It was an atmospheric morning in Los Angeles, when the Noun Project came across Rachel Berger's diary of animated icons, and went through her illustrations while the rain rarely poured outside. We wanted to learn more about her creative process and journey that's led her to where she is now, and to share her voice with our community of citizens and creators. We hope you find her story just as inspiring and empathetic, as we look at daily moments of life through the lens of her designs.
You began journaling at a young age, but the start of the Icon Diary began with a new job. Could you tell us a little more about your process or personal experiences that inspired you to continue creating icons for 100 days?
Every day, I tried to remember and record something about the day before. Sometimes those memories were of my own experience of events shared by many people, like election day. Others were much smaller and more personal, like falling off a bike or going to a meeting. Because this was a daily practice, it made it okay for the memories to be mundane. I didn't feel pressure to have a more exciting life. Instead, the challenge was in translating these memories into a distilled visual and verbal form.
What was your purpose or vision for the Icon Diary and has that changed throughout your process?
My purpose throughout has been to carve a little time out of the day to be creative and generative. When I finished the 100 icons, I decided that I wanted to animate each of them, so I gave myself another 100 days of creativity. To stick with marathon projects like this, you have to give yourself an assignment that feels like a treat, an activity that you're looking forward to each day.
How do you approach depicting more complicated or abstract concepts?
I make lots of little sketches. Sometimes I'll make a fairly complex illustration and then realize I can crop out three quarters of it and it will be better. In the case of the Icon Diary, I wasn't particularly worried about someone not getting one of the concepts. As long as I got it and was satisfied with it, that was enough.
Can you describe your earliest memory of when you first understood what an icon or symbol was visually speaking to you?
That's a tough one. I think icons and symbols speak to us and embed themselves in our brains long before our earliest memories. I remember in third grade, creating a class quilt. On my square, I stitched the letter R, for Rachel. And underneath it, I sewed an image of a hamburger, for my last name, which is Berger.
What icon would you like to see designed that you've never seen before?
Icons for people's names. Names mean something—Rachel means ewe—but those meanings are buried. Icons could surface those meanings.
Any plans for continuing the Icon Diary?
Not for now, but I'd love to see other people's icon diaries.
A piece of advice you'd share with your younger, lost self or other aspiring designers?
Don't be overly impressed with people who've mastered the style of the moment. Their work will look dated the soonest.
View more of Rachel's work: icondiary.com