Many have asked how I profit from being a typographer, and I’m always eager to tell them I do it for a loss.
I lost my voice as a child. I could hardly string words together due to a severe speech impediment. For years, I was underground, in the shadows, painting words in my head.
As a teenager, I was dyslexic. Though, there were no diagnosis pointing in that direction, but my behaviours displayed symptoms of dyslexia.
So each time I’m lost for words, I paint imaginary pictures. I spend more time to put words together; first in my head, then I speak. It’s slow and painful. When I try to speak fast, I become less articulate. It didn’t matter what language; either Yoruba or English.
Some childhood friends thought I was loquacious. Well, at some point, I adopted a style as a guise to hide my deficiency.
Because I had a lot going on in my head that had not been said, I took to sketching as a form of expression. I painted every word I wanted to say but didn’t come out right.
It was hard to be like other kids. Teachers shamed me for not being able to read or pronounce words properly. There was nothing impeccable about my speech. No, I wasn’t the eloquent type.
However, I managed to pass exams. In fact, I did excellently well, beyond imaginations. How? I could retain spoken words days after it’s been said. Thanks to those imaginary paintings.
As an adult, I know expressing my thoughts is important. So I avoid complicated words, and write as I speak. For heaven’s sake, English is meant to express and not a metric or a proof of intelligence.
Yes, I still find it hard to read fast. I pick words one after the other and fixate as I read. It takes weeks to finish a short romantic novel, no matter how intriguing. But when I read, I understand whatever message the writer aims to get across.
This difficulty comes with a gift to design words and make them look appealing. The impediment led to a profession I’m most proud of – one that puts smile on people’s faces as they read.
As a typographer, I look for the most effective way to make words readable and attractive. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, my job is basically to bring all the images in a word to the fore.
Now I work closely with copywriters to tell fascinating stories and paint them into images.
I love this job no matter how underrated it is within my country. It constantly reminds me of myself, a difficult past which I overcame through the power of words. And here I am sharing with you.
So why am I writing this? Well, because I just took a rear view at my life.
I know there are kids like me out there. They are being ridiculed in class because they find it hard to read words. Mummy thinks she’s dumb. Daddy thinks she’s just like her mother. So mummy scolds and forces multiple lesson teachers on her. “No play time dummy!” She says.
Look, if you have such a kid, stop trying to make her fit in. She has a lot going on upstairs — thoughts that can’t be expressed in minutes. She’s a thinker. You just need to figure out what’s going on in that thick, little skull.
Look at the brighter side. Give it time. She’s going through a lot of pressure already. I’ve been there. Of course it’s tough but what else helps reveal a gift if not tough times? And sometimes, we have to lose it to find ourselves.
Interestingly, having thought this through, I’ve come to the realization that the underrated world of words chose me.