Illustrating Secrets

I’m collecting and illustrating Secrets. Here’s why.


When Secret launched earlier this year allowing users to share secrets, I was intrigued. There was significant buzz from the blogosphere: The technology was impressive and (mostly) secure. The design was intuitive. The user base was active. From a product perspective, Secret seemed promising.

But what was most interesting to me was the content the app promised to hold within it: the stories and secrets themselves that people shared day in and day out among friends and strangers alike.

With Secret, I was interested in what people would share and how they would interact with each other: what really intrigued me was how Secret might become a vehicle for empathy, community, and connection.

A nearby secret in the stream.

For months I’ve been taking screenshots of the secrets I loved the most — the ones that made me laugh, those that made me nod in agreement, the ones where I found myself scrolling through the comments to get a fuller picture of “OP” (the author, or “original poster”) and where that secret came from.

The secrets—set in plain text, stark backgrounds, and largely unadorned—were so bare-boned I often found my imagination running away with them. Their minimalism was the perfect bait: I could picture every Secret that came through my stream.

I felt compelled to give them a greater home than my camera roll. So I decided to illustrate them.

A San Francisco secret.

The secrets I chose to illustrate are humorous, thoughtful, flippant, sad, funny, and hopeful. They are about life and all its ups and downs, big moments and small, times of transition and also of stability.

Of course there is some trolling: it comes in waves as the community defines itself. But the good secrets — and there are so many—far outweigh the bad.

At graduation time, a secret from the UK.

Quickly, themes emerged: Love. Career. Sickness and recovery. Tech acquisitions (in San Francisco). Geography wars. Life learnings. Dating woes and sexual (mis) adventures.

San Francisco.

Somewhere in the process of illustrating secrets, a shift occurred. Each sketch was like a performative utterance: in illustrating someone else’s secret, the confession became my own. It has been a strangely pleasant and oddly cathartic experience.

What follows are just a few illustrated secrets from my collection. I won’t say if any are mine, but in a way they all feel like they could be.


A selection of illustrated Secrets:
Origin unknown: a secret from a friend of a friend

If you like this project, feel free to hit recommend and share as you please. If there’s a Secret in your stream you’d like to see illustrated, drop me line at @xsvengoechea. More illustrations (some of them Secrets) here.