April showers are known for bringing May flowers, but this drizzly New York morning brings something almost as beautiful — ADC’s Typography & Lettering Month! Once again we are partnering with our friends at Monotype to showcase 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.
Kicking off this exciting new month is a Brooklyn-based lettering artist who just might’ve appeared in your mailboxes these past few days; this lettering dynamo designed the incredibly lush letterpressed invitation for this year’s ADC Paper Expo!
Where did this crazy adventure in lettering all begin?
It certainly has been a crazy adventure! I’d say my roots within the typography and lettering world first began in my college days at Arizona State University. It was during my sophomore year that I began designing type and creating hand-drawn letterforms. I gave myself a project to essentially draw a new piece of lettering every single day for an entire year to help myself progress my skills. I’ve been drawing type ever since.
What made you realize that you wanted to make a career out of letterforms, and what convinced you it was even possible?
I had no idea that I could have an entire career developed around the creation of letterforms. I just knew I had a passion for drawing typography and the career somehow fell into my lap I guess. Over time, I shared my work on social media sites and people all around the world were seeing it. Its nuts to think about that. Eventually, clients came to me asking me to do my craft for them and that’s when I knew I could make a living by lettering. It was certainly a long process and it took a couple years – lots of workshops, internships, and practice. Can’t get enough practice.
I’m so obsessed with lettering that I’ve now entered the field of type design more seriously. I’m currently in the Type @ Cooper Extended Program and have 2 typefaces underway thus far.
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 sure hope I don’t have a “style”. It’s hard for a designer or illustrator to say they have a style personally, because generally it’s other people/outsiders that describe and/or classify said style. I try to experiment with all kinds of lettering styles, illustration styles, etc. so my work is a bit more varied and not the same thing every single time.
Walk us through your usual creative process. How do you know when you’re “finished”?
Every project is a little different but generally the process remains relatively similar. It always begins with research. Trying to discover the mood, type style, composition, etc. anything that will help guide the project in the right direction essentially. Once that research is complete, I always begin by sketching quick ideas on paper. Getting them all out on paper seems to be the fastest method for me personally and allows me to make quick decisions. I try to keep everything very analog until the last second when the digital aspect is needed (for things like coloring, texturing, etc.)
In terms of knowing when it’s “finished”, that’s definitely a tough one! I guess it’s just that gut feeling I get when I complete a project. You just somehow know when it’s done. Like most creatives, I could complete a project and then two weeks later come back to it and absolutely hate it or second-guess all of my decisions. The process of “finishing” something is never ending!
“Like most creatives, I could complete a project and then two weeks later come back to it and absolutely hate it or second-guess all of my decisions. The process of ‘finishing’ something is never ending!”
What is your favorite ‘practical’ typeface, one for everyday use? What is it that you love about it so much?
I’ve been really diggin’ Quay Sans as of lately. It’s a really slick sans serif that has some excellent sharp terminals that I just love. It just has a ton of character in each letter and the details are so subtle too. It’s a great quality typeface from David Quay.
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 honestly use just any type of pencil that is closest to me. Anything with lead will do the trick! Sometimes it’s a #2, sometimes a standard mechanical pencil. It’s not really about the tools; it’s how you use them.
What’s your favorite letter of the alphabet when it comes to experimenting with design? Why is that your favorite? (Ampersands don’t count!)
Ever since entering the Type @ Cooper program, I feel like the lowercase letter ‘g’ is the best to experiment with. In a typeface, that is the one character you can get away with being somewhat crazy and unique because it already is unique in its structure. There’s a million ways to make a lowercase ‘g’ so the outcome is always different.
Who wins in a fight: serif or sans serif?
I’ll go with serif because I enjoy drawing them much more than 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?
That’s always a fun one to tell people. In terms of designing a typeface I always tell people I create “fonts for you to select in Microsoft Word”. Generally everyone knows that you can select different fonts from that dropdown menu in MS Word, so that somehow seems to be the one answer everyone understands right away. I guess people just assume since it’s on a computer, that a computer created it.
In terms of lettering, I generally just tell people I’m an illustrator and they’ll get that right away since I’m physically drawing letterforms. That’s the easiest way to describe what I do without confusing people.
Tell us about your favorite project to date. What set it apart from everything else?
Hands down, my favorite project thus far has been the collaboration with Girl Skateboards and Adobe. Adobe and Girl Skateboards were looking for 5 students to intern at Girl HQ, create their next line of boards, and develop promo materials. 4 others and myself were selected from around the globe to work on the next limited edition line of decks for Girl Skateboards. My buddy Caleb and I were selected to take part in a two-day “internship” at the Girl HQ in Torrance, CA. We got to tour the office, skate in the warehouse skate park, meet the team, and of course, I designed a deck for pro skater, Cory Kennedy. It was an incredibly inspiring and amazing opportunity. I’ll never forget that awesome experience.
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?
My dream project would be to design some skateboard decks for Plan B Skateboards. The Plan B skate team is always taking everything to the next level. They’ve always been a huge inspiration to me for many years so it would be an honor to create things for them.
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?
That’s a tough one. I’d have to say staying relevant is pretty hard at times. There are a lot of designers jumping onto the lettering bandwagon because of the hype-train that is an inspirational cliché quote on top of a photo of mountains. Or, inspirational cliché quote surrounded by random objects that have no relevance to the quote. Essentially it’s just a ton of people trying to get likes/follows/etc. and they’re all creating very similar overdone things. I think in order to stay relevant you need to constantly push yourself and your work to new levels. Constantly creating new and different things that haven’t been seen before. The key is to identify what is overdone and then throw that in the trash and stay away from that “thing” in your own work.
What other creative outlets do you have? Where else do you find inspiration?
I’m not sure if cycling is necessarily a “creative” outlet, but that’s one thing I can’t live without. It’s the best way for me to get some exercise, see the city, and definitely find inspiration. Inspiration doesn’t just hit you while you’re sitting at your computer. I think getting outside and getting your body moving helps that inspiration flow. It’s always a good idea to take a break from the work and come back to it later.
“Inspiration doesn’t just hit you while you’re sitting at your computer. I think getting outside and getting your body moving helps that inspiration flow.”
Which professionals do you look up to the most in the typography/lettering world and why? Have you had any creative mentors?
Uncle Ken, aka Ken Barber is numero uno in my book. I’ve learned a ton from the many workshops I’ve taken with him as well as workshops from John Downer, Damon Styer, and Jessica Hische. All of those workshop instructors and my teachers within school have been my guiding motivation to constantly improve my work and teach me everything I know to this day.
When all is said and done, what do you love most about being a typographer or letterer?
I just love being able to do what I love day in and day out. My work doesn’t feel like “work”. I’m just constantly playing, exploring, and learning.
“My work doesn’t feel like ‘work’. I’m just constantly playing, exploring, and learning.”
Typography & Lettering Month takes place throughout April, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!