Discover more from wentin’s newsletter
On Good Tools
Week 44 of Founding Typogram
Hi, I am wentin. I recently quit my job of seven years to build my start-up, Typogram, a logo design and editing tool for startup founders. We just launched our pre-order✨! Get a one brand lifetime license at a huge discount and edit your design forever.
Recently I have bought lots of art supplies. When I told my cofounder Hua about how much I personally spent on this recent hobby, she paused for a second and asked if I would be OK with upgrading a typeface design software that our company bought to the latest version. She added that considering I have spent about the equivalent amount on a hobby, she hopes it should be no problem.
I was puzzled and replied, of course, it would be OK, and it will always be OK to upgrade our toolset to the state of the art, regardless of my personal spending habits. I could be very stingy and never want to spend a dime buying art supplies for my leisure, but buying tools for our work? Always yes.
I consider myself frugal, as I would check coupon availabilities before making a purchase. Yesterday I bought a new domain (typograms.com), and I used a coupon to save $1 — still a win in my money-saving book. But as “a cheapskate” as I might be, I value time more than anything else. Tools are made to save time and make work more enjoyable. If a tool can save me an hour, that is at least $200 worth of value. It is worth more if it makes my time at work more enjoyable; I quit my high-paying corporate job to enjoy my work life more, after all.
There is more to my affection and appreciation for good tools.
My roommate in college chose Intro to Violin as an elective one semester, and she bought an inexpensive violin to do assignments on. One day she complained that she could never get the violin to sound nice, and she was unsure if it was because of her skill level or the quality of her violin. She let me give it a try. I bowed the violin for a split second and quit — it sounded so scratchy and harsh that I instantaneously lost all interest in learning violin.
I recently had a similar experience with watercolor pencils. Initially unsure how quickly my passion would fade, I bought a cheap pencil set. The first thing I did was to follow this tutorial and draw a color wheel, it should be easy enough but it came out surprisingly bad — the pencil mark didn’t dissolve when I rendered it with water. As you can see in the picture, my water strokes lifted minimal pigment compared to the video tutorial:
These two experiences changed a long-time dogma of mine: beginners should use lower-grade tools. Instead, I believe that beginners should use higher-grade tools if they can afford them. Tools define the experience that you have with an activity. Using watercolor as an example: lower-grade tools give me an uphill battle when I am already lacking skills and technique as a beginner. Scrolling through reviews of art supplies, I read that a good brush can make the reviewer “love watercolor again.” I would imagine similarly, a bad tool could ruin watercolor for a beginner by making them lose confidence. After that first encounter in college, I never picked up a violin again.
I realized this idea has always been with me the entire time. When I was working at Adobe, we were trying to make the highest-grade design tool for creative professionals. Now I am working on Typogram, a design tool for users with no prior design background. I don’t think Typogram should be a lower-grade tool, giving less control to the users because of their lack of design experience. I think Typogram should be the highest-grade design tool, allowing the highest level of granular control, even beyond what the market currently has to offer to design professionals.
One example of that is Typogram has four selection tools for selecting letters, shapes, icons, and gaps, respectively. Most other design apps offer only one selection tool, two at most.
In other tools, the only way to change the letter’s shape is by creating an outline of the text, irreversibly destructing the text’s integrity by converting it into a group of vector shapes. From that point on, users can’t select it as text and simply change its font size.
Typogram allows easy selection of shapes inside of the letter and easy manipulation of these shapes, while still maintaining the parent letter as a letter! This allows users to easily select the text and change color or font size after altering the letter’s shapes:
To finish off my story from earlier, my college roommate did give me an update later that semester: the violin teacher happened to pick up her violin to give a demonstration during an office hour, and it sounded so much better, even though it was indeed a poor quality violin — said so by the violin teacher. Hua, who is a seasoned painter, touched up a poor watercolor painting of mine using that cheap watercolor pencil set, and it came out nicely:
Pro will always be pro; they have the skills to make even a poor quality tool work wonders. On the other hand, it is in my opinion that beginners need to be given the best tools to help them fall in love with a newfound activity, be it art making or logo design.
See you next week! If you have friends who are interested in founding startups, please consider sharing my newsletter with them!
Thanks for reading wentin’s newsletter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.