Lessons from the Water Bowl: Dogs, Photography and Type

Posted on Nov 8, 2012

from the Labs

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and as professional photographers we could not agree more. With words, we find that the simpler the message, the better; yet as designers and overall creative people, we believe that the way that message is presented can be key to it striking a chord with the people you are trying to reach. Pairing a beautiful image with some powerful text has proven to be a subtle yet very striking way to engage someone. It has been done in many ways, many times but I find that there is never a good balance, they have great images, and wonderful words, but they don’t shine because of a poor choice of font, or placement or legibility; or maybe it’s the other way around, great words and design, and a not-so-great image.

Typography is the art or process of printing/working with type, the work of setting and arranging type in a way to make a word or message not only clear and legible, but beautiful.
I am, I’ll confess, a type-nerd. I love trying out new fonts to work with and if there is one talent I dearly wish I had, it would be that of hand-lettering.


Piecing together our monthly desktop wallpaper calendars (download them for free!), a project we later aptly called DeskType Wallpapers, really allowed me to play with words, different font styles and I gave myself an enjoyable puzzle to work on every month. I enjoyed the result so much that I decided to overlay some type on one of our images for our Photo Lab | Design Lab holiday email last year and this typography + photography combination has since become synonymous with our style. We now compose our photographs with type in mind, allowing for extra negative space, shooting at a wide open aperture to remove busy backgrounds and allow type to be more easily readable.

November’s DeskType Wallpaper. Download it by visiting our Design Lab Creative Studio Facebook page.

Our holiday newsletter cover from last year, the beginning of our signature photography + typography style.

These typography + photography pieces now illustrate every one of our email newsletters, they adorn every greeting card we send to our clients and friends, they help illustrate random thoughts or support important causes to us and have headlined many of our blog posts, in particular our series on canine behavior; every time we shared one of these pieces on the web, Facebook and Pinterest in particular, the image went viral and was shared numerous times. Most recently, we wrote and created a piece called The Promise, a personal project to express our joy and vows to our newly adopted dog Willow; to our amazement, that one garnered unbelievable attention, and resulted in calls and emails not only from people who had seen it online, but from notable names in the pet industry such as Bark Magazine, Dog is Good and P.L.A.Y. Pet, Lifestyle and You. The winter issue of Bark Magazine features three custom pieces we created for Kim Kavin’s article on fostering. We were brought in to photograph foster dogs for the article and create the type + photo pieces, writing to help tell the story and pinpoint some key messages in relation to the joys of fostering dogs.

Custom-made piece for Bark Magazine’s winter 2012 issue. “Why Foster?” by Kim Kavin

Somehow, what we were writing, creating and sharing in these pieces was striking a chord with people from all over. It gave me a wonderful sense of community to see that so many people shared our love and commitment to animals and that they enjoyed what we created enough to share it with their friends. That’s where Lessons from the Water Bowl comes in…

The Dogs Speak, I Write…
One of my favorite quotes by Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne is “Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”  This gave me an idea: what if someone not only listened, but took notes and shared them with the world?
Selfishly, it would a personal project to keep ourselves shooting for fun and for me to keep experimenting with type, but primarily, it would be a way to remind people of the many things we can learn from animals if we take the time to listen. Better yet, what if they had something beautiful, to remind them of this message?

So, we set out to create 12 pieces to begin with, gathering some of our best work and shooting for instances where we wanted something very specific. The result: a gorgeous calendar we are ridiculously proud of and one we have so been looking forward to sharing with everyone. It is here, it is ready and just in time to be hanging on your wall by January 1st. You can now purchase your calendar HERE.

Lessons from the Water Bowl 2013 calendar

January’s Lesson

May’s Lesson

August’s Lesson

The best part is, this calendar is only the beginning! This will be an ongoing series since dogs have endless things to say and teach, and we won’t stop at dogs; we have plans to include cats and any other animal willing to “sit down” with me for a chat. We hope you enjoy this series and that you keep sharing it with your loved ones.

What has your dog or cat taught you?
We’d love to hear your stories! Share them on our Facebook wall or via email and if your submission gets picked to become part of the series, we’ll send you a lovely print of your Lesson in its photography + typography format 🙂

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