The month is almost over, and with that comes the end of ADC and Monotype‘s Typography & Lettering Month. It’s been a fantastic ride, but don’t worry — we still have more to show! Whether you’re designing brand new digital fonts for the world to use, or whether you’re creating free-flowing calligraphy to adorn a wall, you guys know that there is more to written words than just their meaning.
Nour next featured ADC Member is a Mexican expat living in Brooklyn whose biggest typographic thrill is seeing his creations be used out in the world.
Letterer, Typeface Designer & Carpenter
Where did this crazy adventure in lettering all begin?
I grew up in a small town in Puebla, Mexico, so my contact with proper design came a bit late. I was always a creative kid, but I never showed any interest in ny sort of letterforms until later.
Mexico is full of vernacular sign painting and lettering, and I remember my first contact with letters was around when I was 13 years old. We used to live just beside an old local sign painter, and I remember asking him about working as an apprentice during the summer. After that one summer, however, I never picked up the brush again until few years ago.
I didn’t have a really good type education until my last year of college, when I became aware about type design as a profession. I found a few Mexican type designers and I got really interested about it. From there everything started heading on the right path. I studied for a Master degree in Type Design in Mexico. and finally I studied Type and Media at KABK in the Netherlands.
What made you realize that you wanted to make a career out of this, and what convinced you it was even possible?
I actually never thought about living off and getting paid from drawing letterforms. I just fell in love with letter shapes and drawing them. It’s been surprising how everything worked out for me!
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?
Really easy: I’m a combination of lot of places: Mexico, Spain, the Netherlands and the US. I have some personal taste but I’m always moving through different projects and trying different things. I’ve been trying to find the balance between type design and lettering.
Walk us through your usual creative process. How do you know when you’re “finished” a project?
Every project is different for me. There are times when I sketch by hand. This normally happens when I’m doing lettering. When I design typefaces, normally I jump directly onto the computer and start drawing. Testing them is the most important part of my process. Printing proofs at original size is maybe the only thing that is always part of my process.
Type design is a tricky thing; you could work on a project forever, I think there is a point where you need to let it go. If not, you will never finish and you will always be changing something.
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 always have a pencil and markers around, I love brushes but I don’t used as much as I would like to use them. My computer and RoboFont.
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 don’t have a favorite letter. Depending on whatever style I fall in love with at the time, and its specific shapes just for the sake of its beauty.
“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?
Its easy to explain it to designers. To everybody else I explain myself with examples of my work. Sometimes I’ll ask if they’ve seen the letters that are used by a certain brand, and I’ll say “that’s what I do.”
It’s funny. Lots of people tell me that they always thought that letters are already just “there” and never really thought about the fact that somebody has to first make them.
“Lots of people tell me that they always thought that letters are already just “there” and never really thought about the fact that somebody has to first make them.”
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’m not a soccer fan — which is pretty surprising considering I am Latino — but it would be really cool to design the the names and numbers of the players for my national team during a World Cup. That would also make it easier to explain what I do for a living!
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?
Being patient and focused.
What other creative outlets do you have? Where else do you find inspiration?
I’m also a carpenter, and I love working with wood. I also enjoy traveling, finding inspiration in places with a lot of history and a lot of things to say with their street lettering. I’ve been always fascinated with sign writing, and a lot of my ideas come from what I’ve seen in my travels.
Which professionals do you look up to the most in the typography/lettering world and why? Have you had any creative mentors?
In type design I’ve always admired the work of my bosses Christian Schwartz and Paul Barnes. Other favorites include Fred Smeijers, Tobias Frere–Jones and Erik van Blokland.
I think the best and most complete letterer I know is Ken Barber. I like the work of Ricardo Gonzales, Mathew Tapia, Mike Meyers and some other sign painters.
When all is said and done, what do you love most about being a typographer or letterer?
Seeing in my work out in the world and being used. I think I get the biggest sense of satisfaction from this.
Typography & Lettering Month takes place throughout April and May, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!