Amir Sali Berry knows that writing is a great tool for self-exploration. So he set out to make a custom journal for himself. On the path to self-publishing, he realized his project had the potential to inspire other people if he made it public. He wound up creating Safe Space, a journal for personal reflection, published under the moniker Idle Hours. We had a chance to talk to Amir about how psychology, architecture, and design influenced the concept of his unique book.
01 What inspired you to make a journal focused on mental health and wellbeing?
I was inspired by the thought of feeling trapped in your own mind. As humans, we don’t often take into account just how intelligent our brains are. If left in our own head for too long, we can easily conceive many scenarios that make things seem a lot worse than they are. Writing is therapeutic. It releases capable mental real estate and allows us to see what’s holding us back and what’s taking up too much space.
02 What do you hope your readers will gain from using your journal?
The courage to identify and interpret their emotions, and to be more proactive with addressing their mental health.
03 Tell us about the process of designing Safe Space. Why did you choose the Notebook format? How did you decide on the layout, color scheme, and typography?
The design aspect was simple, so simple that it could have become very complicated. I didn’t want the design to take away from the overall purpose of the journal, thus the lack of color and lack of playful typography. The layout had to be elementary enough for a child to use and visually appealing enough for an adult to connect with. The decision to use a notebook format was always the goal, I was extremely focused on structuring it for daily use.
04 Did your background in architecture influence your design choices at all?
My background in psychology directly influenced this project, while the influence of architecture and design was more indirect. A quote from a design seminar I attended, “young architects, you don’t have to build buildings . . .” really impacted me. So much that I took it quite literally.
05 Why did you choose to self-publish?
Self-publishing became an option because initially, I had only planned on making this journal for myself. During the design process, I started to realize its potential and how it could benefit others going through many of the same things.
06 The spine of the book reads “Building Materials for Idle Hours.” How did you come up with that phrase? In your experience, what is the relationship between constructing physical spaces and emotional spaces?
This phrase came as a way to connect my love for architecture and design, but also from my literal take on the aforementioned statement from the design seminar. So instead of “building buildings” I am building better bridges to others through the tools I have created and will continue to create moving forward. The relationship between physical and emotional spaces is congruent. In my personal experience, both spaces are equally important to the other’s wellbeing.
07 The word “idle” may have different connotations for different people. What is your concept of idle time? Is it positive or negative?
Time is always an interesting subject for me. Although we all acknowledge and abide by the ideals surrounding it, I feel as though we have more control over how we utilize it than we think. Using “idle time” to the fullest is directly connected with what we chose to make a priority in our lives. I always want to express the idea that time is ultimately ours, so be extraordinary.
08 You’ve made printed handouts and a “Timepeace” clock with motivational text to bring awareness to your book project. Why was it important to create these materials? Do you have plans to make other objects or tools like these?
I am a huge advocate of daily affirmations, as well as physical objects that are aesthetically pleasing—connecting emotional and physical spaces in order to create an environment conducive to my overall mental health. More tools labeled as ‘Building Materials’ are in the foreseeable future, starting with a piece that will work hand in hand with Safe Space, as well as events and visual projects.
09 One page of the book reads “DO NOT BEND OR FOLD.” Can you say more about that instruction?
“DO NOT BEND OR FOLD” came from a mailing envelope I came across at a local shipping center. Again, I tend to take everyday things way too literally, and in turn I used this instruction as a way to send another obvious message to others: Remember that every heartache, every challenge, every rejection, and every loss that seems to have such an exorbitant cost is actually here to carry us across to the next opening, the next expansion.
10 Do you have a regular creative practice at home? If so, what mediums do you work in?
My creative practices at home bounce around. However, it almost always begins with arranging rooms of the house; I am extremely passionate about floor plans and utilizing space.
11 Where do you look for creative inspiration?
I draw inspiration from everything around me: people, signage, nature, etc. This world is truly extraordinary, and life is a blessing. I’m very much inspired by inspiring.
12 How has making this book and sharing it with other people changed you?
It has done wonders for the way I communicate with others and has given me a chance to design something that is continuing to have such an amazing impact on many different people. It’s most definitely my most honest work thus far, and I hope I am able to reach as many people as possible moving forward.
13 What books or other resources have been essential to you? Do you have any tips for other people seeking creative guidance or motivation?
Essentials lately have been some of my old psychology textbooks, which I never thought I would open up again, but I’m learning that passions always come full circle. Any two things in the world are connected by a third, the secret is figuring out what that third thing is and that’s why you have to spend a tremendous amount of time understanding and accepting yourself so you can have the courage to make just the right wrong decision.