Introducing Elizabeth Goodspeed, designer and creator of Casual Archivist. Learn about how she spends time curating and recovering "lost" images for her newsletter.
What does a typical morning look like for Elizabeth? How have your mornings changed since Covid?
I’ve always been resistant to routine (for better or worse), so every morning looks a little different for me. I’m not much of an early riser, so I tend to wake up between 9 and 10, and then walk the dog with my boyfriend, or hang back and make us both breakfast—and coffee! My morning routines pre- and post-Covid-19 haven’t been too different, as I transitioned from fulltime work at other studios to a fully independent design practice in late January, and have been able to set my own schedule since as a result! The main difference is probably the breakfasts we’re eating, as we get most of our food through a farm-share delivery now, which means we eat whatever we’ve ended up with an amusing excess of; right now, that’s about 15lbs of potatoes. As someone who used to forget breakfast, I will say that having some key morning markers like sitting down to eat a meal and drink coffee help me keep on track during an otherwise moorless time.
How are you releasing stress?!
It goes without saying that I am incredibly privileged to be in a field where I can do all my work from home, and don’t have to risk Covid-19 exposure to stay financially afloat. Unlike many people in the US right now whose primary sources of stress are very urgent issues like affording rent, I have continued to get enough work to stay afloat over the last few months—meaning that my main causes of stress are worrying about my at-risk family or friends getting sick, and about the short and long term effects of the pandemic on our country overall. I try to find little moments everyday where I focus on being present in my feelings or on finding something joyful. Sometimes that means slowing down on a walk to appreciate a beautiful flower, sometimes it means letting myself skip out on work all day to do a little painting project and have a few beers, but sometimes it also means letting myself get sad, or frustrated, or angry at the circumstance we’re in. I’m also trying to be thoughtful about how I choose to spend this time—not as in, “how do I maximize this time for capital gain / learn to code?”, but as in, “how can I use this forced pause to reconsider what I want for my future and what activities make me feel excited and fulfilled?”
How do you take your coffee?
I take my coffee like coffee ice cream. It’s a bit embarrassing, really—when I first started drinking coffee, I couldn’t stand it any other way, but I always thought I would grow out of it! I certainly use less sugar than I used to, but I’m a solid light-brown to tan drinker.
Tell us about your favorite mug!
My favorite mug (cup) is this little black and white patterned Mid-century Modern one that I found at my favorite annual flea market, Brimfield. It doesn’t have any maker’s marks on it so I have no clue of its origin, but it has the sweetest little foot, and is the perfect size for an afternoon coffee, i.e. my second cup of the day.
What does your concepting process look like when you start a new project?
I like to take a two-pronged approach of imagery plus text, or instinct plus analysis. On one side, I think about what visual elements feel intuitively right for a project, and usually pull together a moodboard (often relying on a lot of the archival images I’ve found via casual archivist) to help build out that aesthetic direction. On the other side, I do a lot of writing and research to help me develop a conceptual point of view for the brand, book, poster, etc., that will guide how the product will fit into a larger market or convey an important message. These two processes can happen in parallel or one after the other, and don’t always contribute equally to the final product—the research can shape the entire look of the piece, or the initial aesthetic impulses and sketches can reveal a larger conceptual idea that carries through the whole design visually.
What is the Casual Archivist?
Casual Archivist is a project I started almost five years ago, focused on recovering and researching “lost” imagery and graphic design ephemera. Its most recent iteration takes the form of a newsletter, where every two-ish weeks I share a collection of found images (whether that be scans from an out of print publication, a selection of 17th Century French wallpaper samples, or a series of matchbooks covers) and talk a little bit about their history and relevance to a contemporary audience. While many of my subscribers are designers themselves, I think it's information and imagery that can be inspiring to many different types of people. My mission is to help all of us rethink our assumptions about the past by exposing work that is often left out of the narrative—whether because of its country of origin, the identity of its creator, or its temporal nature. In addition to the newsletter, I also share some of this found imagery on an instagram tag and also run an open source spreadsheet with tips and links for finding your own archival imagery.
When did you first start archiving? What do you love about old images and designs?
I think I have always been a collector by nature. As a kid, I collected glass jars, giraffe figurines, funny newspaper cartoons, all sorts of things. But my interest in graphic design archiving in particular probably came out of a self-consciousness in my own design skills early on. I double majored in cognitive science and graphic design in college, and always felt like a bit of an interloper in my art school classes; looking at proven graphic design solutions created by designers past helped give me confidence in the decisions I was making myself. As I got deeper into studying art history, I also realized that so much amazing work had already been done (and subsequently lost) in the world—it felt almost conceited to believe I could do anything better! It’s hard to say what I love about old images, since part of the appeal is how different and unique each one is, but ultimately I appreciate seeing how so many different people worked under so many different constraints, and how visual trends have changed over time.
How can we sign up for your newsletter?
You can sign up at elizabethgoodspeed.com/newsletter!