Tania Debono takes the CAKE

Australian expat makes the move from fashion PR to minimalist lettering

It’s been a wild typographic adventure, but ADC and Monotype‘s Typography & Lettering Month finally draws to a close today. This has been a wonderful showcase of the many ADC Members whose craft falls in the world of letterforms. We’ve featured type designers who have created entire font libraries, and hand letterers who have become “Instagram-famous” with their work. But no matter their field, they are all card-carrying members of ADC, and we welcome them on our blog!

And so, on this last day, we present an Australian letterer whose process includes “a lot of coffee, my headphones, reams of paper and an empty room.”

New York, NY (but from Sydney, Australia)

917 340 4971



Where did this crazy adventure in lettering all begin?

I was actually working in Fashion PR at the time, I had moved from a small town in Australia to Sydney (which is like the big city of the country) and it was just a creative outlet for me to deal with the current emotional state I was constantly in. PR, especially in fashion is stressful, so this was my escape, and it grew from there.

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

I don’t think I’ve actually admitted to myself that my career is letterforms or typography, for me it’s important that I keep it alive as a passion and not a means of living. I run my own social media agency called CAKE still, but somehow thewriting work takes over. As long as I don’t ‘think’ it is for the $$$$ I’m ok – it’s a mindset thing for me, I just want to keep creating and leave something behind.

I have an amazing support network of friends and family who help me daily to keep creating, that is so important in any discipline. But, I’m not going to lie, social media really helped me connect with brands, companies and I was given some great opportunities from the outset which really helped me get to where I am.

Just be a good person, create good work and keep persisting, keep creating.

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?

It’s a minimal style with emotion, predominately monochrome most of the time, which is a part of my style. I like to think my work as a brand, when someone can recognize my work without knowing it’s me that gives me the biggest buzz.

“I like to think my work as a brand, when someone can recognize my work without knowing it’s me that gives me the biggest buzz.”

Walk us through your usual creative process.

Well firstly, I never think anything is finished, I could be fixing, reworking a project forever, usually it’s ‘finished’ when the deadline hits haha.

A lot of my work comes through word of mouth, and through my social media. A lot of brands and AD’s use my Instagram as a means of inspiration so I do get a lot of work with screenshots of previous designs – people think better when they can connect visually to work I’ve created in the past.

My creative process includes a lot of coffee, my headphones, reams of paper and an empty room – I need to feel connected to what I’m created somehow so I’ll go through their previous work or projects to understand their audience.

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 can’t choose just one! I’m a big fan of KRINK and Poscas. But, I can’t go past Parker Quink ink, I still can’t find it in New York so I bring back an ample supply when I’m in Australia.

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

Oh, I love LOAVE lurve B’s, Capital, especially. it’s so plump and full of purpose and potentially.

Who wins in a fight: serif or sans serif?

I’m a minimalist, sans serif to create – always. But, a serif B… kinda gives me goosebumps.

“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 still haven’t quite nailed the elevator pitch of what I do, and explaining to people what I create is still a struggle. I get the feeling a lot of people who aren’t in creative professions take a while to understand what we do on a serious level, I don’t really care. The highlight for me is that my parents finally get what I do haha!

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

One of my favourite projects is still a gallery installation I created with The CoolHunter, it was at the cusp of me becoming stronger in my self. I called it ‘innerflections’ and it was my lettering over the entire floor from entry to exit taking everyone who walked over me on a journey, the room was wallpapered in mirrors so the words bounced off, you couldn’t escape seeing something and I loved seeing people walk through, bang it up and take a moment to see themselves in my work.

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 am itching to create something large scale, something bigger than me, and something in a public space. I have my eye on a few walls around New York – that’s my dream right now.

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?

Know your worth, so many people on the outside look at lettering as something quick and easy that you can do in a second. I get asked daily to create free commissions – it can be soul destroying knowing that you spend every cent you have on paper, ink and anything you can use as a writing device, and someone can come along and almost take what you do with a grain of salt, that’s when you need some type of poison to get you through – mine is whiskey. Free work is okay, but you need to know where to draw the line.

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

From all around me, I’m inspired by architecture, clean lines photography and poetry. Living in New York is a playground for the mind, I try and visit a gallery here at least once a week.

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

I love so many Australian letterers such as Gemma O’Brien and Georgia Hill, and then some in New York such as Steven Powers and KR from Krink. You’re living the dream when your passion is your way of life. Anyone getting out there and having a go inspires me, there’s a lot of negativity in this world and a lot of shit you need to get over to really truly believe in yourself.

“You’re living the dream when your passion is your way of life. Anyone getting out there and having a go inspires me…”

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

Knowing that I have that escape, when the world is too much I can retreat into my studio and create, and the emotions I’ve felt have helped create a forever something. It’s made me appreciate ups and downs and to take the positive out of any situation. I think I would shrivel up and die not having this as an outlet, when I’m out and that feeling on inspiration hits I love that I have something else waiting for me, you know?

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