Thursday, December 28, 2017

NaNoWriMotown 2016 Case Study


Buttons are treasured in this group - those who participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The NaNoWriMo challenge is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Every year, the Detroit region (NaNoWriMotown) comes together to participate in this writing challenge together.

Buttons are provided to participants when they win a word sprint, donate to the cause, want to have a keepsake for how many words they’ve written at the annual Midway Madness Event, and to celebrate their achievement for participating in or winning the challenge. Any amount of words written during the challenge are celebrated.

This year, we wanted to take it a step further to help foster the relationships in the community we have. Many of the participants in the NaNoWriMo challenge return again and again to the events. We wanted to have a way for participants to get to know one another better.


Every year there’s conversations about what kind of writer you are. Until now, there wasn’t a way for participants to identify with one writing style over another. With buttons being popular in the group, three button designs were made based on the NaNoWriMo headquarters definition of three different writing styles: Pantser, Planner, and Plantser (the combination).


I wanted to combine text and imagery so that the writing style could be easily recognized and yet there is still a fun element of the icon behind it.

I made an icon of jeans for the Pantser design as the challenge is informal. Writers identifying as a Pantser write by the seat of their pants. A plain, white background had the design looking incomplete so I put a lighter blue background behind the image to provide a more cohesive look.

Writers whom identify as Planners usually start with outlines so I created a notebook page with an outline on it. I choose an orange color to go with this design as orange is the complementary (opposite) color of blue. These complementary colors demonstrate the polar opposites between the two types of writing styles.

I brought the opacity down on both designs so that the imagery wouldn't distract from the text. In doing so, the orange color turned a nice shade of beige. Much like a mole skin notebook.

I combined both Pantser and Planner designs to make the Planster button. I put the pants on top of the notebook. Usually, Plansters will have an outline as a foundation for the writing project and then go wherever the story takes them.

Coloring the Plantser button was challenging. While combining blue and orange together makes brown, I didn’t want it to be too strong and muddy the text. Adding a little blue to the orange cooled the coloring compared to the Planner design. This allowed for three different colors for each design. The buttons contrasted well one from another so they could be told apart from across the room based on the color.

For the text, I wanted it to be simple so that the wearer can identify with the style of writing they use the most. I chose to use the font Hobo Std as the curved lines of the font worked well with the curve of the button. I wanted to provide a natural, organic feeling to the process of identifying your writing style. Previous buttons provided to participants usually used san serif fonts. I wanted to continue this tradition.

Rim text was added to commemorate the year the button was offered. A simple, san serif font was used so as to not distract from the other text or images.


The buttons were provided at a table at the annual Kick-Off Party. Those who couldn't attend the Kick-Off Party were provided with the button they desired at other events.

Now, participants have a badge that declares what kind of writer they are. In doing so, conversations were sparked and bonds were formed. Years after the buttons were made, they are still talked about. This button in particular filled a hole that wasn't addressed before - this is the first button that addresses identity of a writer as opposed to highlighting achievement.

Your turn

What project would you like to start to grow and foster community? Email me at and tell me about your project!