Typography/Lettering January 6, 2015
Today is January 6, and in some faiths this date represents the day when the three wise men rode into Bethlehem bearing precious gifts. Now it might not be gold, frankincense or myrrh, ADC and Monotype have joined forces to bring you a little gift of our own: Typography Month, a celebration of typography and lettering here on the ADC blog.
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.
Next up in our Typography spotlight: an Australian expat in the Big Apple who loves making people feel included.
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?
My interest in type really began towards the end of University, when I was discovering the work of artists like Seb Lester, Luke Lucas and Jessica Hische. I was focusing on illustration at the time (I actually wanted to be a Chidlren’s book illustrator when I was in kindergarden!), but they all had beautiful examples of this illustrative type that felt like a great blend of what I was already into and something fresh. It was when I started interviewing for jobs that I realized my typography was resonating with people, which felt great.
How much of your ability is self-taught versus through schooling?
Type was a mandatory subject back in University, and at that time I wasn’t giving it quiiiite as much attention as my illustration courses. But once there was that shift and my interest began to increase, I began hitting Google and trying to practice by doing my best interpretations of the calligraphy alphabets I’d find. It was when I started having fun with it on my own that I really started to grow.
How would you best describe your style? How did you foster that style?
My roots in comic and cartoon illustration definitely play into my work. I’ve always liked transferring the same explosive, exaggerated and colorful thinking to type and seeing what the end results will be!
Do you tend to lean towards one type of lettering?
Not really, I love playing around with different mediums and techniques. I’ve been doing a lot of hand-generated type recently and I love the expressive directions you can take and how far they can be pushed. On the other hand, I also really enjoy the geometry and perfection of digital/vector-based type.
“My roots in comic and cartoon illustration definitely play into my work. I’ve always liked transferring the same explosive, exaggerated and colorful thinking to type and seeing what the end results will be!”
Walk us through your usual type design process.
It depends on the job. I’ll use the Wacom tablet if I need to concept something that’ll be sent to a client fairly quickly: It cuts out the scanning process and allows me to try a handful of different looks during a fast turnover. If i have more time, however, I’ll always go pen to paper. It’s the most intuitive way to work for me. Depending on what aesthetic I’m after, I’ll either clean the hand-generated work up in Illustrator or leave it as is for a more naive look.
What is your favorite ‘practical’ font, one for everyday use?
My go-to is Futura because I love its clean geometry and it’s usually pretty accessible. There might also be an extra level of attachment due to this project from my first year of university: We each chose a typeface and researched its origins. I went with Futura and was amazed with what I found. Did you know Futura is featured on the plaque NASA put on the moon? The more you know…
Do you have a favorite letter of the alphabet when it comes to experimenting with design?
Not really, it’ll depend on what shapes I want to experiment with. Lower case ‘g’s are great for playing with swooshy ascenders while upper case ‘B’s have great round shapes you can really bulge out.
Who wins in a fight: serif or sans serif?
Totally a serif. It’s lived to see the Roman and Greek Empires, holding its own among some of the greatest warriors in history.
The obvious difference between an illustrator and a letter or typographer is that the latter works mainly with words and letters. Name a not-so-obvious difference between the artforms, one that certainly applies to you.
I honestly tend to approach both with the same mindset. Just as I might exaggerate curves and shapes to illustrate a dynamic scene, I’ll similarly apply that technique to bringing words to life and helping them tell more of a vivid story.
What other artistic passions do you have? Where else do you find inspiration?
I’m working on some mural projects at the moment, and they’re always really interesting experiments. Lots of improvising. I’ve also recently been finding inspiration in old signage, like those retro Miller Lite neons you find in dive bars or those hand-painted fluorescent ‘CLOSING DOWN SALE!’ kinds of signage you see in store windows. I also play violin when I get a chance.
Which professionals do you look up to the most in the typography and lettering world?
I love what Seb Lester’s doing with his lettering. Not only is the work great but he’s making it social and accessible with his daily clips.
Alex Trochut is making some great stuff—every piece has energy and movement, and really elevates any collaboration he’s a part of.
Wayne White’s also done some really fresh stuff with type. His work proves once again that artists don’t need to limit themselves or be defined by one medium. I love his word paintings but also really admire his puppet, sculptural and comic work.
What is the most challenging thing about your career?
I never want to allow myself to stick with one style for too long—it can start to make things feel a little stagnant. I like to continue stepping out of my comfort zone and push myself to move on. In efforts to avoid hitting that wall, I’ve challenged myself to create one new piece of type every day. I’ve stuck to it, but it’s not always easy!
At the end of the day, what do you love most about being a typographer or letterer?
It’s really cool to see my pieces resonating with people on such a universal level, I had no idea the reach they would have. Rather than this niche pool of viewers within the art and design scene, it’s awesome to be able to see pieces elicit a smile or make an impact on people from completely different parts of the country (or the world) that might not have previously followed that kind of work. I love making people feel included and it’s so nice to see it bringing people together.