Letters in Nature

As creatives, our eyes are trained to notice things out in the world that most people take for granted or just don't see. Today I want to share a story about a tree that ended up taking me across the world.

Last spring I was up in Connecticut visiting my grandfather. We were walking on our way to an ice cream shop and something caught my eye.

Before my eyes was this beautiful tree.

All of my type nerd senses were tingling all at once. How could this letter O occur so perfectly in nature? Had anyone noticed this before or was I the first one?

Without wasting any time, I snapped a photo and we were on our way.

Fast forward a year later.

Lettering artist Gemma O'brien starts a competition called #TakeMeToTypo15. She was giving away a ticket to go to the TYPO Conference in Berlin to the person who shares the coolest letterform. The constraints were that you had to pair the letter with an adjective (ex: Happy M, Angry X) and post it with the contest hashtag.

I don't usually enter design contests because many of them are not free and require a lot of "spec work" work to enter. This one was pretty simple so I went ahead and entered my "Organic O" into the contest. Below are the finalists from the competition.



A few weeks later I received an email from Gemma saying that my letter was one of the two winners!

I was so exited when I got this news, but also a little confused. All of the other finalists had made such beautiful letterforms using various tools and techniques. Not to mention, the judges for the contest were some of my favorite designers. Why did my letter O deserve to win? It was just a photograph of a tree that I took on my iPhone.

Context is Everything

In the context of this competition, my letter O stood out while most people created their letters in more traditional ways. Thinking further, I remembered that everything we make is somehow derived from nature, including typography. Most of the most beautiful things in this world are naturally occurring, not man-made. 

So that's the story of how taking a photo of a tree sent me to Berlin. I'm looking forward to sharing the value from my trip with all of you next week right here, on my blog. Until then, keep those eyes open!

Eric Friedensohn