Communication is an art—but you don’t always need volumes of prose to master it. Sometimes, short quotes, mottos, slogans and sayings manage to build bridges across continents and generations. Sometimes less is simply more—they connect people through the wisdom inherent in their simplicity. Through papyrus rolls, word of mouth and internet memes, these nuggets of wisdom have been absorbed into our collective consciousness.

But what gives these winged words their flight? How do they manage to land as motivational slogans on posters, mugs and cushions? We selected five of our most popular typography designs and followed them through space and time. Learn why they move the world and find your very own personal mantra.

1. “Do what you love.”

It’s said that more than 2,500 years ago, Confucius first uttered the words: “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” This ancient version of “Do what you love” sounds almost too good to be true these days, given the complexities of the job market in the modern world. But the things that make us happy at work can take on a variety of forms—whether it’s creativity, independence, the feeling of creating something with your own (proverbial) hands, or helping others. And with each new year comes a new start. So what better time to pursue your dreams and bring those pipeline projects to life. Give yourself a daily nudge in the right direction with a motivating personal planner.


2. “But first, coffee.”

When coffee arrived in Europe in the 17th century, it quickly became the drink of the Age of Enlightenment. Unlike intoxicating liquors, coffee acted as a stimulant, keeping the heads of philosophers and thinkers clear as day. A morning cuppa with bread even replaced the traditional breakfast of beer soup.

The roots of the “But first, coffee” meme can be traced back to Dostoyevsky's 1880 classic “The Brothers Karamazov”, in which Mme. Chochlakowa exclaims: “Oh, great God! Why are we sitting like this, first of all—coffee, Julija! Glafira! Coffee!” Fast-forward to 2018 and we still need a strong sip of motivation and cup of ambition every now and then. Tidying your desk? Doing your tax returns? Saving the world? All well and good. But first: coffee.


3. “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

This motivational slogan became famous through a speech made by Apple founder Steve Jobs, which he gave to Stanford graduates in 2005. Among other things, he spoke about his decision to drop out of college, instead taking a calligraphy course—something he never regretted. Jobs called on graduates to listen less to the opinions of others and more to their own intuition.

He concluded his speech with the words “Stay hungry, stay foolish”, a quote from Stewart Brand's cult publication the Whole Earth Catalog, which Jobs called the Bible of his generation. So listen to your gut feeling with motivational statement cushions.


4. “Never stop exploring.”

Travelling makes you happy. Fact. But the evidence isn’t just limited to popular proverbs. Scientific studies have also confirmed this. Daily worries, such as doing the washing or paying the bills, simply dissolve, making a day on holiday much more relaxing than one spent at home on the sofa. In distant lands, we learn to cope with unexpected situations beyond our daily lives.

And, at the end of each day, when you fall into your hotel bed (or tent) with sandy feet, legs ravaged by mosquitoes, and beaming eyes, you’ll never want to forget that feeling ever again. Our wanderlusty notebooks are not only perfect as a travel diary, but also as a friendly reminder to refill your vitamin-sea reserves.


5. “Easy like Sunday morning.”

The song of the same name was originally written in 1977 by Lionel Richie for his band Commodores. Faith No More later covered it in 1992 and Sky Ferreira in 2017. The now 40-year-old tune describes the relieving feeling that comes after the end of a testing relationship. The protagonist feels “easy like a Sunday morning”.

However the message also extends into other areas of our lives. It inspires you to free yourself from social expectations and do what you really want to do. In short: to follow your heart. Even if that means spending the day in bed. Surrounded by cosy cushions, inspiring words, a pot of coffee and a good conscience.

Motivation for everyone

Text: Valeria Sambale

Translation: Nicholas Potter