Sindy Ethel: Illustrating Expressions

Interactive designer & ADC Member falls in love with type

 ADC and Monotype‘s Typography & Lettering Month is winding down, but we still have quite a few more ADC Members to showcase to the world! 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.

Our next featured ADC Member is a relative newcomer to the world of lettering, but is eager to learn all she can!


Interactive Designer & Letterer
Brooklyn, NY



Where did this crazy adventure in lettering all begin?

Since graduating from design school, my work has focused mainly on Interactive/Web Design. When I moved from Mexico to an advertising agency in Colorado back in 2012, I was assigned the role of Visual Designer. At first I wasn’t very enthusiastic since I had to work more with print than digital, which is the media I preferred. This soon changed because my Art Director was working on a huge project that involved creating a series of packaging designs that was focused heavily on typography. I was asked to mix different type styles, weights and combine the results with illustration. As the project moved forward, they even moved into designing custom fonts. I guess working closely with my Art Director and hearing how she talked about layout and composition changed my perspective and appreciation for letters.

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

I never consciously made a decision to create a career around type. It was just something I loved and wanted to learn more about. Initially this meant reading about it and taking typography/lettering workshops. At the time I was was living in a small city in northern Mexico so this usually meant I had to travel or participate online.

I moved to New York last year and that allowed me to attend type@cooper. So far it’s been a great experience. I can definitely see great improvement in my work although my letters “g” and “s” still need some work! After I finish the program this summer I will definitely continue to attend all the workshops there that I can and start new projects using what I’ve been learning.

“I never consciously made a decision to create a career around type. It was just something I loved and wanted to learn more about.”

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?

To be honest, I hope I haven’t developed a single style, as I want to keep myself open to experimentation! Also as a designer, I feel it’s important to craft letters to meet the needs of the project. As a dear friend and amazing art director once told me, I should never repeat myself, as every project is a good opportunity to create something different and learn something new. However that’s my personal goal as a designer. I know several people who work hard to develop their own unique style and I respect that.

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

My process depends a lot on the project, but typically I start with research. I try to find as much information as I can about the concept and brand/client. Then I make quick pencil sketches before refining it on the computer on my Cintiq tablet (which I love!). While I usually finish my projects digitally, I would love to be able to achieve the same level of refinement through hand sketching. At the same time, I don’t think a project is ever “finished”. Things can always be improved, but sometimes you just have to force yourself to stop so that you can move onto something else otherwise you’ll never learn something new.

What is your favorite ‘practical’ typeface, one for everyday use?

I like Trade Gothic by Linotype. It’s a font I often use because it has a variety of widths that allow me to fill spaces easily while designing type pieces.

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 actually don’t have a preference, to be honest. Any type of mechanical pencil and paper for sketching will do.

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 think all letters are beautiful. However I draw a’s and g’s everywhere!

Who wins in a fight: serif or sans serif?

Depends on the context! I love drawing serifs though.

“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?

I just say that I draw letters “like the ones over there” and point to point the nearest interesting typographic sign/illustration/graphic around me.

Tell us about your favorite project to date. What set it apart from everything else?

I don’t have a favorite project, but I do have a soft spot for the Digital Invaders posters, which was a collaboration I made with Alan Rodriguez (illustrator & Designer). It was the first time I made my own letters. I’m especially proud as it was featured in a lot of websites and it was a source of inspiration for people in several countries.

It was nice knowing that something I made for fun had such an impact on other designers. I think the challenge of trying to come up with a project good enough to become my favorite is a great motivator for me.

“I think the challenge of trying to come up with a project good enough to become my favorite is a great motivator for me.”

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?

Since I love interactive design, It’d be amazing if a developer took my letters and made something interesting using code and animation! I love collaborating with other people.

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?

For me, the most difficult thing about lettering and type design is that it requires patience, practice and study to hone your knowledge and skills. Yet the time and dedication doesn’t always mean you’ll see quick improvements. My advice would be to not give up—if you keep working at it, eventually you’ll get there!

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

I love the visual cultures of Mexico and Japan and, strangely, find food to be very inspirational. I love making chubby letters.

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

I really look up to Ken Barber. I’ve taken a few of his workshops and think he’s an amazing person and teacher. I’ve learned a lot from him. I also really enjoy the fun stories he tells during his workshops.

Others professionals I admire are Ale Paul, Alex Trochut, Jessica Hische and Michael Doret.

Every teacher I’ve had at type@cooper they’ve really helped me grow, many of my closest friends and I’m very thankful with Miguel Calderón from Grupo W, who taught me a lot about design in general, which has been an amazing complement while creating things with letters.

When all is said and done, what do you love most about being a typographer or letterer?

The ability to literally illustrate expressions through letters is amazing! 🙂

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