Veronica Ettedgui of Caracas, Venezuela, conceived and designed the book Things I LOVE, a collection of her 80 favorite photo-typography compositions born out of LOVE: A Typography Challenge, plus 80 short love stories written by Toti Vollmer. Her goal, she told me, is for this book to help people rediscover “the joy we get from the smallest things, be it ice cream, the beach, coffee, traveling, bikes, spices, street art, music and many more …” The conceit is simple: She spells the word LOVE with bits and pieces of each. After the past year we must exalt in wherever love can be found. Below she talks more about the project.
What inspired you to create this book?
Publishing Things I LOVE is the most recent step on my ongoing LOVE project. I’ve always been passionate about typography and photography. As a graphic designer and illustrator I confess that oftentimes I spend more time choosing the right font than developing a new concept. And photography has been a hobby for ages. Three years ago I found myself focusing my lens on finding random letters in random places, and soon I decided I would like to spell the word LOVE not with random stuff, but with my favorite things. This is how LOVE: A Typography Challenge was born.
I started sharing those compositions in social media and the response was so nice! People started liking and sharing LOVEs. They became a conversation piece among strangers! Soon after, opportunity knocked at my door and I was lucky to have three art shows between 2015 and 2016 in Miami, FL, and Caracas, Venezuela. In January 2016 Communication Arts chose LOVE: A Typography Challenge for their Typography Annual Award of Excellence, and that’s when I started taking this project seriously. It’s been a fantastic couple of years, can’t complain!
So when a few friends suggested that I should make a book to collect all those LOVEs spread in social media, I liked the idea. And to round the project up, I invited my friend Toti Vollmer to write short, short stories inspired by each LOVE.
How did you narrow down the four items per subject?
I started spelling short words: joy, amor, hola, peace, risa, sex … but they lacked something. Of course Robert Indiana’s work is part of our collective culture and I must have made a link somewhere, but the other main credit goes to Instagram. I wanted to use that platform. Their mandatory square format made me spell in squares. LOVE met all my criteria: 4-letter short, 4-letter powerful, relatable, and allowed me to explore my passions. So now I had a theme.
As to how I select each of the items, I first choose a topic, obsess over it and take thousands upon thousands of pictures trying to find the perfect angle. At this point form takes charge: Each letter has to be easily read. Some come easier than others. Last year’s LOVE Fall ended up being this year’s because the “L” was elusive. Others just pour.
How do you define love?
This is a tough question if you’re not a poet. Love lures you in. Love is passion and beauty and peace combined. It is that chemistry that freezes you, that makes you feel you want to feel like that forever. For me love is the opposite of war (instead of peace). And LOVE, in caps, is my armor to deal with in an every-day reality as hostile as Venezuela’s, my home.
How do you define love of design (or designed objects)?
Making something useful and beautiful is an exquisite art. Creativity amazes me, takes my breath away, as does beauty, typography, and color. These are the characteristics of design that most spark my interest. And I look and find them everywhere, from an Eames chair to classic art to a menu in a restaurant to a pair of Nike shoes. I guess design is my profession and it is also my passion.
This is a very optimistic book. What makes you so optimistic?
I live in Caracas, Venezuela, so optimism isn’t found around the corner. There are more violent deaths in my country in one year than in Iraq, and we are not officially at war. So there seems to be more reasons to be depressed than to celebrate beauty and love around here. On the other hand, I am not a natural-born optimist.
But for some reason, LOVE: A Typography Challenge, a project that started as a graphic design, typographic and aesthetic exercise, took me through a journey of noticing and appreciating everyday things in a new light. Surprisingly, it has opened an unending menu of things I enjoy that truly caught me off guard. This new awareness has made me become a more appreciative and grateful person, and maybe that is what translates as optimism in this book.
What do you want the audience to take away?
Joy. I want them to relish with a book that offers cool graphic design, photography, typography and quirky love stories, with the underlying invitation to enjoy the little things.
When I counted 100 LOVEs I couldn’t believe myself. But what is more amazing to me is the unending list of LOVEs waiting for their turn. Who would have thought I liked/loved/enjoyed so many things? Not me, for sure. We can decide to see the world through the lens of failure or through that of possibility. And I was fortunate to allow the latter to invade my work. So, if I can inspire my audience to pay attention to the details, to stop and enjoy the small things in life, I would be very flattered.
About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →