Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 8.05.10 AM

The life-changing W.

I’m obsessed with the letter W.

Not just any W–a specific one.  It’s the first letter in photographer Jodi Swanson’s Women of Strength photo book designed by the amazing Erin Tyler.  Erin made me fall in love with design, but I never imagined I’d obsess over a letter.  After listening to her, I can’t look at a book cover or the packaging on a bag of coffee the same again.

Erin and Jodi are finishing the book.  I’m honored to help. The Kickstarter just released.

Jodi photographs women who “didn’t know how strong they were until they had to be.”

People see the photos.  They cry.  They relate.  They gather strength.  They act.  They touch lives.  I’ve seen it in action–magic.

These aren’t my photos, and I couldn’t design my way out of a reality TV contest if Stevie Wonder was judge, but I try to be helpful.  I make sure there are no spelling errors and shout things like “Kickstarters can’t be free!”  I stand by looking ready in case someone needs me to “write that down” when creativity hits.  Every once in a while I ask, “Have you slept?”  True artists need that reminder.

While I’m waiting to be useful, I stare at that W.

“Want to know how I made the W?” Erin asked.  I did.  She explained.  I noticed the way the letter brought my eye into the title, so I couldn’t possibly leave.

“Look at your book cover,” Jodi said.  Erin designed that too.  “It’s all about the positioning.  Every single thing makes the reader’s eye travel around yet stay on the page.”

Good design sucks the eye into an artistic vortex.  It produces an effect–action, emotion, feeling.  Bad design makes people suffer.

Erin once snatched a book layout out of my hand.  “What designer gave you that?!” I’d originally contracted out my book layout.  “Give me that!  No self-respecting designer would use that font!”

I didn’t understand.  She deleted it and returned the most beautiful book layout I’ve ever seen.  More importantly, she showed me why what she did was effective, explaining the elements of font in design.  I’d been enlightened–I never saw print, graphics, or photos the same again.

Font is the essence of art–it conveys emotion, feeling.  As a historian, I know this.  Font and design help me place something in time, culture, context instantly.  But until Erin explained, I never once considered it.  After the lesson, it became part of the way I saw the intersection of art, science, emotion, truth–as precisely placed graphics using masterful design.

I fell in love with an entirely new field.  I learned about boxes, font, packaging, design, composition.  I discovered new passions.  I layered them onto passions I already had.

That’s why I’m obsessed with the W.

I’ve been exposed.  Now I think differently.  This happens continually when I open my mind.  It puts me in a better place each time.

Here’s the lesson:

You might not care about book covers, coffee bags, or the letter W.  This isn’t about any of that.  It’s about being exposed to new worlds, finding new passions, then acting on them.

Passions emerge with exposure.  Exposure is the key.  It develops film.  It develops the mind.

The letter W isn’t only about art–it’s about exposure and enlightenment.

I expose myself to new ideas, fields, concepts, experiences, and careers.  Then, I make them my own.

We often do the opposite.  We stick with things we know.

When that happens, we miss the W’s in our lives.

“I hate this stuff,” people say.  It’s not hate.  It’s a lack of exposure.   Exposure ignites passion.  It’s a universal truth.

Exposure ignites passion, passion leads to learning, learning to enlightenment.

I look at the W again.

I feel the love.  I never felt love in a W before.

It is beautiful.  It is original.

It’s the secret to uncovering new passions.

New passions are what makes life beautiful.

Just like this W.


If you haven’t seen the Women of Strength video, it’s a must-watch–four minutes that will inspire you.  After you watch, share.  Follow Women of Strength on Facebook or connect with Jodi on Twitter or Instagram.   To see Erin make things brilliant and learn more about design, check out her gallery.



%d bloggers like this: