One of my good friends writes for Tedx Navesink (a branch near my hometown in New Jersey) and approached me to write an article on Impostor Syndrome, and as it relates to my design work, for their online blog. Tedx Navesink’s theme for the year is “Makers,” exploring the essence of creation, so a discussion on Impostor Syndrome fit right in, as it affects so many creative people.
The blog actually didn’t end up getting published, but I put the article on my other website, and you can find it here! I also made an image to go along with the article, which is featured in this post.
Coming up with an image to go along with an article on Impostor Syndrome was harder than I thought. At first, I was having a huge creative block. I looked up “Impostor Syndrome” on Google Images for inspiration, but didn’t really like what I saw. The images were pretty much either textbook diagrams describing the syndrome, or groups of like people with one outcast.
Though my Google search was mostly fruitless, there was one image that inspired me in a backwards sort of way. It was an image of a hand with the phrase “Am I Good Enough?” written on it. I didn’t particularly like the way the image looked, but the words struck me, because, given my engineering background, I’ve felt “not good enough” as a designer/creative person in general so many times before. After seeing this image, and being affected by its written message, I decided I wanted to “design with words” on this project.
By “design with words,” I mean that I wanted to create an image that was visually pleasing, but also made people feel something by what it said. I know that evoking emotion through art can also be done without words, but I don’t think I’m at that level yet, and I hope one day I am. The first time I ever “designed with words” was on my new business cards, where I had a sort of “fortune cookie message” on the back of each one.
Once I knew I wanted to design with words, I had to think of something to actually say! At first, I considered using the phrase “Am I Good Enough?” but I immediately knew this was a bad move. First of all, it would have felt really derivate to copy the exact phrase from the Google image. Second of all, even though this phrase had resonated with me, it didn’t help me in any way, and I thought it was kind of negative.
I wanted to come up with a phrase that was positive and inspirational –that worked in conjunction with the article to help the reader gain confidence, rather than remind them of their fears. But, I didn’t want the phrase to be inspirational in a cheesy or cliché way either.
It was at this point that I remembered a line I really like from the movie Ratatouille, a line that I actually already used in one of my pieces of flair. The line is: “Anyone Can Cook.” I love this saying, and I think it fits perfectly with the article on Impostor Syndrome.
Anyone can cook. It doesn’t matter if you went to culinary school, it doesn’t matter if you have never cooked before in your life, hey—it doesn’t matter if you’re a rat! Anyone can cook. And just like anyone can cook, anyone can draw, anyone can be an artist, or a musician, or a scientist. The list goes on and on. It doesn’t matter what your background is, what crowd you hang out with, or if you fit the “typical mold.” I think that as long as you have the work to show for it, and believe in yourself, you can be anything you want to be and shouldn’t ever feel like an impostor. I love this message, and even though my article has nothing to do with cooking, I hope that the readers can uncover its true meaning, and see that it can be applied to anything.
Once I locked down the phrase, coming up with the visual came so naturally. I decided to go with hand lettering on this project. Hand lettering can be pretty tedious, but it’s fun to me. First, I drew the letters with pencil on paper, and then I brought them into Illustrator and traced them with the pen tool. During this process, I went through several iterations of each letter to get the phrase as a whole to look just right.
For the lettering style, I was inspired by the vintage “Pepsi Cola” billboard near my apartment in Queens, NY. The letters “E” and “A” in my image actually come directly from the old Pepsi Cola logo.
I was also really inspired by the work of Michael Doret on this project, a fellow Cooper Union graduate. Mr. Doret gave a lecture at The Cooper Union a few months ago. He is a designer, illustrator, and lettering artist, and much of his work is inspired by the signage and letterheads he saw while growing up around Coney Island in the 1950s. I kept thinking of his work as I drew my letters and developed the color palette. I decided to go with a blue and red color palette for the article’s image. I printed a bunch of little cards with the phrase for this post, so you could see all the color options I made, and also because I think this is one of those projects that looks better in print.
Designing with words, and evoking emotion in my work, is something I would like to continue to improve on.
I just finished reading the book “Creativity, Inc.” by Ed Catmull, President of both Pixar and Disney Animation Studios. While describing some of Pixar’s struggles during the production of Toy Story, the first feature-length computer animated film, Ed makes a strong point: “For all the care you put into artistry, visual polish frequently doesn’t matter if you are getting the story right.” In animation, it’s all about the story, and visual beauty and innovation come as an added bonus. In design, the story, or message, similarly carries weight; it’s not just about what it looks like.
I hope that through the message and the vintage feel of my image, I evoke a sense of positivity, comfort, and nostalgia in the readers! And I hope hearing my story in the Tedx article also helps at least one person too. Enjoy!!