a love letter to you, me, design, and the universe (house of cards)
print design / fall 2019
Brief: Visually representing Bruce Mau’s 24HRS2 Massive Change Toolkit of Insights, Methods, and Creative Strategies by designing a visual and typographic system on 20 of Charles and Ray Eames’ 7x11in House of Cards. Upon analysis of Mau’s manifesto, the concept of “a love letter to design” was established as a unifying theme throughout the text. Such developed visual system was to effectively exemplify Mau’s existing text while simultaneously conveying a personal voice derived from the established concept.
Objective: To exercise various modes of critical thinking and formalized play in an effort to find new meaning for a given text and to develop a system-based approach to organize grids, composition, and multi-page applications in order to gain an understanding of relational typographic systems, juxtaposition of form and image, and affordances.
Tools: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Indesign, Procreate
Timeline: 6 weeks
*contact me for a detailed process documentation
Charles and Ray Eames designed the original House of Cards in 1952 as a deck of 54 slotted playing cards. Exemplifying the Eames’ appreciation for the uncommon beauty of common things, the cards displayed a rich assortment of photography, colors, and words. The original deck could be assembled together to form fantastic structures both large and small that told a universal story of culture.
Expanding upon the already established grid system from the original House of Cards, I worked further to develop an advanced visual and typographic system. By doing so, I was able to develop ways to apply a distinct typographic voice to convey tone, emotion, and delivery of content.
Of Bruce Mau’s 24HRS2 Massive Change Toolkit of Insights, Methods, and Creative Strategies, I selected 16 principles that most resonated with me. Of these 16, I needed to determine an underlying concept that unified Mau’s 16 ideas based on my personal interpretation of this text.
For me, Mau’s writing evoked feelings of authenticity, vulnerability, fearless declaration, and serendipity. Each principle included moments that hinted at the wondrous concept of interconnectedness and quantum entanglement—the micro to macro scale of how “just like the earth’s ecosystems, design principles are all interconnected” and how “much of it is invisible, deeply integrated into every aspect of our daily lives.”
Through the tone and language of the text, it was evident that Mau lived and breathed design, and he wanted to shout it to the world. Almost, as if he was pouring out his love for the practice of design. Almost, as if he wrote this as a love letter to design.
Sprinkled throughout Mau’s principles were small pockets of endearment, devotion, and respect for design—moments that only a fellow designer could recognize and empathize with. Overall, the tone and language of his writing was formal and vocabulary-packed, which was necessary to command respect towards design from is readers, who are not always all fellow designers.
As a result, I wanted to emphasize the contrast between the way designers talk about design to non-designers, and the way designers truly feel about design—foolishly and utterly in love with their practice.
In this multi-page, structural design system, I needed to visually represent this concept in a way that was cohesive, strategic, and that retained the magic of the beautiful concept I wanted to illustrate.
To achieve this, I standardized the front of all the cards to imitate the look and feel of a formal letter. I conveyed the feeling of formality by heavily enforcing the clean type within a strict grid system.
These letters were addressed to the “world,” each card signed off by a different prestigious design professional, such as “the best design firm in the world,” “the first pioneer of design,” or “your design professor.” This side would represent the way designers talk about design to non-designers.
Within this formal letter, I highlighted those specific moments that I felt best captured the feelings of love, interconnectedness, and wonder. These phrases would then be used as the gateway, or connection, to the back of the card.
The backs of the cards needed to be a stark contrast from the formal letters. I extracted the highlighted phrases on the front and employed visual, tactile, and typographic elements that shifted the tone of the same text to be presented as a love letter to design.
To do this, I altered the typography to be much more expressive by shifting scale and primarily using Minion Pro to better convey a more authentic human touch. Additionally, I filled the entire span of the card with a vibrant, galaxy-like, textured gradient to convey the initial feelings elicited from reading Mau’s wonderful text; affection, mystery, wonder, euphoria, and sentiment.
Samples of the full spread of front/backs of cards that show this contrast:
To further enhance the experience of a lover letter, I wanted to physically attach hand-crafted love letters to some of the card backs, deriving inspiration from famous love letters. In a printed template I created, I presented one key word from one of the highlighted phrases from the front of the card and asked fellow designers to write their own love letter to design.
For example, when the phrase “purpose and passion” was the highlighted text on the front, the love letter template would look like:
“Dear design, you give me purpose and passion because _____. Love, _____.”
Some of the envelopes included postcards with imagery of galaxies, alluding to the concept of interconnectedness. And, for a final touch, I added stamps, stickers, hand-drawn doodles, and perfume.
My complex concept resulted in various moving parts, and I needed to be wary of over-designing, flatness, or predictability. Through abiding to an earnest design process, I was able to resolve this issue through incorporating delightful elements of surprise throughout my cards through the variability of, and within, the physical love letters.
The organic and experimental yet strategic and systematic design process of this project not only allowed me to produce a fun, visually engaging final product, but through doing so, I harnessed valuable skills of critical thinking, finding meaning in text, typographic hierarchy, grids, and visual systems.