August 30, 2022

Graphinomics

“Quick… and away from the point”

Eudora Welty, 1933

Welty, writing to the New Yorker to ask to join the writing staff, captured in half a line how great writing should always transport you from what you think you know to whole other places. 

Holding attention with just those few words was what (eventually) secured her the job (and later a Pulitzer Prize.)

I came across Welty’s letter in ‘Letters of Note’, an amazing compendium of actual letters written across 500 years, full of wit, want, welcome ideas and capturing the sweep of history in all their hand written glory. 

It’s those that are the most amazing, leaving you trying to square the person with the pen work; each are like a portrait in words. Which is where graphonmicists (I think that’s the word) study’s of handwriting and it’s special characteristics set me to wondering if we can still have a visual equivalent for our own graphic design output. 

Clearly there are signature styles for some (which, as several have observed can be a trap as much as a spring) but what about the rest of us?

My initial thought was, hmm. Sceptical. We pretty much all use the same digital tools. But then a pen’s just a tool and look what that can sharpened too. 

If I were to look at my design work, I think there’s a sort of look.

It’s not as distinctive as my terrible handwriting (but there’s at least a characteristic both share) but I’m pretty sure that graphinomics is a thing. 

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About Richard Hill

Creative director, writer, designer, illustrator based in the UK with global project experience and consulting skills across sectors.

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