Tales from a sensitive designer
Crying in the office
This label design was a huge breakthrough for me. It also led to an embarrassing minor emotional breakdown in the office.
Let me back up a bit. I went to school for design at the University of Delaware which happens to be the same state the reputable type foundry House Industries is based in. During my Junior year I was invited to attend a hand lettering workshop. It was inspiring and humbling – these guys are masters of typography. It opened my eyes to how technical hand lettering could get. I left feeling overwhelmed and insecure.
Work from House Industries
Looking back now it was unfair to compare myself to middle-aged men with decades of experience on me. But ever since then I have been tip-toeing around typography (if you’re pursuing graphic design as a career you really shouldn’t avoid it).
When I was assigned this label my manager proposed a type-based solution since the name of the beer would be a four letter acronym. I agreed, swallowed my trepidation, and inched the project along. I crafted a crowded mood board, sketched through dozens of half-hearted ideas. I was all over the place. After critiques I would make miniscule changes and tweaks – my fear was bubbling up to the surface. The deadline was looming and I was frustrated with myself. Why was I so afraid of four letters???
Somehow my manager pulled the idea out of me and it finally started to click – after an exasperated, teary admission that I was stuck and just turning my wheels. The three other designers in my team met me with no judgement, only support. It’s just beer. You’re allowed to modify a preexisting typeface. You don’t have to reinvent the alphabet.
I think I was able to let go of some old art school trauma – it’s totally a thing you guys. Somehow shame had made an insidious nest in typography. I was able to shine a light on it and ever since I’ve been able to work through concept development with less resistance.
Inevitably, there is going to be a part of the creative process where doubt creeps in. “Hey it’s okay” I tell it. “I know you’re scared to fail but we’ve done this before.”
Thanks for reading! If you have any leftover art school trauma or fears, please feel free to share in the comments.
Your pal Allie
The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater: Essays on Crafting by Alanna Okun
Currently listening to:
Now I’m In It – Haim
Cocktail – Deer Tick
Hurts to be Alive – Whitmer Thomas
See my latest painting work at Forager Vintage in Beaverton through August
I’m showing work at Portland Rock Gym starting July 13th
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I’m still gathering my thoughts on art vs. design. There are folks doing either (or both) professionally – or just for fun. Which one is collaborative? And which is completely unique to an individual voice (I think design is all about the best solution regardless of an individual voice). Some would say design is art. I’m thinking about what happens when you throw capitalism into the mix.
Anyway. I hope to do a deep dive in my newsletter next month. Let me know if you have any thoughts!
Loved reading about the process, Allie.