The process has historically been invisible. You’d see the final result, and only the final result. Perfect, crisp, clean.
And it can feel like everyone creates perfection except you, you with your smears and smudges, bumbling and bungling, creases and cringing.
But flip through Typography Sketchbooks, a nearly two-inch thick collection of sketchbook snapshots assembled by Steve Heller and Lita Talarico, and you’ll see it.
The humble, human truth.
Page after page of scribbles and stray lines, eraser crumbs and wobbly blobs. Some of the featured designers shared close-ups of beautifully groomed images, but I doubt very much that their notebooks are full of such pristine examples.
What’s more, I’m willing to bet that if you ignore the names associated with each sketchbook, you’d be hard pressed to match almost any of these scrawlings to their creators. It turns out that Milton Glaser, Ivan Chermayeff, Tom Geismar, and Louise Fili don’t just automagically execute perfection in one grand, sweeping motion with each project.
No one woke up making the art they are known for. Listen or stare closely enough, and you’ll realize that it’s not so glamorous or mysterious after all. Skill requires practice. A lot of it.
And we can practice a lot, too.
This is not to discount skills. Creativity without skill is like a three-year-old with a crayon. (There’s a reason your three-year-old’s art isn’t hanging in the modern art museum—yet.)
Enough romanticizing artists’ processes and tools. What might deserve awe is creativity. Skill without creativity is like a perfect recitation of the multiplication table.
The greats are great not because they are good at using a particular tool, or performing a task. They are great because they skillfully make something new come true.
And so, a cacophony of scribbles may first ensue.