There’s a letter-making party going on at the @36daysoftype Instagram feed. We’re a bit fashionably late—the party actually started last April, when Barcelona-based graphic designers Rafa Goicoechea and Nina Sans first decided to challenge themselves and a few colleagues to create one letter each day and post them on their feed. “The main inspiration for the project was our own experience in setting daily personal design challenges, trying to experiment with new things—things you can’t do while working on for clients or in a daily job.”
After noticing that more and more people were using Instagram as more than just a visual diary, but as a platform for displaying their creative experiments, Goicoechea and Sans decided to open up their personal letter-a-day challenge to the public. Their proposition: “36 days of restless creativity, in which participants are challenged to design a letter or number for each day, resulting in an overall view about the ability to represent the same sign from different perspectives. A project that aims to create a space for creation around typography and its endless graphic possibilities.”
It went viral. “Initially, we thought we’d start with a small group of participants and see what could happen. We were very surprised to see people getting involved without being asked directly.” The inaugural 36 days were such a success that Goicoechea and Sans decided to do it again this spring. Theres still time to join in; number 9, the last character, will run on May 12.
The project is open to everyone, you just need to tag your Instagram image with #36daysoftype and the daily letter hashtag. “We use those hashtags to browse through all the daily entries and curate a selection that’s published on the same day on our Instagram feed and our Facebook page.” Goicoechea and Sans also invite a “special guest” artist to submit an entry to kick off the new letter each day.
The submissions lean more towards illustration than type design or lettering, which Goicoechea and Sans speculate might be more difficult for most people. “Illustration does have more presence in the daily entries, maybe it’s because there are more illustrators or fine artists than pure typographers taking part. But there’s also a lot of 3D experimentation, photography, and some lettering and typography. We’re realizing that people tend to overcomplicate things and twist the forms and concepts for each letter.”
And as you might expect from any social media-based project, it’s most popular with students and young, emerging designers, like Ana Melo (@amalteiaa), who created this charming animal alphabet. An illustration and animation student at ESAD Matosinhos in Portugal, Melo heard about #36daysoftype from an instructor a few weeks ago and found it exciting. “I love illustration, so it’s always interesting to participate in this kind of project. Going to bed thinking about what I’m going to draw the next day is amazing. It’s also cool to check other people’s work and know that other people check my work, too.” She looks forward to animating her letter creatures later on.
What’s the plan for this year’s crop? “After last year’s challenge ended, we had nearly 2,000 entries chosen from about 15,000 submissions. We wanted to make something with it beyond choosing one submission per character, something more representative. Making a printed publication and an exhibition was on our mind all the time, but the lack of resources and time played against us. Now we think we must do something with all the work that people have made for #36daysoftype because we feel in debt to all the people from the past edition. So, after this year’s challenge comes to an end, we’ll put our efforts into making [an exhibition] happen and look for sponsors or create a crowdfunding event. It’s all very new for us, but we feel we can’t leave all this work only on Instagram.”