The Design Game of Timothy Goodman

It’s about approaching this whole thing as a practice, not as a profession.”
Images courtesy of Timothy Goodman.

Images courtesy of Timothy Goodman.

In today’s digital world there is a range of different types of graphic designers leading very different occupational paths. But I believe you can simplify designers into two categories: those who work for brands and those who get brands to work for them.

Timothy Goodman is a prime example of the latter. A golden boy of the New York design scene, Goodman’s hand-drawn typography has given brands like Airbnb, J. Crew, Sharpie, and Ford loads of attention. And his personal life is also in the limelight40 Days of Dating, his viral romantic experiment with Jessica Walsh, has practically turned him into a household name. Goodman is the type of artist that knows what he wants, does what it takes to get it, and then quickly outgrows it.

After wrapping up his degree at the School of Visual Arts, Goodman mastered book design at Simon & Schuster. Designing dust jackets might not have been his favorite artistic task, but this type of creative and illustrative work gave him the spirit of an independent artist that some designers never achieve. “What I learned the most from my year as a book jacket designer was the importance of having authorship,” said Goodman. “Because I was fresh out of school, I really liked having my name on an artifact. It made me feel a sense of identity in a way, and it allowed me to keep pursuing different visual styles. And I could tell my mom to go buy the book at Barnes & Noble. In the end, it’s all about mom.”

Leaving the books behind and taking his typography skills with him, Goodman moved on to branding work at Collins and then landed an in-house gig at Apple, all within a few years. These agencies helped launched his career, but his drive consistently outran the work.“I wanted to go off and create more work that would inspire others. I want to bend and twist and shake and squeeze the most out of life and my work without getting too caught up in the end game or the failures along the way.”

Today, Goodman runs his own studio, producing Sharpie workshops, beautifying magazine covers, throwing up murals, and conducting social experiments. “I love working on installations and murals for the sheer scale and audacity of it. It’s challenging, and you have to think about it in many different dimensions,” said Goodman. “Other than that, the personal projects I do are most fun. My ‘Memories of a Girl I Never Knew’ series is one of the longest and most rewarding things I’ve probably worked on.”

Goodman’s success could be owed to his talent and drive, but he might not have come this far without his willingness to wear his heart on his sleeve (or social media). 40 Days of Dating not only gave him national attention, it also gave him copious amounts of inspiration. “40 Days has torn down a wall I’m no longer interested in having up as a designer. So many of our own experiences and fears are the same as a lot of people’s, and I want to continue to connect to people and start a dialogue through my work. I’ve also been writing a lot about my personal life through a series I call 'Memories of a Girl I Never Knew. I don’t think I would be sharing this stuff with such an ease if it wasn’t for 40 Days. It’s given me a capacity for vulnerability. And with all vulnerability comes the risk of failure.”

Get up close and personal with Timothy Goodman at the WeMake Celebrates conference on October 2 at The Armory. He’ll be joining us as a keynote speaker, sharing his practice and his future projects. Don’t miss this special moment between Goodman and the Portland design community! Click here to get your tickets.