Jack And Jill Went Up The Hill


I have my father to thank for my love of music. In the years spent listening to legends like Joni Mitchell and the Indigo Girls, one of his favorite things to do was to pull out the CD cover and unfold the lyrics often printed inside to go through them with me. Even as a child, I was moved by their brilliant words, and would get chills from a really powerful line.

I have always loved when my writing would come into play in a design, whether it was designing something to match great copy, or whether I was the one coming up with the copy myself.  As much as I kill for good aesthetics, I’m still well aware of how important the written word is. I would choose a 15 page term paper as a final any day over staring, petrified, at sheets full of empty bubbles. Even in presenting work, a list of features can interest stakeholders, but a powerful story can ignite an audience. I’ve tried to go back in time to the exact moment I knew writing would help me be a better designer, and would help make my work more powerful. I’d have to say it was probably at the end of my senior year.

Graphic design classes, unfortunately, don’t always cover writing. However, my Arts and Humanities courses ate it up. I did an insane amount of writing in those four years, and as graduation approached I was fortunate enough to take an Independent Study with one of my favorite professors. I wanted to work on real client-like projects I would be doing after graduating, and my hope was to use the Language and Media Center (one of my current places of employment) as a hip guinea pig for said branding. My professor helped run the LMC, and was willing to let me give it a shot.

Finals were fast approaching. I had worked on the logo, some printed instructional pieces to hang up around the space, and a few social media graphics. But my last and biggest undertaking was to develop a set of promotional posters. The goal of the Language and Media Center was to provide a place where students could come work on developing new foreign language skills, and could have access to great computers with all kinds of design and video programs installed. We also had a huge large format printer that was awesome for printing out huge badass things. Enter promotional posters.

As everyone is aware, finals are crazy. Design finals are crazy. My roommate and I would have an apartment full of chaos, with her Speech Pathology books and study sheets scattered about the rooms, and my rough drafts and craft supplies all over the floors. I knew that students were going to be stressed. The hope was that these posters would raise awareness for the LMC and that students would then flock to us to study and work on finals. However, trying to grab their attention on the walls of dorms plastered with anything from neon band posters to information on how to properly pack up for the holidays, I knew getting their attention would be hard.  The designs could be cool and all, but I needed bold copy to really grab their eye.

I don’t remember exactly how I came up with the concept, but the idea to play off of nursery rhymes came to mind. I wanted posters that at first glance would seem oddly familiar, with something small off about them…in a perfectly amusing way. “Peter Piper Picked a Pack of Perfectly Polished Project Proposals.” Now that is a tongue twister. But the line that stuck with me and probably made the project so successful is posted below. I'm not saying it was the greatest looking poster in the world, but when you write something you’re really proud of…it feels like damn good fine art.


I applaud great writing.  I open every single Vimeo email they send my way. Why? Because one time their subject line read “stuff for making stuff.” I was already amused, but upon opening the email their first line read “Aloha, Everyday Artisans.” I was sold. It was approachable, but also hilariously unique. They weren’t afraid to just talk to me.  So to wrap up this post, I’d like to share this year's Novak family Christmas card design. My mom is already insisting that it’s her favorite one I’ve made thus far, and I’m almost more proud of the header I came up with than the design itself. It’s probably a tie, because skinny reindeer are just silly. But it inspired a last minute design tweak to add in an unexpected red accessory.

There's more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine. 

-Closer to Fine, The Indigo Girls

Samantha NovakComment