Obvious State


In 2014, my husband Evan and I cofounded Obvious State–a creative studio and literary brand. I am the Creative Director and I also run our Instagram account.

We’re inspired by provocative language that has stood the test of time, poetry that captures the beauty of the human experience, and philosophy that drives us to examine and re-examine.

We aim to create art and thoughtfully designed gifts that prompt conversations and bring aesthetic joy to everyday objects.

Visit our site.



 “Nothing in this world is harder than speaking the truth, nothing easier than flattery.” - Dostoevsky, “Crime and Punishment  "Beauty is truth, truth beauty” - John Keats || We love a good literary controversy, and these five words from “An Ode on a Grecian Urn” invite it. What do you think Keats meant with “beauty is truth, truth beauty?” Is it an equation? How is beauty defined? And by truth does he mean intellectual? Moral?  To say we were disappointed to discover that our favorite Flatiron shop—a lovely trio of books, coffee and flowers—has closed is an understatement. Whenever we were in the neighborhood, we stopped by to grab a cup of @tobysbrooklyn , a book @strandbooks and something pretty @putnamflowers , but on Saturday discovered a closed sign. We hope it’s temporary and that they’ll be back better than ever, but we fear it’s yet another disappearing New York story.  “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” || Project 52, Week 7: Gertrude Stein. As Valentine’s Day approaches, we brace ourselves for the onslaught of romantic symbolism: Chocolates, candlelit dinners, red hearts pierced by Cupid’s bow, and of course the mother of all symbols: roses. The rose, rich with meaning and cultural weight, has become somewhat of a polarizing object, especially this time of year. One either looks forward to receiving a dozen roses and sees it as a grand romantic gesture, or gets hives at the prospect of receiving a handful of cliches, and hunkers down until February 15th when the dopey sentimentality dwindles. Either way, it’s not the actual rose we are responding to. Gertrude Stein saw the way that this kind of symbolic baggage tended to weigh down literature and the artistic process, locking the writer into certain choices dictated by the stifling stranglehold of cultural meaning. In an attempt to reclaim the word’s concrete truth and the actual objects they symbolize, she came up with the mantra-like phrase “rose is a rose is a rose” and repeated it in her work. We love the way it forces you to say the word over and over until it becomes almost strange, stripped bare to a series of sounds. In this illustration, the repeated word rose transforms into an image of a rose using the same ligatures of the original type - a nod to the mercurial nature of words as symbols. Sometimes a rose is a rose. It is what it is.  Cat burgler ⤴  I Kant even. I mean I can’t even. I mean WE CAN’T EVEN believe that you amazing human beings helped us bring SHE to life in just under 24 hours. We’re stunned. We’re humbled. We’re PSYCHED! Thank you again for all of your shares, words of encouragement and general badassery! Sincerely, @nicholerobertson @evanrobertson || Campaign details are on the previous post and at the link in our bio.  “I resolved never to be conquered.” - Harriet Jacobs. || It goes without saying that Harriet Jacobs was an extraordinary human being. From an illiterate slave to accomplished writer and integral part of the abolitionist movement, her contributions are innumerable. With this illustration, we tried to capture at once her indomitable spirit and the insurmountable odds she faced, which she eventually overcame. Here, she faces an an impassable mountain range, and she both confronts it and overcomes it as the shape of her body rises above the mountain range into the stars (now a pattern on her skirt). We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the first day of Black History Month and hope her words serve as a reminder that nothing is impossible.
 "I can no longer listen in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me that I am not too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you with a heart even more your own than when you broke it almost eight years and a half ago…” - Jane Austen, “ Persuasion || As Jane said herself, “let us never underestimate the power of a well-written letter.” Perhaps we’re still basking in the steam of the Oscars last night (thanks, Bradley!), but we’ve got romance on the brain this morning. If there were an award for hottest literary letters, we’d cast a vote for Captain Wentworth. How about you? || Thanks for this photo of our Jane Austen print @literaryhistory .. and nice touch with the corresponding wax seal!  A gentleman strides forth on a treadmill of ones and zeros, oblivious to the invisible super structure which he powers and which powers him. Sometimes in a rare reflective moment he catches a glimpse of the machine (perhaps he catches the eye of another person on another cog). But they power on and the man quickens his step to keep up. A warning against the mindless obeisance to external forces—social, political, economic—this illustration also serves as a gentle reminder to investigate habits and routines. The quotation is from Kafka’s short story, “The Penal Colony.”  "We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way” - Khalil Gibran|| Happy Friday! We’re kicking off the weekend with a fun giveaway. We’ve partnered with our friends at @vintageanchorbooks @aaknopf - the original publisher of Khalil Gibran’s, “The Prophet" - and 3 lucky fans will receive our 11x14 Gibran print and two beautiful illustrated editions of the book. The most well known of Gibran's works, "The Prophet" explores the wisdom at the intersection of his various spiritual influences. Not only did this particular line resonate with us, it also seemed particularly appropriate. Gibran and the poem's narrator both saw enlightenment as a personal journey rather than a prescribed code. To enter, simply tag a friend below and follow @VintageAnchorBooks, @AAKnopf, and @ObviousState. Good luck and have a wonderful weekend! . . NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter by 2/21. US 18+ only. See full rules: https://bit.ly/2WUCZBr  Isn’t she lovely? (Pun intended). We’re over the moon about our new collection and will be sharing many of the new illustrations for the boxed set as part of Project 52 over the next few weeks. We wanted to take a moment again to thank ALL of you who backed and shared our @kickstarter project. We’ve posted updates in stories, but not sure everyone sees those due to the ephemeral nature of that feature. We still have 23 days to go, so there is plenty of time to get involved and preorder your set. We added new rewards and a fun stretch goal as well. Tap the link in our profile for more info.  “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” || Project 52 Week 6: Ida B. Wells. Trailblazing journalist Ida B. Wells knew what she stood for and unwaveringly stood for it: Truth. Despite the impediments as both a former slave and a black woman living in the post Civil War south, she relentlessly pursued stories that exposed horrific injustices, often jeopardizing her own safety. She viewed truth—no matter how hard it was to tell—as the ultimate means of confronting corruption, injustice, and hatred. She didn’t embellish, or write to fit her agenda or feelings. She didn’t allow herself to be defined by ideologies or interest groups. She told the truth. Our illustration is a nod to her remarkable strength, and the idea that the act of writing as a form of truth telling shines a light on the world. We encourage you to take a few minutes today and watch the Ted Ed video we link to in stories. We could all learn a lot from Ida.  Leave it to the timeless prose of Jane Austen to capture the spirit in the office today as we prepare for some big news tomorrow! We can’t wait to share, but we can give you this clue: We are doubling our women writers collection and will be unveiling those details and much more tomorrow. We are sharing this today because there will be a time sensitive component in the morning and unfortunately instagram is no longer a place to get timely information if you know what I mean. So stay tuned and let us know which women writers you hope to see in the upcoming expanded collection!
 “I hate the office; it cuts in on my social life” || Project 52 Week 8: Dorothy Parker. This snippet is from one of her “Hate Song” poems, first published in @vanityfair in 1919. Armed with her sharp, scathing wit, Dorothy Parker wrote incisive critiques of American culture that continue to delight. In a review of her poetry, The Nation described her work as "caked with a salty humor, rough with splinters of disillusion, and tarred with a bright black authenticity." When imagining the young Parker, we envisioned her desk as sparse with a clean piece of paper and a dangerously sharp pencil. As for turning that into something magical, well, we'll let Dorothy do the rest. All Project 52 prints are $20 on release day. Use code: PARKER20  “Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvium which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through church and state, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place which we can call reality and say, ‘this is…’” - Henry David Thoreau. Though it was the newspapers and gossip columns, not the internet and social media echo chambers, that concerned Thoreau, the message is the same. When it comes to the essentials, look elsewhere. || “To Live Deliberately” is book 5 in our Classics Collection and is available in the shop. Have you read Thoreau?  Truth = ❤️  “It’s a remarkable time that, if we are wise and make the necessary changes, can be one of excitement, creativity, and extraordinary innovation in both the human and technological realms.” - Jonathan Salk, “The New Reality. Jonathan Salk leans into the optimistic scenario, in which concern and collaboration triumph over chaos and conflict.  “The body is the source of endless trouble to us by reason of the mere requirement of food.” - Plato. And by required food he means cheesecake and chai. Clearly.  The question is: What would you be willing to trade to obtain these rare Goethe beauties? #faustianbargain