This typography project is a year-long labour of love

Any self-initiated work requires plenty of discipline, but taking on one every single day is an altogether different prospect. Illustrator Sabrina Smelko shares what she’s learnt so far.

Setting out to create something every day for an entire year seemed like an enormous task, and yet, one that somehow didn’t feel impossible. Born out of boredom and restlessness, 365 Days of Type came about quite naturally.

It was the winter of 2012 and the lull of the holiday season was coming to an end. Around that time, my interest in type design was piqued and I needed a medium through which to experiment. With the new year approaching, numbers seemed to be everywhere: the counting down to midnight, the counting up in years and the new beginning, a day one.

It was the perfect project. Number forms didn’t seem too difficult to create and, with a total of only nine numerals to tackle to get from one to 365, I would be forced to explore the same forms multiple times. Designing the same numeral over and over again would challenge me to find a way to make each form unique and, every time, I was bound to gain a better understanding of type design.

With personal projects - especially year-long ones - you have to really want to do it. As the creator, client and biggest critic, if you have to talk yourself into it, you likely won’t see it through. That doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I have to really push myself to get going, but I’ve never doubted the soul of the project. Each day is a race to the beginning; each morning is a blank canvas. With just over 100 days to go, I would describe my experience so far as cathartic, challenging and satisfying.

My numbers have become so much more for me than just daily designs; they’ve taken on the role of a sort of abstract diary. Certain numbers bring back specific memories. On day 39, for example, the skies were almost black and the rain was endless. Some designs reflect what’s happening in my life, some reflect what’s happening in the world and some are completely independent of meaning. My daily project has required as much nurturing as carelessness - I spend one hour on some numbers and one minute on others, but they all teach me something valuable.

How I create my number forms has informed my design work as much as it has my illustration work. I used to focus on every detail and assign equal importance to everything in an image, but now I view things through a simplified lens. Lately I’ve been using negative space in ways I wouldn’t have known to before. It’s informed my work and given me credence as a designer, but I am still figuring it all out.

More than anything, my 365 Days of Type project has left me with an overwhelming appreciation of just how many possibilities exist for creatives. While I find myself in the process of deciding how I want to proceed - as an illustrator, a designer and a person - one thing I know for sure is that by the time 365 Days of Type is complete, I will have learnt approximately 365 little lessons.

Words: Sabrina Smelko

Since graduating from her illustration course in 2012, graphic designer and illustrator Sabrina Smelko has amassed a client list that includes Cadbury and The New York Times, and received accolades from the Society of Illustrators and the Adobe Design Achievement Awards.

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