Evocative Potential of Words

by Donna Sturgess

Evocative Potential of WordsThere is a story of masterful innovation in the reinvention work of Donald Jackson who creates words that pick up the life and energy of his hand and gives them a physical feeling through the wetness of the ink.  He is the royal scribe and calligrapher to the Queen of England.  And, just as an architect builds a sacred space, Donald’s most recent work has produced a sacred space captured and reflected in a book.

Evocative Potential of Words

No ordinary book, this one is the first hand-written and illustrated St. John’s Bible to be commissioned by a Benedictine monastery (in Minnesota) since the invention of the printing press. The bible is divided into seven volumes and is two feet tall by three feet wide when laid wide open.  The rich red leather covers contain over 11,000 pages of the sacred text in calligraphy and illustration on translucent vellum paper that took 12 years and five people to produce.  The seven-volume set can be purchased for $145,000 (80 of the 250 sets have already been sold as of this writing).

John describes the challenge as, “How to write something that looks sacred?” “It required a physical feeling in the way that you experience surprises from the heart.” His challenge was to give words a life and character of their own—something brands can learn from. The very shape, width and depth of an “O” had to be thought through to create a visual alphabet that would illustrate “sacred”.

Type offers words a personality and when we make type speak, as in the word “balloon” show here, we turn it into a visual language with more emotional value.  In the digital world we mix up letters, symbols and punctuation to create new shorthand within the limits of our keyboard, to communicate on digital devices.  Yet the typeface we use on web sites, product packages and advertising seems to be much more limited.  Only brand logos appear to incorporate some level of emotion into their design.

In our highly visual world, brands are telling graphic stories as never before to share feelings and yet we continue to use words only to encapsulate concepts.  As visual storytelling continues to strengthen connections between brands and customers, there is an opportunity to innovative by expressing more emotion and texture through our simple words and tell more powerful stories.

image credit: catholicsupply & kimnorbury

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Donna Sturgess is the President and Co-founder of Buyology Inc and former Global Head of Innovation for GlaxoSmithKline. Her latest book is Eyeballs Out: How To Step Into Another World, Discover New Ideas, and Make Your Business Thrive.

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