Word of the Day

You’ll Never Want to Use a Normal Dictionary Again!

London-based graphic-designer and animator Mick Watson, aka Smart Giant, stumbled upon a unique way to improve his daughter’s vocabulary: by immortalising underused and interesting words in glorious graphical renderings, in his Dictionary series.

“I was thinking about my 9-year-old daughter’s expanding vocabulary and wondered if I made some posters with a visual hook and put them up around the house whether she’d pick them up,” he tells us. “She was being a contrarian at the time so I started there! I wrote down all my favourite underused words, asked friends for any interesting words they knew and did more formal research in archaic words.”

The combination of vivid colours and simple iconography certainly make this rather verbose lexicon readily accessible for kids, and grownups can pretend they already know what they mean whilst enjoying the pretty pictures. If only we had these in schools we might be looking at a new generation of Shakespeares and Wordsworths!

We spoke to Mick about this most articulate of artwork.

The Plus: When did you start the project? How many do you want to create in total?
Mick Watson:
I did the first one last summer and it’s something I come back to in between freelance jobs. I’m working through a backlog of words for each letter of the alphabet for something I can’t really talk about right now!

TP: How do you select the words?
I have an ever growing list of words. I like Will Self and his books are full of weird and wonderful ones. Most of the ones so far are words that I like or use or I think can have a strong visual hook – as initially the image was meant to efficiently break down the word and make it easier to remember.

TP: What’s your favourite word so far?
I think Scintilla is my favourite so far although Contrarian is the word I use the most.

TP: Are you trying to keep the design look minimal?
I’m not adhering the any especially strict minimalist design philosophy, but I do want it to be as efficient as possible. I just want the image to be clear and easy to remember so it connects to the word in the viewer’s mind without enveloping it as just a pretty image. I think that’s why they often use as few marks as possible. In saying that, occasionally with words like Apricity the image needs to be more striking and bolder.

TP: What next? Anything exciting you’d like to share with us?
Apart from freelance graphic and motion design work and the as yet secret project connected with these prints I’m making a lot of images with shadows in them at the moment. So shadows, lots of shadows.

Go to Mick’s online shop if you want to buy his prints.