The anatomy of an inspirational message

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Everywhere I turn these days, be it on the street or on my social media accounts, I see hand-lettered messages in brush and ink telling me that “There’s not a hint of mediocrity in you” or to “Love your own wild.” Ugh. It’s like Oprah had sex with a hipster graphic designer and decided to spew their love-making all over the places I go to… on purpose. Vomit.

Exhibit A. Noticed in a shop in Rathdowne Village, North Carlton

Exhibit A. Noticed in a shop in Rathdowne Village, North Carlton

Don’t get me wrong. It is VERY NICE lettering, but like all things ubiquitous and pervasive, nice becomes nauseous. And only two things in life make me nauseous: 1) sitting on a tram backwards, and 2) over-used design trends that you see absolutely everywhere.

So as a form of (not-so) silent protest, I decided to deface Oprah’s love children by injecting a good dose of information design and exposing them for what they really are — a bunch of words strung together by the rules of grammar. Diagramming sentences, an obsession of mine since I was 12, is the lost art of pictorially representing the grammatical structure of a sentence. I remember my excitement when I first saw these systematic little drawings in a friend’s English notebook: they looked like root systems of plants growing sideways, sentences broken down visually into subject, predicate, direct object, prepositional phrases, noun clauses, correlative conjunctions… it was a beautiful kid-in-candy store moment.

Gertrude Stein, in her book, Lectures in America, says “I really do not know that anything has ever been more exciting than diagramming sentences.” I do. It’s diagramming hand-lettered inspirational messages.


*Typeface used: Verlag by Hoefler&Co Diagramming-1 Diagramming-2 Diagramming-3 Diagramming-4 Diagramming-5 Diagramming-6



  1. Reverse Baymax says

    My favorite inspirational message is “throw kindness around like confetti.”

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