this for myself, and not in pursuit of any metrics. But still...
1) Use the hashtags correctly. The one day I accidentally used "@36days_N" instead of "#36days_N" I saw very little activity on my post (I had under 10 likes by early afternoon, by which time I've usually accrued 20-30). I'd say that about only half of my likes on #36daysoftype posts come from friends/followers—and once I corrected my error, the likes started to flow again.
2) When you give love, you get love. The days that I went down the "#36days_[x]" wormhole and liked/commented on other people's letters, my own engagement went up as well in likes, comments, and follows.
3) Everyone loves closure. My final post of the grid was, to no surprise, my highest engagement. With 149 likes and 17 comments, people ate that shit up. And rightly so. Who doesn't love a good round up?
4) Warm colored letters performed the best. Uhm... people like red? And all warm colors (yellow, orange)? None of my top posts were in the cool spectrum (purple, blue, green). Clearly I must make all of my art red in the future.
That's about it. I'm feeling pretty good about finishing this... and also I'm happy to not have it hanging over my head every morning. Until next year!
I just finished the alphabet and am working through the numeric characters now. It's been 27 days, 9 left to go. I'm not sure if I've ever done anything this consistently for so long, design exercise or otherwise.
I'm definitely testing the limits of Photoshop's new-ish artboard feature, and sure enough, it started to get glitchy right around half-way. The file is now huge and very sluggish, and random shapes have stopped rendering the thick vector strokes that characterize the style (you can see it in the O and Z above—but it happens on varying levels of zoom, and also messes with my exports).
I'm looking forward to finishing this up so I can firstly, not have this hanging over my head every day, and second, resume my usual instagram activity. My grid looks suuuper cool right now and I don't want to break it up with photography, but I've been doing such cool stuff outside of this that I'm sad I haven't been able to share it!
Calligraphy, like graphic design, is full of mediocrity. But there are some people who are doing it really well, in more creative, less formulaic ways. The following are the artists I admire.
Jessica Hische is a powerhouse of type design. Bow before her! If I can someday be half as good as her, I'd be satisfied.
Gemma O'Brien is another total badass who take type to a BIG commercial level. By BIG I mean murals.
Timothy Goodman does really fun sharpie-style art. I like how he bounces between messy-yet-super-slick enormous compositions, and actually-messy stream of consciousness ramblings.
Jeff Canham does really neat sign painting. I actually came across his portfolio when I was in college (!) and have kept tabs on his work since. Not in a creepy way.
I'm diving pretty deep into the calligraphy world, and I gotta say, a lot of this culture is kinda lame. The letters are gorgeous, and I admire the amount of practice and dedication it takes to execute good calligraphy. But the primary lame applications of the craft fall into several categories:
1) Weddings. Much of calligraphy is seated snugly in the wedding business, which I abhor on principle. To me (mind you I have never had a wedding myself), the wedding industry is massively overpriced, steeped in tradition and expectations, preys on the vulnerable, and turns generally nice people into assholes. However, I see the lucrative side of this business. Many (or seemingly, most?) of my MCS2.0 classmates appear to be young moms, and their side hustle is lettering wedding invites and other bride-and-groom collateral. While it irritates me, I respect the self-employed-working-baby-mamas capitalizing on this skill.
2) Inspirational quotes. The most basic application of calligraphy is used to make inspirational quotes, which is great practice, but rubs me wrong. Inspirational quotes have just always rang hollow and obnoxious to me.
3) Religious inspirational quotes. Take my feelings above but multiply them by Christ.
I am 2 weeks into the Modern Calligraphy Summit 2.0, a 3-week intensive calligraphy course. It's a summit that happens online, but requires you to keep up if you want to benefit fully from the social network and webinars that happens through it.
I've been lusting for years over hand-drawn type. I follow many calligraphers, sign painters and type designers on Instagram. One of my favorite things about traveling is getting to see how other regions of the world communicate through their signage (especially in countries where the characters are foreign to me, such as India and Korea.) But I never took it upon myself to learn what I assumed was a difficult and tedious skill. Because... my handwriting is total shit. And if I learned anything in design school, it's that my technical drawing skills are shit too.
But I've taught myself other cool crafts. Like how to weld. And blow glass. And sew to a surprisingly professional level. And build safe flame effects with propane. Why couldn't I learn how to draw letters well?
So I used a healthy portion of my professional development fund* this year to pay the tuition and buy a ton of fun supplies for my journey.
Week one was pretty much what I expected. I quickly fell behind the Mon-Wed-Fri class pace, with, well, normal life happening, and spent the weekend catching up. I burned through hours and hours of brush and copperplate practice to feel as if I'm still complete shit at calligraphy.
But this week I turned a corner. I continue to practice in my spare time, and I'm finding moments of "ah-HA!" where I can write a word that actually looks... good! I'm figuring out the correct form to keep a consistent slant in my copperplate. I'm carrying brush pens around so my work doodles are now letterform practice (and bonus: my sketchbook looks waaay cooler now). I am seeing the cool hand-drawn stuff out in the world that used to mesmerize me and now I'm able to read into what strokes made up the form, and try to replicate it myself. I've even started playing with it in my professional work, by hooking up my wacom tablet and using Adobe Illustrator in new ways.
As for the summit, the classes have now turned from fundamentals to more creative applications and I'm finding myself very inspired to practice and explore more styles and approaches. Tonight's class will teach me how to letter onto leaves and rocks! Leaves and rocks, guys. Coooool.
I'm excited to keep this momentum up through the rest of the summit and into my professional and personal pursuits!
*At BSD, each employee gets $1,000/year to spend on their personal professional development. Being a designer, I tend to take this notion quite liberally and do fun creative shit with it. (See last year for an example)
Some observations from my first week of #36daysoftype:
1) Timing. The project is based in Spain, so by the time I post (first thing when I wake up!), There has been 10 hours or so of activity already. Which makes me feel a little bit like I'm missing the boat, but its also cool to see how the people react across the globe over the period of 24 hours.
2) Diversity vs Consistency. From the start, I wanted to blow out a style I discovered into a whole alphabet, rather than creating a unique design every day. This definitely is the easier path from an execution and creation standpoint. I would have a harder time doing something bespoke that I feel good about posting every day. Perhaps I'll try it for future #36daysoftype sessions, but I'd like to stay focused this time around.
3) Workflow. I set up a photoshop file with 36 art boards, leave it open on my computer, and knock out little bits here and there. This has given me time to nail down a consistent pattern library and cohesive color system. There is plenty left to actually design and compose as I go (as evidenced below) but my goal at the end of this is to have a cohesive alphanumeric set of graphics. By using the artboard approach, I can get a birds-eye view of all the letters so I can keep an eye on the gestalt across the whole family. I ask myself questions like: Am I using too much of one pattern? Does the amount of color in this one feel equal to the others? Is this letter too ornate (or too simple) compared to the rest?
4) Scheduling. I'll admit, if I tried to actually do one letter a day, I don't think I'd be very consistent. Between gym mornings, climbing evenings and various other social engagements, I don't have a dedicated time to get shit done. My side project time comes in unexpected spurts, and I take it when I can. That means I am designing and scheduling my posts (using the Later app) in clusters, three or four days ahead. By scheduling, I stay ahead of the game so I won't be scrambling each morning to get my post ready.
Unfortunately, you can't schedule Instagram posts to go out autonomously. But by using Later, I'm able to queue up my posts and send a notification that I see first thing when I wake up. From bed, I open the app, which pushes me to Instagram with my post loaded, and I just hit "Post" from there. Much easier than having to transfer files from computer to mobile and proactively post it each morning.
5) Strangers like my shit. I'm not in it for the likes. I have some Insta-famous friends and I have no desire for their lives, which feels somewhat narcissistic and hollow to me. But by participating in a global project, people checking the hashtag are liking my posts. It's cool to feel that my work is being seen, and that the hashtags are working to connect me to a community of designers. In return, I get to see a literal fuck-ton of creative and inspiring work and send the likes right back into the project.
So I think all in all, it's going well! If you'd like to check out the project, check out the feed here or explore the individual hashtags on your own (#36days_[letter]).
I've decided to take advantage of the upcoming session of 36 Days of Type to blow out the alphabet I mentioned a few posts ago. The challenge is to post one letter a day, and then the numeric suite, over a course of 36 days.
I've followed this endeavor through a few cycles on Instagram and it has always provided a broad spectrum of typographic delight—and is an incredible example of user-generated content at its best.
Wish me luck, and follow along on my Instagram if you like.
Here's another surprise before the start of the new edition next week! @noem9studio has also created this super cool animation for the official image of #36daysoftype04, coupled with the amazing music by @begun___ Couldn't be more perfect!! Thanks guys for the love and the great work! 💚💚 #36daysoftype #36daysoftype04 #newedition #comingsoon #noem9studio #begunmusic #animation #music
I made this J in my Team Ale crit this week, and found it so delightful that I think I want to do a whole alphabet in this style.