Ciao from Bomboland!

For Italian-based illustrator Maurizio Santucci, lettering is child's play

ADC and Monotype‘s Typography & Lettering Month has built up a nice head of steam, and now we are in full swing! This annual theme serves as a showcase of the many ADC Members who make their mark with letterforms. Whether they’re designing brand new digital fonts for the world to use, or they’re creating free-flowing calligraphy to adorn a wall, these artists know that there is more to written words than just their meaning.

For our next featured ADC Member, we take a trip to Tuscany to meet an illustrator and letterer who, alongside his partner in crime, bring a cut-paper feel to letterforms.

Maurizio Santucci ≠ Elisa Cerri

Lucca, Italy



Where did this crazy adventure in lettering all begin?

In my childhood bedroom! All jokes aside, it all started from the passion for drawing I cultivated since I was a child. It wasn’t only the act of drawing with pencils and markers, but I also had a great passion for comic books.

What made you realize that you wanted to make a career out of letterforms, and what convinced you it was even possible?

I didn’t take an interest into typography until very recently actually. As a designer, I always try to create new challenges for myself, and about two years ago I took a deeper interest in lettering. I hadn’t done any real hand drawn work for quite some time so it was amazingly refreshing to practice typography. I definitely found a new passion.

How would you best describe your style in a sentence? Do you fight against having a telltale style, or do you embrace it as your brand?

We can’t define our style in a sentence. What we do has many influences, from cartoons of the 50s and 60s to comic books to really old lettering.

Walk us through your usual creative process. How do you know when you’re “finished”?

Our process depends on the request. I’ll talk about our favourite kind of work, when the client asks us to work on the concept. We discuss about the general idea, we study the brief, and we do a bit of image research for inspiration. Later we start with black and white pencil roughs for ideas, and we then show something to the client. Sometimes I work directly on my Wacom tablet, but I have to say that it’s easier for me to make my first ideas on paper.

After choosing the idea, we work digitally on a vector version of the piece. Then we can proceed digitally in Photoshop, or sometimes manually. In the second case, we build a papercut piece, then take the picture and work on it in postproduction.

When is the work finished? When both we and the clients are we are convinced it is!

Everybody’s got a favorite brand of marker, a favorite kind of ink, that pencil with just the right amount of heft. What are yours, and why do you swear by them?

I don’t have a favourite brand of marker or ink. But I have a favourite process, which is similar to the process of cartoonists. I make a first layer with a blue pencil. Then I refine the drawings with a darker pencil, black or similar. I proceed layer by layer, to obtain the right shapes.

What’s your favorite letter of the alphabet when it comes to experimenting with design? Why is that your favorite? (Ampersands don’t count!)

I like the “R”. I think it’s one of the richest letters of the alphabet. It includes all of the problems you’d find in drawing a letter: it combines curves, straight lines and oblique lines. You can play a lot with it, ou can do a big curve or you can do a long leg, or you can work on the central intersection…

Who wins in a fight: serif or sans serif?

Sans serif! It is lighter, younger and more nimble. Sans serif must win!

“Wait, what is that you do again?” How do you explain what you do for a living to people who aren’t in creative fields? What’s the thing they can’t quite grasp about it?

Good question! It depends if I’m in a good mood, because often it can be very difficult. Usually I say something like “we do drawings for magazines, or advertising pages, or brochure…” and if they still look at me with that lost look, I add “drawing for for children books, you know?”. That works almost every time.

Tell us about your favorite project to date.

I like our cover for the book Treasure Island. We love the nautical theme and imagery. With this cover, we played with the title trying to give our own interpretation of that imagery.

What would be your dream project/assignment/client? What’s something you’ve never had the opportunity to do thus far, but would kill for that chance?

We would love to work on the titles for a whole series of books. Tt would also be very nice to create a big brand logotype… in Bomboland style!

What is the most difficult thing about making a career out of what you do? How do you get around that, and what advice would give to others facing similar challenges?

There are several difficulties in our career. Some of them are very familiar to freelancers career, such as the uncertainty of each day, self-discipline and so on. One challenge for me the absolute necessity for continuous self-promotion! You can never afford to drop your attention. Oh, and take care of your money! You know us creative people are not very good finance administrators! 🙂

What other creative outlets do you have? Where else do you find inspiration?

I like to look at various packaging, especially labels. We also look at old book covers and magazines. Children books are also a great inspiration, whether they’re contemporary or from the past.

Which professionals do you look up to the most in the typography/lettering world? Have you had any creative mentors?

As far as contemporary artists go, we love House Industries, Jessica Hische and Linzie Hunter. We also love the lettering of 70s American comic artists.

Typography & Lettering Month takes place throughout April, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!