The Ligature Collective

A couple of weeks ago, I made a post about having recently joined Instagram, and a competition that was being held to draft a new member of something called the Ligature Collective. The competition was to make a piece to celebrate their success on Instagram, and the best submission would lead to the creator becoming a member of the team and have their work displayed to a large audience.

Well, I had sketched up a quick piece, which I posted a fortnight ago, but since then, I had much more time to dedicate to a better thought out piece.

Ligature Collective Ten Thousand Followers Blog Upload

My main goal with this piece was to create a visually interesting piece with lots of little details, but to have a very clear hierarchy, such that the piece was structurally simple. Seeing as the piece was going to be posted to Instagram, it had to work at a small size, and be easily identified. The words “Ligature” and “Followers” worked well as the emphasised words, seeing as they were not only easily legible on small Instagram thumbnails and conveyed the essence of the piece, but also tied the piece up at each end. The piece is symmetrical down through the middle (apart from the words themselves, of course,) and it also has a vague structural symmetry horizontally, too. The words “Ligature” and “Followers” are in the same style, and curve around the piece in the same way, while the smaller central words reflect each other’s style and layout too.

The piece ended up being quite small. I took several photographs of it just on the page on its own, but it always ended up seeming as though it was bigger than it really was. I decided to put some other items in the picture that I uploaded to give a sense of scale. The photograph seemed a little unbalanced with only the lettering piece and a single pen, however, so I scattered a few other objects around it to frame it. Some things, like the camera strap and the rotary lead pointer might not give a very good sense of the size of the piece, but the pens and lead holder should do. Incidentally, these were all things used to make the piece, aside from the keys, of course. But with the keys there, at least I get to show off my funky Rubik’s cube key ring.

After all is said and done (or just done, really; being a letterer is a pretty silent job) the results will be out tomorrow, on April the 7th. There were some truly excellent submissions among the hundreds submitted by other artists on Instagram, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they should win. Good luck to everyone else – I’m sure they’re waiting with bated breath for the announcement of the winner. If you’re curious to see the other submissions, click here, or search for “#Ligature10k” on Instagram!

The Medium is the Message is the Medium…

If one thing is equal to another, then the other thing must be equal to the first. Similarly, Euclid explained two things that equal the same thing must equal one another. So if the medium is the message, we can deduce that the message is the medium, and anything the medium is equal to is also equal to the message. What third thing would that be – the thing that both the message and medium are? Why, today’s piece, of course!

The Medium is the Message is..

This one plays a little game with the idea that if one thing is another, then the other is also the first. After all, if A=B, then B=A. Seems simple enough, right? But what is really the meaning behind this message? It seems to imply, as I said two weeks ago, that the message, as the creator saw it, should be disregarded and tossed aside in favour of the study of the medium itself. That implied that what the creator had to say was less important than the way they said it. In effect, it meant discarding one thing and replacing it with another. But if we take the phrase more literally as I did four weeks ago, it implies that the two things are the same.

In language, unlike in mathematics, you could easily say that there are cases where A=B but B≠A. For example, “The ink is the colour black,” but not “The colour black is the ink”. It’s a little contrived, but you could make the argument. I have much more fun, however, taking the word “is” to mean the same as an equals sign, which leads me to come up with pieces like this.

A fun compositional technique that calligraphers sometimes use is to write in a circle or spiral, especially if the subject matter fits thematically with the composition. Usually, however the piece has a break in it to indicate the start and end of the phrase. This piece is fun because due to the simplicity of the sentence structure it allows for the piece to join onto itself and have no defined endpoint. That being said, the eye of the reader naturally arrives on the upper left part of the piece, so the word “The” fills the position of the start of the sentence before the reader sees that it loops, having no end.

Here are the 3 pieces all next to each other:The Mediums are the Messages

With each of them, I’ve tried conveying a slightly different meaning, a slightly different take on the phrase, doing so by changing the layout to get the point across, and keeping the phrase the same (for the most part). So does that mean that the medium really is the message? I’m not convinced that that’s all there is to it, but it’s interesting to consider that layout, presentation, the medium and the way we communicate can sometimes lead to greater insight than what is actually being said. After all, how many articles or blogs (this one included) do you think there are where people skim lightly over the text, but what stays with them, or what they pay attention to is the images?

L’Appel du Vide

With a similar theme but a different style to a piece I did a while ago (Vertigo) today’s piece is “l’Appel du Vide,” a French phrase that translates as something like “the Call of the Void.” What exactly le vide is, whether it be the void, the abyss, emptiness, is not exactly clear. Nevertheless, it refers to the feeling people sometimes get at great heights or in risky situations where some strange call tempts them to jump.

L'Appel du Vide Angle

Stylistically, this piece is similar to another piece I created a long time ago (Thursday). I felt that the style fit well with the meaning of the phrase. The negative space of the word Vide indicates whatever it is conjured by its meaning as abyss or void, the busy surrounds emphasising the effect. The flourishes also show a kind of swirling movement pattern, which is in keeping with the idea of dizziness or vertigo.

The first two words are in a Copperplate style, notably with French style P’s. Seeing as the phrase is in French, I felt it was appropriate to use the French variation, even though to an English speaking audience they can often look like N’s with a strange elongated left foot. The word Vide is done with strong Roman caps, meant to make the word more impactful and make it stand out against the fluidity of the flourishes behind it. As such, the word is in contrast with its background in both tone and form in order to preserve legibility, similar to the choice of letter style in the linked Thursday piece.

Here’s a front shot to give an idea of the composition of the piece on the page, too.

L'Appel du Vide

The Medium is the Message

I learnt about an idea recently that the way in which a message is conveyed often tells us more than the actual content of the message. Certainly, there was a story a little while ago about a man who decided to hand write all his tweets and take photographs of them instead of typing them out. He didn’t change the things he was tweeting about, but he changed the way he was presenting the content. Needless to say, it attracted a lot of attention, and I heard about it through some of the lettering and writing channels I pay attention to.

The Medium is the Message

For me, much of what I do is about the medium rather than the message. I spend my hours and days crafting the letter forms and composition in ways that complement the message I have chosen, but the actual subject matter of the words comes under much less scrutiny throughout the process. The phrase “The Medium is the Message” could imply that the the two things are one and the same, and are inseparable from each other, but in this context I would say that it means that the medium is not just a delivery system for the content, but that is more significant than the content itself. Of course, if I only had the words to communicate, I could simply write them down and take a picture like the twitter user, so it would be true to say that it applies to what I do.

Stop Hesitating

If you’ve been following my blog since I started, or if you’ve lurked through everything I’ve uploaded (I know you’re there, lurkers!) then this piece might ring a bell. When I did my first Thing A Day, the second thing on the second day was a piece called Stop Hesitating. This time, I decided to redesign the piece completely and approach the phrase with a few new styles and techniques I’ve picked up since that time.

Stop Hesitating

It was interesting to revisit an idea, even if it was to completely redesign it. I considered simply re-executing the same design, and trying to tweak it in a few places, but I thought it would be more exciting to see what new ideas I could come up with. I went through a few different iterations before settling on this, and though the layout is similar to the original, the style and overall presentation are very different.

One of the reasons I decided to revisit this piece was because I liked the message. It stands as a little reminder that sometimes it’s all too easy to hesitate and be apprehensive before doing something, and more often than not, once you actually start doing whatever it is that you’re thinking about, it’s not nearly as bad as you had originally thought. That being said, I had a good time redesigning an old piece, so I may consider giving some of my other early pieces a bit of a rehash to see what good can come of them.

Do Your Best

Everyone likes to do their best, even if it’s hard. Even if you do it and then you get nowhere, at least at the end of it you know that you did your best. After it’s finished, you can tell yourself that even if you had tried, you couldn’t have done any better, because what you did was your best. Who can feel bad about that?

Do Your Best

Sometimes your best isn’t very good. Or maybe it’s good, but it’s not quite good enough. In those times, it can be hard not to give up, too, but if you keep doing your best, eventually your best stops being bad, or it becomes good enough. It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Keep doing your best until your best becomes good enough. In fact, the structure of it is pretty simple, even if the act might not be. The act of doing something might be the most gruelling and difficult thing you can imagine, but if you stick to the rights structure, it tends to end up with your best being good enough. So what is the structure? It’s turning up and doing it all the time. It doesn’t matter too much when or where, but if you do your best all the time, then it’s pretty certain that it will work.

So what does it mean to do your best? Well, sometimes, it’s not just plugging away at something as furiously as possible. Doing your best doesn’t always mean putting in as much effort as you can. To do your best sometimes means to figure out a way to do something more easily or more efficiently. Sometimes it means spending a lot of extra time now in order to learn how to save a little time consistently in the future, which adds up to make a saving. But more often than not, doing your best starts with doing.

Are you doing it?

It’s Never Too Late to Start

It’s been an interesting week for me. Coming back home from visiting family in another country was going to be fine, but unfortunately the trip back was interrupted by some surprise friends in the form of kidney stones and a cold. In addition to that, my wife suddenly had a new job start, all of which meant that I didn’t get round to doing a piece for this Monday’s blog post. So I could have though it no big deal, and just put it off until next week, but I’ve had a piece that I wanted to do for a while now on the back burner that fit what was going on quite well.

It's Never Too Late to Start

It’s never too late to start. Well, for me, I started pretty late. Past the deadline, in fact. But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t get done. Sometimes it’s too easy to fall into an all-or-nothing mindset where we think that if we slip up or miss something once then there’s no point carrying on. This can often lead to us abandoning the things we had previously told ourselves we would do, whether it be working hard, exercising, or sticking to resolutions. How many people make resolutions each year only to end up not sticking with them? Probably most. And how many of those failed attempts begin to fail right before we give up entirely? I’d say probably most again.

So this piece is me saying that even if I’m late I’m going to keep doing it. I won’t give up just because I hit a bump in the road. Sometimes starting is all you need to do to be able to keep going and get something done. And it’s never too late to start.