In this post I’m going to give you a small peak into how I go about creating the visual responses that make up This brings me joy. The Joy Project. The first time I read each letter I like to make sure I’m somewhere alone so I can truly reflect and connect with the person that wrote it. I generally read each letter a few times to decide which response is the most touching, original or would make the best visual response. The challenge with this round of postcards is that I don’t know the sender. Each letter was given to a friend of a friend so I’m designing for someone I don’t know. This is good and bad as I’m removed of prior knowledge of that person that ultimately informs the visual response I create them (it’s almost like cheating in a way). It’s also bad at the same time because I have no idea what they’ll like – and I’m hoping I’ll design something that strikes a cord. In the first round, I knew who wrote each letter and knew who I was designing for … and could use that to create something I knew they’d like.
In the example above “Dinah Washington” was listed as something that brings this person joy. I’m only vaguely familiar with the Swingin’ Miss D from her song “Relax, Max” that was used in a Double Tree commercial a few years ago. I liked the song so much from the commercial I downloaded it and Miss D now lives in my “Jazz/Oldies” playlist on iTunes. When thinking how to visualize the song and Dinah Washington, the tagline Relax, Max is so simple and bold, I knew a typographic solution could communicate the song, something bold yet playful. I played around with a couples versions in Illustrator below …
The music of the song makes me think of vintage neon sings, or multicolored letters on vintage record singles from the period.
I wanted to make the type look old so I was playing with adding a more yellow background to give it that vintage feel. But at this point it was just retro, and not retro-modern.
Above: After many tweaks, here is the final version! See it and 70 more here.
Here’s another example. The response I loved from this particular letter was, “the first kiss.” That’s something everyone can relate to and it certainly brings me joy, the excitement of that first kiss with a potential mate. And here comes the challenge. I don’t know the person … who do they like to kiss? Boys? Girls? Is this a straight, gay, pan or a-sexual person?? Who could know?!? Therefore typography or images that aren’t too specific should be used. That way the receiver of this postcard, and anyone viewing this response within the project, can be free to interpret the statement “the first kiss” anyway they want. That is ultimately my goal with most of these responses, that any view can place themselves within the picture. Here is how the process worked for “the First Kiss.”
I started playing with the letters of the words “kissed” and noticed the two “ss” would be fun to play with. I could reflect one ‘S’ so the letters themselves could kiss, thus freeing me from finding a photo of a kissing couple. Whew.
Then I arrived here (above), I love the type but it was looking a bit too Valentine’s day …
I decided to go through my iTunes and look for songs that dealt with the subject matter. The words “and then we kissed” kept coming to mind which are lyrics to a Britney Spears song (withhold judgement). I experimented with adding lyrics of the song and layering them to create a web of emotion visualizing a moment … that moment when your mind races just before a kiss.
Above: The final version, “The first kiss”
Here’s a look at a few of the newly designed projects below. I now have a collection of 70+ visual responses on the project website, thisbringsmejoy.com
“The Modern Love column in the NY Times”
“Too Wong Foo! Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar”
“Immersion, the merging of the past, present and future”