What’s in a Word?



This week we had to choose a word and create it in Illustrator. The word has to visually represent itself. For example, the word ‘stretch’ could be s t r e t c h e d out. This was the toughest project for me so far. Here’s what I came up with!


I live in Vermont and I love rustic design. I knew I didn’t want to create anything “groovy” or “shiny” or “hairy.” I looked around my office and just thought, why don’t I make a wooden texture? Wood is made up of all kinds of colors and textures, but this was my first time ever making something like this, so I figured I would just give it a shot and see what happens!


I knew that for this project, I couldn’t use any serif or script fonts. I would need a dense, bold and interesting font to work with. The book Graphic Design Solutions explained that there’s actually a classification for fonts that aren’t used everyday, called display. I scrolled through some fonts and chose a font called Nomad. I thought it looked kind of rough around the edges, reminding me of the texture of wood. I tried to imagine if someone carved or chiseled letters out of wood into little pieces, what would it look like? This seemed like a good place to start.

Nomad font

Besides the font choice, I didn’t feel that the word needed to be spaced out, enlarged, or warped in any other way. I think the simplicity of the texture and rough edges spoke for itself. Sometimes less is more!

I followed a tutorial to help me create the lettering into 3D letters and apply a wooden-like texture to the top. I don’t think the tutorial was up to date and it was very hard to follow. I ended up using some of the tutorial’s advice and making up my own way. I’ve only ever used Adobe Illustrator a few times, so this was very challenging for me to navigate. I found myself getting frustrated, but I persisted!


The texture and 3D lettering was there, but the word still felt flat. Why? Lighting! There is no shadowing or light direction. I created some gradients and layered on top of the word to appear as if there was light coming from the left. I think I was successful.


Final Product

I’m not 100% pleased with the final product, but I think I just need some more practice. I think for my first time though, it came out pretty good!

2 responses to “What’s in a Word?”

  1. Definitely going to follow your blog!


  2. Jacklyn,

    I think this is a great design! It definitely is creative and I think you achieved what you were trying to convey. The wood-like texture on the text not only emphasizes the meaning of the word, but shows us. I also really like your use of shadowing and lighting. I think that really helps give the word some depth instead of being flat like you mentioned. I think the shadowing and lighting also helps make it appear more wood-like. What I mean by this is the progress wood word seems a little too light for actual wood, so when you added in the shading an adjusted the lightning, it gave the word a more realistic look. I think this is a very creative idea and for your first time doing this it is a great final outcome!


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