ADC and Monotype‘s Typography & Lettering Month continues! 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.
Today’s featured ADC Member is a Brooklyn-based artist who began her foray into lettering with a 6 AM ritual.
Where did this crazy adventure in lettering all begin?
I did some kind of artistic work throughout my whole life, even if I was majoring in economics at the same time. I went from academic painting to graphic design to motion graphics, and a couple years ago I literally picked up a calligraphy pen at 2am one night and started trying out what I could do with it. And I got hooked.
What made you realize that you wanted to make a career out of this, and what convinced you it was even possible?
It started as a very personal side hobby, and it is still unbelievable to me that it has evolved so much. I began putting my first lettering doodles online daily as a personal challenge, getting up at 6am just so I could draw out previous night’s idea, and every time it was about trying to do something I wasn’t comfortable with yet. It got me a following much faster than I thought was possible, and recognition from people I looked up to. My first paid lettering work came from my online followers. Now this skill is embedded into my everyday design job.
“My first paid lettering work came from my online followers. Now this skill is embedded into my everyday design job.”
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?
There is definitely a personal touch to my work, as it relies on my handwriting and is heavily influenced by calligraphy, but I also challenge myself to get away from it. There are just so many tools to explore, so many styles to draw inspiration from, that it would be a shame to commit to one style. I love experimentation.
Walk us through your usual creative process. How do you know when you’re “finished”?
Ah, there is such a variety of processes, but the only thing they have in common for me is always starting on paper, never digitally. In most commercial projects, sketching is a huge part of brainstorming and organizing concept ideas better, but when it comes to personal projects, I often grab a piece of paper and go straight to making a design in ink without thinking it through, and to be honest, some of my favorite experimental lettering work started that way.
Finishing a project, though…. that is the hard part. I never feel truly finished.
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 gel pen with me. I probably own over 50 of them! But my actual favorite tools always end up being those that are hardest to control: unruly brushes, ruling pens, markers that are running out. I have been in love with a handmade cola pen for months now. Put some strict calligraphy with a difficult to control tool, and you will always end up with something fun.
What’s your favorite letter of the alphabet when it comes to experimenting with design? Why is that your favorite? (Ampersands don’t count!)
A. There are just so many “A”s out there, I seem to find a new version every time I am at the Met.
“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?
Interestingly, if I start to explain, people usually react with a “you get paid doing what??” expression. If I just show them a piece, the reaction changes to “Ooooh, that’s cool!” and then we are friends again.
Tell us about your favorite project to date. What set it apart from everything else?
Can’t really pick favorites, but there is a small lettering illustration I did a while ago of a saying “A dog in the kitchen asks for no company”. It was a part of a whole series, but this specific one was my first lettering to get published in a book, so it holds a special place in my heart.
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 think just getting to do some of the more expressive lettering for bigger scale commercial projects would be my next big happy goal. Most clients are a bit afraid of that.
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?
There is just SO much lettering out there. And so many people are trying to do the exact same thing as another, more successful, person. My best advice is to not be afraid to bring your personality into your work, instead of trying to copy something you’ve seen. And, well, if you love what you’re doing – don’t give up!
What other creative outlets do you have? Where else do you find inspiration?
I won’t usually give up a chance to draw, collaborate, or just create a little personal project after work. And, thankfully, in New York it is not too hard to find inspiration if you’re looking for it. All you have to do is look around, pay attention and be fascinated. Honestly, if you do that, it doesn’t even matter if you are in Brooklyn or Cape Town, or out in the woods somewhere.
“All you have to do is look around, pay attention and be fascinated. Honestly, if you do that, it doesn’t even matter if you are in Brooklyn or Cape Town, or out in the woods somewhere.”
Which professionals do you look up to the most in the typography/lettering world and why? Have you had any creative mentors?
I started with calligraphy, and I remember Luca Barcellona and John Stevens being huge influences. I actually got to take classes with both of them through Society of Scribes in New York. And then there are people like Kevin Cantrell and Alex Trochut and James Victore who just constantly remind you that there is much more to “lettering” than you think of when you hear that word.
When all is said and done, what do you love most about being a letterer?
I like the hands-on aspect of lettering, and how diverse it can be. Unless you literally go in trying to copy someone’s work, there is no way for your style to be same as someone else’s.
Typography & Lettering Month takes place throughout April, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!