Things Shouldn’t Always Work

Last night as I brushed my teeth, I had a great idea for a new logo for SETT– maybe I could contort the ends of the S in such that the negative space would create two speech bubbles, I thought. I had just shut my computer down for the night, so I had to wait until today to try it.

My experience working with the intimate bits of typefaces consists of one three hour frenzy about seven years ago when I watched the movie Helvetica and was inspired to make a rival typeface called Tyvetica. It took me the entire three hours to make the H, and it looked like the kind of font a kidnapper might use for a ransom note.

Not having learned from that fiasco, I whipped out the stylus on my Galaxy Note II and started sketching out what the new logo S might look like. Each time I drew it I would create a new layer on top of the old one, fade out the old one, and then retrace, making changes. After ten revisions or so, the S didn’t exactly look good, but it was clear that it was possible to do.

I transferred the image over to my computer and used Inkscape, a vector drawing program, to trace it out in smooth lines. The result could best be described as “gloppy”. I spent hours working the curves of this one letter, and just never got it to look right.

I finally gave up on that, searched for half an hour for a font with an S that I could modify, eventually found that, and again went to work, just trying to extend the tips of the S. The result made the S look way too different from the ETT.

And that’s pretty much how I spent my day. All together I spent about six hours trying to make a logo, and it didn’t work. This was frustrating because it wasn’t like there wasn’t any other way I could spend my day. I could have built a new SETT feature, hunted down some bugs, written blog posts, or just sat at Samovar drinking tea.

I then took a nap, woke up, and figured I’d better at least write my daily blog post so that I can feel like something was actually produced today.

As I thought about it, though, while straining to come up with a topic for a blog post, I realized that I don’t need consolation for days like today. In fact, I should be happy that they exist. It’s important to fail, not so much because of the failure itself, but because it’s an indicator that you’re pushing yourself.

Back when I was into pickup, I was very proud that no girl had ever rejected me when I kissed her. There was one close call where a girl turned her head, but then a couple hours later proactively kissed me, so I didn’t count that as a black mark on my record.

I used to think that this was a good thing– that it represented my infallibility as a pickup artist. Actually, though, it was a side effect of timidity. If I wasn’t one thousand percent sure a girl wanted to kiss me, I’d chicken out and not go for it. Sure, it saved my ego a few bruises, but what of the lost upside? How many girls did I want to make out with, who also wanted to make out with me, but nothing happened because I was scared?

That’s true of work, too. If you never spend an entire day working on something and just completely fail at it, maybe your sights are set too low. You can be spared days like today, but you miss out on days where you could have done better work than you thought possible. Making that trade is your own choice, but it prohibits you from reaching your full potential.


Image at the top is my final hand-sketched S. Ironically, after writing this post I got the logo to work. Not perfectly, but good enough to use.

Apologies (or you’re welcome, depending on how you look at it) to those who got this by email before it was posted. I hit post instead of AutoQueue, and tried to delete it before it got emailed. SETT’s too fast!


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