In the last few years, designers and non-designers alike have embraced typography and lettering in social media to illustrate inspirational quotes, song lyrics, declare their love of coffee and complain about Monday mornings. In Didot all-caps, fashion mavens proclaim “Dress Well or Die Trying,” while avid travelers urge us to “Seek Adventure!” in a loose-hand written script.
For budding letterers, readymade quotes are the perfect starting point to apply technical ability, show your calligraphic prowess or experiment with a new lettering style. But there’s only so many times you can see “stay hungry,” “follow your dreams” or “quit your day job” before these affirmations become empty phrases that simply look nice.
I'm always looking for examples of lettering or type that illustrate content that's self-generated and honest. I believe the best thing a designer can do with typography when not limited by an advertising brief is to take something personal and make it universal or remind us of the realities of human experience.
With this in mind, my final Design Envy post was inspired by a series of handwritten Instagram posts from Timothy Goodman (of "40 Days of Dating" fame) titled “Insta-therapy.” They take the form of quotes or stories based on past relationship experiences, fears and memories. In the flurry of cool, over-stylized type and recycled quotes, these represent a refreshing starting point to consider ideas about the designer as author and the idea of authenticity in lettering and typography.
I interviewed Timothy Goodman to find out what the Insta-therapy project is all about.
GO: So Timothy what do you call yourself, a designer, art director, artist…
TG: I think I'm all of those labels, but I also want to be a “content creator." That’s my new label for 2014. It’s basically what we did for "40 Days," as well as for our next personal project/experiment that we're beginning soon: create robust projects that you can author from top to bottom. I feel like calling it art gets too pretentious, and calling it design is not broad enough for what we're exploring when it comes to this kind of work.
GO: So what inspired you to start "Insta-therapy?" Was it a continuation of some of the ideas in "40 Day?"
TG: Jessie and I have just finished creating the "40 Days" book and we're beginning a new personal project next month, so "Insta-therapy" has been a fun way to keep communicating with an audience through my own voice. It’s probably a response to a wall I'm no longer interested in having up as a creative person. There are no rules. I’m interested in sharing my opinions because you find that our stories are all very similar.
GO: Part of what contributes the honesty of "Insta-therapy" is the handwriting style. Is this how you naturally write or was it a style something you intentional developed over time?
TG: The Ace Hotel mural was the first time I used that style. The idea for that particular mural was to illustrate things I love about New York City, so the handwriting style with all it’s imperfections seemed right. But at the time I didn’t plan on continuing to use it.
GO: You were then commissioned more few jobs that emulated this look. Do you think that the hand written style appeals to clients and brands today?
TG: Yeah, there’s an authenticity to it. There’s a humanity to it that brands want.
GO: The stories in "Insta-therapy" seem to continue the narrative of your view in relationships presented in "40 Days." Were you cautious about continuing down the path of sharing your personal life?
TG: No, I don’t think so. If anything "40 Days" broke down the barriers to sharing these kinds of stories. I didn’t have to dig deeper to find them, they were just there. "40 Days" made both Jessie and I more willing to share the stories of out personal lives, opinions and thoughts. I've never felt more vulnerable as a human and a designer, and I'm really enjoying that. My threshold is not as large. I feel an overwhelming need to share with an audience.
GO: These kind of projects also start break down the traditional idea that the designer should be an invisible vessel to communicate a brand's vision.
TG: Yes, definitely. I think both "40 Days" and "Insta-therapy" are looking at what these ideas might mean. For centuries writers and filmmakers and artist have put their lives and fears into their work. But you don't see that a lot in the design community. I thought, "Why can't designers can't do the same?”
GO: And what's the value of sharing these kinds of stories?
TG: What’s interesting to me is how my story is very common. My fears, habits, my issues and my life overlaps with many other peoples' experiences, and they can relate to that. If you have an idea of how to inspire or be inspired, then that’s the starting point of how to relate to people.
You can follow the latest "Insta-therapies" on Instagram @timothygoodman.