So no one told you social life was going to be this way

Photo by Mahrous Houses on Unsplash

Why is the 90s series Friends so popular even to today’s young audiences? One possible reason that occurs to me is the absence of smartphones and social media in the Friends’ world.

It was a portrait of a somewhat normal life of twenty-somethings right before Facebook and Instagram.

Social life has changed so much since then, and, in essence, what it is really, is that for today’s youth, being social today bears traces of what being a celebrity was before people even had smartphones:

Wait—why do we even need to ask?

Every typeface here is represented by the first letter of its name. Can you guess a few?

This question may seem irrelevant for many. But for some, it’s begging for an answer. Because if you doubt that what you’re doing in type design is worthwhile, it can cause you to procrastinate or give up.

The question behind this question is, “Is what we’re doing worthwhile?”

Why do typefaces continue to be made even after we already have an abundant supply?

You may be reminded of the late designer Massimo Vignelli who famously said “there are only 12 good typefaces”. And those weren’t empty words-he made a whole life’s worth of design work with that small selection.


Productivity starts with values, not techniques

Early in my working life, I struggled a lot with managing time, balancing multiple tasks and projects, and staying on top of things. Productivity wasn’t in my vocabulary yet.

“You know, the hardest thing about training young people is teaching them to be professional,” said my boss, flustered and frustrated, ranting to me about me.

Fast forward, a few years later. Different job, different country. I was working as a graphic designer for the creative arm of a brand strategy firm in Singapore. Because of my supervisor’s sudden resignation, I took over his position of Head of Design. Gulp. …

Tips for working fast and staying focused

Oftentimes, we hardly have enough time to complete all our deadlines. That is usually a good problem—having an abundance of work. And besides, urgency motivates. All we need to do is writer faster. Easy, right?

Constant urgency can be draining. Unless you can systematize the way you write. Make it easy to get into focus and “flow” state, one project after another.

Prime the writing machine.

Writing efficiently is all about strategic writing. And strategic writing needs preparation.

What often extends the writing process are interruptions and detours. For example, having a change of mind mid-way because what you’re doing isn’t working, or stopping…

Turn on your clutter radar and snip away!

Does that gorgeous passage or that clever thought support your main idea? If not, take it out. — Roy Peter Clark

Cleaning out clutter from your draft is like clearing a street of snow, debris, or stray animals, so that cars can pass through undistracted, with their eye on the destination.

Like a common courtesy, decluttering respects the reader’s time and intellect, while making the reading experience smooth and enjoyable.

It is normal to accumulate clutter in the process of spilling out your thoughts, fingers racing to capture them.

Some writers prefer to vomit out thoughts and clear the mess…

Wrestling with the lowercase y and its devilish tail

Don’t be fooled by the seemingly simple construction of the lowercase y.

A thick diagonal stroke meeting a thin, and longer diagonal stroke — looks pretty straightforward, right?

But I underestimated this bony little creature. I spent quite a bit of time on it in this project, learning how to draw a text typeface.

Questions swirled in my mind. Is the tail too long? At what height should the two meet? What angles?

Since the eyes trump geometry in type, there was a lot of eyeballing involved in my efforts.

In an early version of my character set, the “y”…

Piecing together some clues on how to master this difficult craft

A typeface is a mysterious creature.

A well-designed typeface can look like the most obvious thing. You wouldn’t think to question the shape of the serif, or the negative spaces. They look perfect. Like leaves, they look just the way they should be.

Except, typefaces didn’t just grow out of the soil. They’re a product of hundreds of hours of work, thousands of hours of education, and years of influence and typeface design evolution.

The art and science of making something memorable

The popular 2000s series How I Met Your Mother is narrated by the main character, Ted Mosby. It’s Ted’s story, but another character often outshines Ted: his self-proclaimed best friend, Barney Stinson. Definitely the more unforgettable, between the two.

Ted’s wingman in his search for The One, Barney is also the wingman of making Ted’s adventures memorable. Who can forget the night the gang found out about Barney’s transformation backstory, his overnight metamorphosis from a monogamous, humanitarian hippie to a suit-wearing playboy.

On a passionate quest for one-night stands, Barney’s treasured possession is a thick leather-bound playbook of schemes to…

Things are pretty serious these days. All the more reason to embrace play.

Have you ever had a weird colleague who had toys on their work desk?

Well, I was that weird colleague. The image above is my desk organizer, 5 years ago, made with lego.

I love working in the creative field, because work is play. You can’t create unless your mind is playful—eager to explore and experiment.

Creative work involves crafting stories, playing with words and images, working with colours, tones, and textures.

I like having Lego on my table to tinker with while thinking. I throw a tennis ball at the wall repeatedly while mulling over ideas. …

You’ll get more than just a penny for your thoughts

Image by Suzy Hazelwood on

Most designers feel they lack the ability to write. And if they were to write at all, it might be approached with a little resentment and seen a task that takes away their time and energy from their first love: the world of visuals, ideas, shapes, and the playground of visual composition.

It’s hard for many to see how both written words and design work can ooze meaningfully out of a single person. One is usually one or the other: Ad agencies team up copywriters and art directors. Design studios thrive on this dynamic duo of creative collaboration.

Writers are from Mars and designers are from Jupiter

These two…

Janina Aritao

Writing about design, while sipping coffee.

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