How do you know when it’s finished?

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:

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.