Member News, Typography/Lettering April 6, 2016
Joanna Behar: Infinite Possibilities
Paris-based ADC Member brings a whimsical style to her lettering
ADC and Monotype‘s Typography & Lettering Month marches on! 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.
Our latest featured ADC Member is a Paris-based graphic designer whose recent foray into lettering has opened up a whole new world to explore.
Designer & Letterer
Where did this crazy adventure in lettering all begin?
Well funnily enough, no one in my family is creative. Both my siblings are into numbers, my parents as well and I was the odd one out growing up. I always loved drawing, it was “my thing” in school and it’s the tool I used to try to fit in. I have always been a non-stop doodler and creator as far as I can remember. I had no idea I could make a career out of my passion until I started looking for colleges to apply to. I had never even heard of graphic designer as a job…crazy when I think about it now.
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?
I don’t have one specific style though I often find myself looking for something that feels hand drawn and whimsical. I’m still discovering and exploring hand lettering. I try to experiment as much as I can with new techniques until I can figure out what I truly love most for myself. One thing I do love is to combine hand lettering and illustration. I find it brings a lot more story and strength to a piece.
Walk us through your usual creative process. How do you know when you’re “finished”?
Everything depends on the project I’m working on. Usually a client will ask me to design a piece and I will come up with different concepts which I will then discuss with them. Once a clear concept has been established, the fun part can start: sketching! I always start on paper. My mind is clearer and sharper as opposed to when I try to tackle something on the computer from the start. My hands know better than my head and I try to follow that. Once a sketch is approved I like to have a drawing that is as close to the final piece as possible to digitise and bring to life in Illustrator and Photoshop.
I’m going to be honest and say, if I listened to myself, I would never be finished working on a piece. Sometimes I look at an old project and see so many things that could have been better, but at some point you just have to make the decision to stop. If I didn’t I’d surely go crazy!
“…if I listened to myself, I would never be finished working on a piece. Sometimes I look at an old project and see so many things that could have been better…”
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 own hundreds of different pens and pencils and I love them all! It really depends on the type of lettering I’m working on. Last month I was using Posca Paint pens a lot (similar to sharpie paint pens) as I was trying to get detailed finished pieces on paper and paint pens are great for layering. But this month I’m more about Tombows as I’m having more fun with brush lettering. My latest discovery were the Pablo Caran d’Ache colored pencils though, I found that adding shade and detail with those on top of markers worked amazingly well and I just love how the colours come out. When I’m working on more detailed pieces though, I like tracing over my sketches with my Pigma Micron pens. They are great for intricate and sharp lines.
What’s your favorite letter of the alphabet when it comes to experimenting with design? Why is that your favorite? (Ampersands don’t count!)
M! I love the curves of the M and I noticed it’s one of the letters I draw the most.
Who wins in a fight: serif or sans serif?
“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?
It’s usually very hard for me to explain what I do to a non creative person. I always present myself as a graphic designer and lettering artist but people have a hard time understanding that lettering is a thing. To this day even my parents don’t understand what I do even though I have explained multiple times and extensively! Most people know graphic designers work on logos, identity, branding, etc. but chances are they have never heard of a lettering artist. So I usually try to explain that I’m an illustrator and I marry letterforms with drawings in a unique way.
“I always present myself as a graphic designer and lettering artist but people have a hard time understanding that lettering is a thing.”
Tell us about your favorite project to date.
I don’t have ONE favorite project. I still consider myself a baby in the hand lettering world. If I had to chose I would pick the project I had the most fun working on in the past year. It was this Waterski information graphic I made for a client last summer. I combined a little bit of everything: design, lettering and illustration. It was great practice and I had so much fun experimenting with colouring and textures. I was really happy with how it turned out and so was my client.
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?
I would love to make a book cover. I know it sounds small, but there’s something about it that’s terribly appealing. The process of truly understanding the story and pulling elements to make a compelling image to represent what the author is trying to say. It’s something I’m sure I would have a lot of fun working on.
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?
I don’t feel like I have reached the point where I can give out this kind of advice yet. I’m very new in the lettering world and I’m still trying to find my style. It’s quite difficult to do with a full time job. All I can say is follow your passion. If the work you do everyday isn’t fulfilling then maybe it isn’t what you should be doing. If you are truly passionate and have the necessary drive, you can make a career out of anything, but you have to work really hard, nothing comes for free. I try to practice everyday and that is the only way I know how to improve, practice makes perfect.
What other creative outlets do you have? Where else do you find inspiration?
I have many other creative outlets. I love to bake and decorate cakes, it’s very relaxing and I love to challenge myself doing that. I have tried a few different things over the years to get my creativity going, from toy customisation, to toy creation using clay. My thesis project as a senior in college was a combination of toys and baking actually. I created toys out of candy, chocolate and sugar!
My number one source of daily inspiration is instagram. I don’t follow many people but the ones I do follow are either lettering artists, illustrators or designers. Seeing their work everyday motivates me to make news things and share them as well. I also use Dribbble a lot. It’s very practical when I’m looking for specific inspiration. There are so many creatives out there, I’m grateful I have such easy access to their work to inspire me and push me to be better everyday.
Which professionals do you look up to the most in the typography/lettering world and why? Have you had any creative mentors?
There are so many! My first true discovery was Jessica Hische, I love her work, it’s so clean and her technique is so flawless I can never get enough of it. Along the way I have discovered hundreds of other artists that I know follow eagerly such as Lauren Hom, Shauna Parmesan, Mary Kate Mc Devitt, Lucas Sharp, Becca Clason, Ken Barber, Adam Vicarel… just to name a few.
When all is said and done, what do you love most about being a typographer or letterer?
The infinite amount of possibilities. There is always something new to learn, I never get bored and I find anything and everything can be turned into a lettering piece. It’s almost become a problem actually, I end up wanting to tackle too many personal projects at the same time! So much to do, so little time.
Typography & Lettering Month takes place throughout April, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!