Tuesday, May 12, 2009

letters + art = an interesting grocery list

The next time you pick up a pen to write a random list or an address, consider this: words are both visual and literary art.

We use words to communicate through books, websites, and other publications; at the same time the
letters used to compose the words are forms, or shapes, that have been carefully crafted to provide visual meaning. Taken a step farther, typography (or the study and design of letters) allows each letter to be whatever it needs to be...conservative, abstract, legible, dramatic...for signs, letterheads, graffiti, book covers, etc. We take words for granted because we see them and use them effortlessly in our daily routines. But the potential for words goes far beyond asking for a favor or clarifying the price of a retail item. Words are at the foundation of so much; movies, music, humanitarian efforts, etc all owe some (or all) of their success to words and their ability to be used in various ways.

But what if we did give our words a few moments consideration when jotting down those miscellaneous bits of typographic detritus? I'm not referring to picking and choosing your words more carefully (although that is a good habit to get into); I mean, consider their shapes, the way they look, how they interact with each other. Instead of writing "1234 Main St" using your personal handwriting, have fun with it. Make crazy shapes, flourishes, scribbles that look more like abstract art than an attempt to cover up an accident. Imagine you're a kid again, having fun with a coloring book but using all the wrong colors. See what happens. I'd be willing to bet that if you did this on a regular basis, you'd see words as more than just a functional visual gesture; your ability to interpret words in new ways could inspire you to communicate more creatively.

{...perhaps this year's holiday cards will have hand-written typography that is tailored to that friend or family member's personality? Or perhaps all the "A's" will look like pine trees. You're only limited by your imagination!}

Consider a note that a child makes in art class for their parent, the kind of note that is stuck to the fridge the minute the parent sees the abstract art waving in the air. Although a child doesn't necessarily have perfect handwriting, they also don't have the limitations that we, as adults, place upon ourselves. We're so caught up in getting our thoughts down on paper, for whatever reason, that we forget to have fun. We forget that life isn't about lists, errands, or "professional correspondence with the intent of bringing about new employment opportunities". Life is about, among other things, using our minds to their fullest potential. Our brains, believe it or not, are not robotic...even though that may feel more comfortable than trying something new.

Doodling isn't for everybody...but neither is taking copious notes about your daily responsibilities or creating a mess of illegible lines because you just want to get your thoughts on paper before you leave the house. Give creative letter and word forms a chance, just to see what happens. Slow down your routine for a few moments and have fun with your "t's" or your "r's". Who knows, maybe you'll be inspired; at the very least, you won't be bored jotting down your grocery list!

1 comment:

April A.K.A. Elsha said...

I'd forgotten that as a kid I often doodled as much as I wrote. Recently, I've been writing on ficly, and before that ficlets. When the latter site shut down I searched for inspiration because my muse was shut down with it. I found creativity-portal and links to Violette, who is a very creative person and wrote a book about doodling for creativity. (http://www.violette.ca/) This is exactly the kind of thing she would encourage. I also have found ArtQuiltMaker, by Jaye, and she offers creative prompts every Friday for either writing or doodling. (http://artquiltmaker.com/blog/)
I have also begun doodling and embraced my creativity again.
Thanks for your great idea about lettering, which leads me to thinking about scrapbooking. For now, I'll just doodle some letters!