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.



 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.  Book 5 Blind Date reveal! || "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I die, discover that I had not lived." Henry David Thoreau dropped the gauntlet with Walden in 1854, and it is more relevant than ever. "Simplify, simplify.” he says, reminding us from the grave that he had well over a hundred and fifty years on Marie Kondo’s mantra. To Live Deliberately is Book 5 from our Classics Collection and our visual reimagining of Thoreau's most popular essay, Where I Lived and What I Lived For. Accompanied by 30 illustrations alluding to modern life, the timeless essay challenges today’s trappings and embraces an ascetic rejection of the trivial in exchange for a reconnection with nature as a path toward self discovery. We judiciously edited his essay to avoid any unnecessarily confusing news references, and were amazed to discover that not only does this manifesto otherwise hold up, but feels as if it could have been written today. Thoreau's rejection of news as largely gossip, and the obsession with travel and railroads as idle self indulgence, bear a sobering resemblance to our modern preoccupation with social media and mindless internet surfing. In both instances, the impulse to seek distraction is the same. The contents of our Blind Date with Obvious State are seen in the photo and include: a 75 page notebook, 2 mini art prints, a bookmark, a pencil and of course, the book. There are still a few left in the shop! After the Blind Dates are sold out the book will remain available individually. See more at the link in our profile or in stories. We hope you enjoy it!  “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  Say hello to Literary Paris! As many of you know, in addition to Obvious State, I’ve been making books with @chroniclebooks since 2012. I'm not sure exactly how many of you have followed along since my blogging days (raise your hand if Little Brown Pen means anything to you!),but I know there are some who’ve been along for the ride, from my first book to starting Obvious State.THANK YOU. Literary Paris is my fourth book, and as a bibliophile (and Francophile!) this book married two things I love. It was an absolute pleasure to make and I hope you enjoy the photographic stroll through Paris’ historic bookstores and literary haunts as much as I do. In addition to the photos, there are quotations from my favorite books and writers, and a handy list of locations in case you want to stalk the literary greats (you know you do!). The book releases on June 11, but you can preorder a signed copy now. And BONUS!: All preorders placed before Feb 15th will receive a complimentary set of Literary Paris postcards (set of 24). Preorder information is on our homepage (link in profile). - @nicholerobertson  “I would always rather be happy than dignified.” - Charlotte Bronte || So in other words, scarf the donut? ||  of our Bronte bookmark by @outofthebex
 "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  “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.  "We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way” || Project 52 Week 5: Khalil Gibran.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 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. The mid east inspired geometry suggests paths and forms an intricate lock. Through the keyhole, the ocean and its expansive horizon invite a journey into the uncharted. After all, the wanderer must often give up the comfort of home and companions to discover the unknown.
 Truth = ❤️  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!  Have you ever read Anna Gavalda? Years ago, her short story collection was a staff pick @strandbookstore and I bought it without knowing anything about the author (I love staff picks for this reason). I walked across the street to a coffee shop and proceeded to read it from cover-to-cover, responsibilities be damned. It was the holiday season, and I walked back to the bookstore and bought five additional copies to give as gifts. Have you ever done this? Bought multiple copies of a book you love to give as gifts? It’s one of my favorite things to do. This short story collection, beginning with “Saint-Germain-des-Prés” (which is still my favorite) is so well done. Each story explores how life can change in an instant—a careless glance over the shoulder during a potential intimate moment, for example, squashes a budding romance. Gavalda is witty and intuitive, and clearly and has a knack for writing from the point of view of disparate narrators. I was in the mood for a short story this morning and was happy to revisit and old favorite.  Well, it’s too late to save her now. Her brains are turned.