Lessons from the First 50 Days of 100 Days of Design

Fifty days ago, on March 1, I started a 100 Days of Design challenge. Basically, the idea is you do one design exercise once a day, every day, for 100 days. By sheer repetition, you get better at whatever it is you do; over time, you see more facets to the activity, more variations. It’s like scales and etudes. But it’s also difficult; most (all?) of the people who started the challenge with me have stopped.

Every day, I spend about 15 minutes doing a small (6″x6″) expressive typography piece, based on a music lyric I heard that day. I put them all together on one giant poster that will be 10′ tall when I’m done.

I think it’s a worthwhile challenge and I feel I’m getting better at thinking in type. So what I have I learned by doing it thus far? A few things:

  • Watch for happy accidents. Every once in a while, I’ll accidentally do something while playing around and it is much better than anything I’ve thus far thought of. The trick is to go with it and to remember what you did, so you can use the unexpected trick elsewhere.
  • Style is finding little tricks you like, then repeating them for different effects.
  • Let the type speak. Some of my favorite pieces I’ve done have been the ones I haven’t overly fussed over, where the type matched the words very well, and I did just one or two manipulations of the type.
  • Don’t be too cute or too literal. It’s really easy with some pieces of text to do silly things with the type to make them illustrate the words. It comes off lame. A little emphasis goes a long way.
  • The whitespace matters. Typography 101. Whitespace can really make tension and drama. It can also ruin your concept by being more prominent than the type.
  • They aren’t all gems. I picked out eight pieces I liked and thought were good (see below). That’s eight out of 50, or 16%. Meaning the vast majority of what I’ve done I feel is mediocre or best. (Hell, you might think my best are all mediocre at best.) But that’s the whole point of this challenge: to do a lot to find a few that are good. Hopefully, by the end of the 100 days, I’ll have a higher success rate, but realize that even at best, half of what I come up with isn’t going to work. And that’s ok.

My favorites from the first 50 days:

(Looking at these, all I can see is kerning I want to tweak. Ah well.)

3 thoughts on “Lessons from the First 50 Days of 100 Days of Design

  1. I was beginning to wonder when you will share some of your designs! My favorite is “I won’t decorate my love.” The irony made me chuckle.

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