Typography Spotlight: Katlego Phatlane

ADC Member and Portfolio Night All-Star's favorite 'letter' is "&"

Happy New Year! It’s 2015 and ADC has a resolution: to make this year even better than the last! And to kick the year off right, we’ve teamed with Monotype to present Typography Month — showing some love to the type addicts and lettering geeks within the ADC community (we know there are a lot of you!)

Just like last year’s Photography Month and Illustration Month, we will have a daily Typography Spotlight, highlighting ADC Members and Young Guns who love working with words and letters. Some of the names are already famous within the design community, while others will be new for you to discover, but all of them are card-carrying ADC Members from around the world.

First up in the Typography Spotlight is a young man who isn’t just an ADC Member, he’s also one of last year’s 24 Portfolio Night All-Stars winners, representing Johannesburg, South Africa.



Johannesburg, South Africa
+27 84 506 2895


Where did your interest in typography begin? It’s generally not something kids in kindergarten aspire to be. When did you discover that you could actually make a living out of it?

The world of typography is quite vast. I think of typography as a medium more than a tool as it can be used for almost any creative execution. I was introduced to the world of type during my studies as a tool I needed to understand as a designer. Initially I was quite reluctant to explore all that typography can be, but after a few months working on book design, print design and type driven posters, I became incredibly obsessed with it. I haven’t look back ever since.

How much of your ability is self-taught versus through schooling?

I compare school to driving. You can only be instructed and taught how to drive, but ultimately how good you become is based solely on how much you invest in yourself. School taught me how to be curious, and I taught myself the tools I needed to answer my own questions. I believe in continuously learning more and more so that I can become an asset to any design team. So much of my ability is self-taught.

How would you best describe your style? How did you foster that style? Do you tend to lean towards one type of lettering?

I believe my style lies in the realm of continuous experimentation. I always try to create something I haven’t seen before so I rely solely on my mood during the process. But ultimately I’m very detail driven; I love work that showcases skill and thought and I try to emulate those qualities in my work.

“Initially I was quite reluctant to explore all that typography can be, but after a few months working on book design, print design and type driven posters, I became incredibly obsessed with it.”

Walk us through your usual type design process.

I always start on paper. I believe you can create such amazing ideas in a much quicker time on paper than you can digitally. I do however rush my paper process a bit, but I’m working on that 🙂

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

I hate being practical, so picking a font for everyday use is pretty difficult. I also find that a typeface lends itself to the project at hand, so the project guides the type choice and not the other way around. I am a fan of the Stag typeface and Cor Mellow.

Do you have a favorite letter of the alphabet when it comes to experimenting with design?

I love ampersands. It isn’t a letter, but out of all type specimens, I love the ampersand character, and particularly script ampersands.

Who wins in a fight: serif or sans serif?

Each have their own merit, but I love headliner typefaces like Bebas Nueue, but a serif typeface like Stag is also so beautiful. So I would lean towards San Serifs. Rounded San-serifs take the cake.

What other artistic passions do you have? Where else do you find inspiration?

I love illustration, I love 3D and mostly mix the different styles together. I love playing with 3D type.

Which professionals do you look up to the most in the typography/lettering world?

I am currently working with Andrew Footit, who is one of the main reasons I came to my current agency as I love his process, thinking and attention to detail.

I also love the work of the Sanborn Insurance Map Company founded by Daniel Alfred Sanborn; these Letterhead designs have quite an interesting style which I love and am inspired by to certain degrees.

What is the most challenging thing about your career?

The toughest thing so far is balancing work and pro-active projects. It often happens that I barely have any time to experiment with new techniques in the little time I have away from work.

At the end of the day, what do you love most about being a typographer or letterer?

I love looking at typography, so when I work I really enjoy it. It grants me the opportunity to look at things i love all the time.