Out Work is a collection of thoughts on graphic design and life by Sarah Joe, a Singapore-based creative.

Just typing as I think, don’t take me too seriously.


10.02.21 Designer and Artist, the encore
Tags Reflection

Daily struggles of full-time employment begets this question. I would confidently say I’m a designer a couple of months back, but the sad reality of it is that my selfishness and self-involvement (which I disguise as introspection to make myself feel better) just makes me somewhat of an artist instead.

The artist is selfish, he is self-centred and visually expressive. I would think he resides in me as someone who could give fuck all about the opinions of others ‘lower’ than himself (though I still consider that a pretty admirable trait). He creates when he feels like it and does not consider social responsibility and order. But he is authentic, has the integrity to follow his creative instinct and direction, divorced from political opinions and contexts he does not place value in. He is probably what I can define as the chaos of creativity. Following him and I will find a creative identity: the practices that I am drawn to, the styles that I resonate with.

The graphic designer is, for lack of a better word, a slave. He is my right brain, one that follows rules, considers the opinions of others, especially that of the Almighty client. He considers his capitalistic place in society, among others and sacrifices his creative opinions for peace, money and the stability of a job.

So then the real question is, how can I straddle the two? I wonder where I am between these two forms and how much is an ‘appropriate’ dose of each?

28.05.20 V.R. 1
Tags Advice Design Reflection

Pinterest has its merits in being able to source out very similar visual forms, but I’ve been wanting to step up my visual research game and I’ve only slowly realised that’s not about searching the exact keyword into Google images or Pinterest. Better visual research would require more breadth. Visual language of a subject doesn’t consist solely of a subject (as counter-intuitive as it  sounds), but of its outside concepts and theories that will inevitably influence it. Well I’m starting to realise, as I age into my mid-twenties, that almost everything is influenced by everything else and things, people and places are more interconnected than they seem.

Tip: Try not to be too drawn into looking for things based on one’s preconceived thought of how something should look like. This is a pertinent reminder to myself... My workstyle is pretty convergent and I find it hard to stray outside, explore other ideas. Even my exploratory works are forced by my subconscious to adopt a certain visual path, this was a realisation also that even I find hard to put into words, much less get out of.  

05.05.20 The noble and common
Tags Readings Reflection

The following is an excerpt from Nietzche’s The Gay Science that resonated enough with me to write about it here.

            Noble and common.–Common natures consider all noble, magnanimous feelings inexpedient and therefore, first of all incredible. ‘Surely there must be some advantage involved.’ They are suspicious of the noble person. What distinguishes the common type is that it never loses sight of its advantage; not to allow these instincts to lead them astray to perform inexpedient acts–that is their wisdom and pride.
            Compared to them, the higher type is more unreasonable, for those who are noble, magnanimous, and self-sacrificial do succumb to their instincts, and when they are at their best, their reason pauses.

            The unreason or counterreason of passion is what the common type despises in the noble, especially when this passion is directed toward objects whose value seems quite fantastic and arbitrary. 

            The taste of the higher type is for exceptions, for things that leave most people cold and seem to lack sweetness. More-over, it usually believes that the idiosyncrasy of its taste is not a singular value standard; rather it posits its values as generally valid and thus becomes incomprehensible and impractical. Very rarely does a higher nature retain sufficient reason for understanding and treating everyday people as such; for the most part, this type assumes its own passion is present but kept concealed in all men. But when such exceptional people do not see themselves as the exception, how can they ever understand the common type and arrive at a fair evaluation of the rule?–This is the eternal injustice of those are noble.

I’ve long pondered, still pondering in fact, about why I’m drawn to certain things, values, places, people etc. Even as a creative, I am really curious as to what parts of design click with me. Is it the clerical layout of a document with no care at all about the content? I used to love printing and making notes in class. I remember losing reason and reprinting and compiling the script I’d typeset in Word countless times for some class performance when I was Primary 6 (to my unsuprise, no one treated the script with that much dignity). I cannot say with confidence it is type design... yet. My taste in type far outweight my skill in type design and I despise working too long on something that seems to repeatedly turn out ugly everytime. I’m still very unsure and because of that I am precautious and reserved saying gRapHic DeSigN is mY PasSioN (to be honest I feel precautious and reserved saying anything to people, like how can we be so sure and convicted of our own values enough to force them onto others?), and truth be told, sometimes doubt people who do.

Am I noble? I don’t think so. Am I common? I also don’t think so. I’ve watched myself display values of being both noble at times and common at times. I think we all are, in a sense, somewhere between noble and common, though we all start out common. Could growth, then, be awareness of this scale and making attempts to move upwards? I think so. 

Obviously, I seek nobility and have had the pleasure of working under people who are, in my greatest sense, noble. 

23.04.20 Final notes as a departing design undergraduate 
Tags Advice

  1. Go with your creative instinct and play.
  2. Things will fall into place if you put in consistent effort.
  3. Stop pleasing others. Lecturers included.
  4. Don’t think, just do.
  5. Take shortcuts* when you can.
  6. Welcome uninvited off-days, but set yourself up for success.
  7. Get feedback.

To be honest, I think this could apply to anyone in the creative profession.

06.04.20 Finding a different Grotesk
Tags Design

            I tend to go over the same procedures when I design editorial and they usually start off like this:

  1. Define publication/medium size
  2. Set margins and grids etc.
  3. Choose a typeface.

            Step 3 for me is crucial, personally I subconsciously zoom in on how the typeface speaks for a brand (and by brand I mean in the most loose sense. Anything we design coherently is a ‘brand’ no?) more so than its colour or copy.

            That being said, I tend to want to make the headliner typefaces I choose quirky or just that bit different from others. It's another subsconscious drive for me to want to show my viewers that I did put in alot of thought into the typeface choice.

            But what about Grotesk fonts? The ease of desktop publishing has resulted in way too many fonts and when it comes to Grotesk, we're too spoilt for choice I think we ultimately just go with Helvetica. I too find myself wanting my typeface choice to relate somewhat to Helvetica should I be wanting a Grotesk. But I don't want to just use Helvetica, it's become a fallback for 'easy design' and that does not sit right with me. It's a confusing paradox of capitalistic design. I want things to look classic but it can't use the elements that defined this classic look.

             That being said, I found myself instantly loving Radio Grotesk. It's beautifully quirky without stripping away what I wanted from a Grotesk. The slight aggression in the slope of the h and how it sits just slightly thin compared to the classic Helvetica, is amazing. It’s those subtleties that I or anyone worth designing for will catch. It's a little terrible for reading though.