One of my two pandemic-era type designs, Heliotrope—a prototype of which has been visible on Beautiful Racket—is in the final throes of nitpickery. I plan to make it available later this month.
Artists and designers sometimes have a reputation for retaining projects long past the threshold of diminishing returns. For instance, Axl Rose kept Chinese Democracy gestating for 15 years. Fortunately I’ve never had that problem. To me, it’s always been clear when a project is done: I’ve utterly run out of ideas. Ship it—because what else is left?
On that view, I think it’s possible to define a perfect work of art: one that cannot conceivably be improved. To add or subtract anything seems like a desecration. Chinese Democracy doesn’t qualify. But the Brancusi Bird in Space? Certain Manet paintings? “Flash Gordon” by Queen? Definitely. My projects are not in that category, so they remain, in the words of Paul Valéry, jamais achevé, mais abandonné.
I could’ve released Heliotrope earlier. (To those who have been nudging me to do so, gently, over the last year: I appreciate your enthusiasm.) But it’s been hard to feel right about embarking on a sales effort in the midst of so much suffering. Which isn’t to criticize those who have—the show must go on, out of economic necessity.
Here in Los Angeles, which for a time was the center of the pandemic’s whorl, life feels safer, if not normal. Still, I fear that despite rosy predictions, we—Angelenos, Americans, humans—have reached only the end of the beginning. The wider reckoning has merely been postponed:
So far, federal & local regulations have kept renters, homeowners, and small businesses from facing eviction or foreclosure. But most of those protections expire on June 30, and disbursement of rental aid has been chaotic. Starting next month, more families will become homeless; more small businesses will collapse.
Covid deaths have largely fallen upon those families least able to bear the loss.
All this in addition to the uncertainties about the progress of the pandemic itself: mutations, vaccine durability, the prognosis for long Covid, and what happens as poorer countries fail to control the virus due to lack of resources.
In any year, I consider myself very fortunate that my work is centered around making things and sharing them with others. During the pandemic, what I didn’t expect is that I would hear from so many new fans. For them, typography has been a discovery that created a space of intellectual refuge in a time when their life & work were more taxing & stressful than ever. To me, typography has always been, like writing itself, a vessel for whatever part of ourselves we want to invest. If something that I wrote or made reached you at a time when you needed a lift—I couldn’t be more complimented.
Beyond that, as a sole proprietor, I have a favor to ask. Over the past 15 months, small businesses in the US have been hurt terribly. Please keep finding reasons to spend money with the small, independently owned businesses in your community, thereby supporting local jobs & families. Even if—especially if!—it’s less convenient than ordering online from some out-of-state corporate behemoth. Government aid has seemed copious in terms of total dollars. But it hasn’t reached everyone who needs it. The economic distress is far from over. Vote with your wallet. Keep dollars in your community. It’s a powerful tool that’s available to everyone. And easy to do—just put down your laptop, walk outside, and start spending.