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Handwritten is a place and space for pen and paper. We showcase things in handwriting, but also on handwriting. And so, you'll see dated letters and distant postcards alongside recent studies and typed stories. 

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Outside the Box • A Handwritten Review

Brett Rawson


I have my preferences and loyalties, but when it comes to certain moods or weather, the sirens of style can call like the crow's caw. Most often, this happens when I am rushing to a dinner party and have been tasked with "bring wine," a beverage I only know in passing. Pacing up and down the aisle in a panic, I curse my small wine-brain, and am left with no other option than to choose the bottle that speaks to me the most: meaning, the one with the best label, or name, or both for the win.

Though it plays an important role in my purchasing decisions, it is not something I had thought about at calm length. But some weeks back, I came across an object that contains enough energy for the imagination to implode: Outside the Box: Hand-Drawn Packaging from Around the World by New York-based designer, writer, and educator Gail Anderson. And for some unknown amount of time, I flipped through continents of creatives, as Anderson hand-picked forty individuals who sit in the front-seats of this growing industry of home-grown, artistic designs.

While this collection showcases a diverse portfolio of people, typography, and expressions, it simultaneously illuminates Anderson's own vast depth and eye for creative representation, as she weaves together interviews, images, brand origins, and routines of forty of our most prolific hand-artists today. Outside the Box peels back the label, uncovering what has gone into some of the most well-known brands. I'm not often one for book summaries, but this one leaves the door ajar:

In an age of slick, computer-generated type and Photoshopped perfection, hand-drawn packing is enjoying a global resurgence. As shorthand for something more authentic, homegrown, handmade, or crafted, hand-drawn packaging is found on everything from supermarket eggs to Chipotle drink cups. In this exhaustive and lavishly illustrated survey, organized by four types—DIY, art, craft, and artisanal—Gail Anderson pulls back the curtain on the working processes and inspirations of forty letterers, illustrators, and designers from all around the world through insightful interviews, process sketches, and her infectious love of the medium.

And since this site and platform is dedicated to process, let's promote the people responsible for publishing the beautiful pages: Princeton Architectural Press, who have eyes, hands, and hearts on this visual culture of ours. So, just what is inside Outside the Box? Below is a splash of the beauty in between these covers (click on the images to see them in full and then hover over the full-sized images to get a description of what they're about):

The next time you're scanning the aisle, either in eagerness or ease, take a look at the difference between those items handwritten and otherwise. You'll see an air of energy around the handwritten and hand-drawn designs. Sure, it's the inside that you're going for, but don't forget to enjoy the outside. 

Purchase Outside the Box here