TYPOGRAPHY SKILLS / Happiness Project / Term 3, Week 6

The word “happy” is generally defined as “feeling or showing pleasure, pleased” (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary 7th Edition, 2006). “Happiness” would simply be the noun to it; the feeling of happy, the feeling of being pleased. Simple enough, right? But somehow, when asked to define our happiness, most often than not we would struggle to find a concrete answer to the question.

As a kid, I remember that my mother would teach me the principles of Chinese lifestyle and strings of Chinese proverbs that come with it. She’d emphasise how happiness comes from being healthy and that with a healthy body comes greater fortune, which is the reason why one should not compromise on their diet and health in favor of saving money. Upon searching Chinese sayings about health and happiness, I did find a quote. It is, however, not Chinese, which means that various races agree on this principle of how health and happiness relate to each other.


The foundation of success in life is good health: that is the substratum fortune; it is also the basis of happiness. A person cannot accumulate a fortune very well when he is sick.

P. T. Barnum

However, is it really the case? Does one’s health guarantee their happiness in the short or long run? Would someone be happy if they’re healthy, but they live to do something that they dislike? Should happiness be based with being healthy and accumulating fortune?

I think that a lot of people discern happiness very differently. I find that happiness is not all that hard to find, but people would often see happiness less strongly than its opposite. Being grateful on good things that happened in your life (or let’s say, in a week) is more temporary than being resentful about the awful bits that happened in the same span of time. I find it difficult to recall what things that make me happy, even when I’m feeling apathetic and not particularly mad about anything. Sometimes we just don’t remember what make us happy, but when it happens we’d know instantly that it is happiness.

Last week we did a quick survey around the campus and had people we encountered to write what makes them happy, or how they define happiness. The answers we have are pretty various, from as simple as “payday”, “no more assignments” or “eating Grandma’s food” to religious answers, to abstract answer that leaves the question with an open end. I think the similarity between all answers is that they all feel good, proud, pleased, loved when they’re happy. “Happiness is shopping” because shopping items that would make you look good would in turn make you feel good about yourself, as well as feeling good about receiving praise from others. One defines happiness as “anak-anak yang taat agama, anak-anak sekolah lancar”; adults and parents would feel happy if their children have smooth academic record because they need not to worry, and they can be proud of it. Religion is a bit more subjective, but there are many parents who’d be pleased, proud and at ease when they see their children obeying the laws and principles of their Religions. “Payday” obviously makes people feel great because it is like a reward of their hardwork, or something that they deserved being given to them, added with the pleasure of knowing that they can spend the money on something they like.

For me, happiness is about having a sense of security. Yes, receiving money would make me very joyous, but I find that kind of happiness rather temporary. I think fact that payday makes people happy proves that people needs a sense of security in their life, knowing that “omg I am still getting paid for what I do, I’m not going to live on the streets soon!”. Being happy about getting paid would be washed away soon enough by being pissed at your boss, or the work that you have to do. But knowing that you’re getting paid and it’s not going change anytime soon makes you feel secure, that you still have money to pay for your and your family’s needs. The strings of pride, relief and feeling of being rewarded are just additional factors for happiness, but not the long-term reason for it. Knowing that you’re loved, that you have somewhere to belong, somewhere and someone to go back to at the end of the day no matter how badly you screwed up provides an ultimate sense of security, relief and happiness. To know what you want to do in life, to know that this is the best life you could ever have (despite greater and better living out there) and be contented by it. To know that you don’t have to live without looking good, but others wouldn’t care nor judge so much as to lift their eyebrows. To know that you don’t have to live to please others, but also knowing that others are happy because of you. To know that the things that you do would be helpful to many others. Not having to worry about living a lousy future without job and family.

Maybe, life would be a lot happier for people if they know that they have control over it and not having to worry about dying or going bankrupt or being dumped by their partner.

I think all of those are happiness to me, since I am still such a youth angsting over the many possibilities of life and wish to just settle, thinking of how happy and easier life would be that way. Of course, people see happiness in different lights; some may find a sense of insecurity thrilling instead and enjoy the various things that life throw at them, living their life as they follow the current of life and being happy about all the randomness and crazy bouts of roller-coaster fun.

Loved, secure and still living.

In this assignment, we are tasked to define our own happiness and how to spread it out to others (target audiences are university student from age 17-21) in forms of poster, sticker, t-shirt and iPhone application interface design.

As a quick survey in knowing what others think about happiness, the whole batch went and asked people around the campus to write down what makes them happy / how they define happiness.

Our research includes researching on 25 typographically inspiring artworks on happiness (from Meggs History of Graphic Design book) and 25 other artwork. That, plus at least one hundred works from a contemporary artist that inspires/portrays/incites happiness in their works.

(to be continued)

(images will be scanned for better quality)





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