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Sarah Dayan

Handlettering Artist and Type Designer

Personal monogram

Primary design concentration:


Most preferred tools for designing:

Pencil. I use my simple HB 0.7 lead holder all the time, and it’s perfect.

How and why did you choose to become a designer?

I’m into drawing since I’m old enough to hold a pencil. Growing up, I discovered a passion for solving problems; I taught myself code and worked as a developer for years after I graduated high school. Becoming a designer was a dream, and the best way to combine my two passions.

Part of typeface design

What are some of the challenges you encounter as a designer and how do you deal with them?

Design is still a young line of work, and many people don’t know how to work with designers. However, it’s my job to guide my clients and make them trust me, not theirs. Sometimes you have to accept that the project won’t work for you and decline, which is the hardest thing for any number of reasons. Either way, it involves standing up for yourself and not being afraid to say no. I find it easier to be honest and avoid finding excuses: I explain my positions politely, but confidently. It’s easier for someone to understand and respect you, if she or he feels you’re being true.

What is your definition of an “elegant solution,” that is, good design?

I totally subscribe to Dieter Rams’ vision about what good design is: “Good design is innovative, aesthetic, makes a product understandable, unobtrusive, honest, long-lasting, thorough down to the last detail, environmentally friendly, as little design as possible.” If I had to add something to it, I’d say that good design is obvious. Good design is invisible. Good design is what is there, but you can’t see.

An elegant solution is something that’s so well-thought-out that it becomes the standard in everybody’s mind. Can anyone imagine a MP3 player in their head without thinking about the iPod click wheel?

From skills to values, what makes a designer successful?

Values are tremendously important. They’re as important as skills, but they’re often overlooked, which is why many designers don’t get respect. A successful designer understands the importance of practicing at his craft every day, as well as not budging from his values. It doesn’t matter if he’s not totally there yet. The only fact that he’s trying, and has the right mindset, makes him more likely to be successful than someone who compromises and dabbles, hoping to eventually get better.

How do you stay motivated and grow personally and professionally as a designer?

There are plenty of mornings when I don’t want to get up, plenty days when I don’t want to do lettering. What helps me overcome the lack of motivation is looking back and see the progression that resulted from all the hard work. It makes me confident in the future, I know the best is ahead of me—it’s my call to seize it or not.

It’s also important to keep a healthy personal life: see the people you love, do things that are good for you, take breaks. The way I manage to do it is by focusing one one pursuit only, and distance myself from the noise. In other words, less Facebook, more lettering ツ

For those aspiring to become a designer, whatever the discipline, what is your advice?

Don’t be discouraged by the fact that the design market is “saturated.” It’s a sign that the industry is healthy, that there is demand. Being the only person doing what you do will only provide you a false feeling of security, while having competitors will make you hungry. There’s room for everyone, and anyone can become good at anything if they put forth the necessary effort. There’s no such thing as those who can and those who can’t, and I can’t stress that enough.

What is your quest in design, from a professional practice, education or evolution standpoint?

That’s a big one ツ I want to keep on becoming a better artist as well as a better problem-solver. Words are so powerful, I want to keep on unleashing their message through mastering the art of drawing letters.

I’m also big on teaching, so I really want to contribute at building a better culture of professionalism around design. The talent in our industry is breathtaking—now we deserve to be taken more seriously and only us can make it happen.

Sarah Dayan creates logos and custom lettering pieces. She highly recommends by Gary Hustwit’s documentary film “Objectified.”

All images coutesy of Sarah Dayan.

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