There’s an unforgettable moment in the novel Tigerman by Nick Harkaway which, even over the course of several years, has been impossible for me to shake. The moment is this one: our protagonist, Sergeant Lester Ferris, is on the brink of finishing a gruelling renovation of his home and at one point in the novel he sits back and takes a moment to think about what success really is:
It looked like a sudden turn for the better because humans saw what was in front of them, didn’t look at the time spent getting to a certain point. This was not a day of success, it was the success of many days, the pay-off of effort.
I’ve been obsessed with that phrase, the success of many days, ever since. And I especially love the phrase whenever I think about typography and design. We hear of legendary typefaces that took a decade sitting on someone’s hard drive, stewing through the design process for years, or we hear about the way that type designers go to extraordinary bouts of concentration in order to make things just right.
A beautiful typeface, or a beautiful book, or a beautiful anything, isn’t a lucky accident. It’s the product of many hours, it’s the success of many days, and I like to keep that in mind whenever I find myself losing concentration.
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