No paper allowed

The challenge is to take the word ‘fragile’ and present it typographically. But you may not write, draw, paint or print your work or use a computer.

When researching typography I looked at Stephan Sagmeister, who creates typography in creative unique ways. Sagmeister uses type to express emotion, a famous example is the lecture poster for AIGIA Detroit in which he has the type scratched onto his stomach. This represented the pain and stress that he experiences when working on a project. I hoped to create this effect with my typography. The word ‘fragile’ in my project represents illnesses that all people experience due to vulnerability. In this case, my project refers to my experiences with mental health. When reading an interview with Sagmeister, it said that his philosophy was to ‘touch the heart of the viewer’. It is this empathy that I was trying to recreate.

Stephan Sagmeister

When I was starting a spider diagram for topics to base this typography project, I found my chosen word “fragile” difficult to find original inspiration from. The obvious ideas where eggs or glass, but after discussing with the group I felt I needed to dig deeper into what the word means. Synonyms of fragile include; easily broken, vulnerable, feeble, and weak.  This leads me to focus on the idea of how defenseless and easily broken children are, also how flimsy relationships can be. I took photographs of my parent’s hands in the shape of the letters of fragile. I felt this didn’t explain the message enough so I also did a series of letters in which the last three letters where only my Fathers hand. After a break-up, people can be left broken and insecure. However, I decided to take this further and demonstrate how fragile people are. Illness effects all people and demonstrates how easily broken the human body and mind can become. I made the word “fragile” out of fluoxetine (antidepressants) to show how easily anyone can break. However, I did not like this idea as it suggests that taking medication to function makes you weak, this is not my view.



I decided to make this project about my personal experience with fragility. I chose to make the word out of medical items in the house. I chose a plain white background as I thought it would create a clinical, cold atmosphere. Despite this, I felt the background was unsuccessful, so I put health-related letters that I have received in the background.

On reflection of the project, I believe this fulfills the brief. It shows how fragile I used to be and things I feel powerless about and have no control over. The possibility of illness or relapse is terrifying and shows how fragile people are in terms of physical or mental health. From this project, I have learned that I can use objects creatively to make typography rather than generating text on the computer. I now understand that there are creative ways to make typography that can be even more effective than generic type. I hope in the future to use this technique to create an interesting piece of graphic design.

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