Typography/Lettering January 15, 2015
ADC and Monotype’s Typography Month marches on, with even more creative talent on display from the ADC community!
Just like last year’s Photography Month and Illustration Month, ADC Typography Month features 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.
Most of our Typography Spotlight participants so far have been designers who specialize in hand-lettering, but today we have an ADC Member who in actual font and type designer from the Midwest who dabbles in hand lettering.
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
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 mom is an amateur calligrapher, so I was exposed to type at a young age. I loved to draw, and my family has many artists, so I was destined to pursue a creative career. I studied art and design in college, with an emphasis on graphic design, and that’s when I really fell in love with type design and learned it was a possible career.
How much of your ability is self-taught versus through schooling?
I have taught myself a lot, but I owe a huge chunk of my early type design specific education to Steve Matteson and the guys at Ascender who hired me as an intern fresh out of school. It’s just like any discipline, you have to put the hours in.
How would you best describe your style? How did you foster that style? Do you tend to lean towards one type of lettering?
I can’t describe my style. I think I’m still developing that. And it changes all the time. I really enjoy variety in my practice, so, I’ve done a range of things. There are things to learn, and different challenges with each type style or design approach.
I am drawn to brush script and shadows in my side projects, which in a way, compliments my more serious work on sans and serif faces.
“With our world of RSS feeds and social media, it can be hard to keep the big picture in mind, and realize your career won’t peak when you’re 25.”
Walk us through your usual type design process.
Typefaces can start from a pretty broad range of points. I usually start with some research, both historical and contemporary examples of existing typefaces. I take notes and draw some concepts on paper. Then I’ll make a digital prototype by designing say, 10 or 15 characters. It’s important to start with prototypes, because it helps you make changes faster before you really start the production phase of the typeface, branching the design decisions into multiple characters and weights.
What is your favorite ‘practical’ font, one for everyday use?
My favorite practical typeface is hard to choose. I think the sans serifs from Adrian Frutiger are masterpieces, and I’d take them to a desert island if I had to choose; Avenir, Univers, and Frutiger.
Do you have a favorite letter of the alphabet when it comes to experimenting with design?
I told Graphik about one of my favorite letters, the cap R, and the DNA that it carries. Of course, lowercase a and g can also carry a lot of DNA, so those are fun and useful to experiment with. I think the S and the ampersand can be the most difficult to get just right.
Who wins in a fight: serif or sans serif?
Man. I think Serif would win in a fight. It has more experience, staying power, and clout than sans serifs. Relatively speaking, Sans is the younger, hipper fighter and is currently enjoying a long run up in popularity, exploration and usability.
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 think the huge difference with type design vs. image creation (like illustration and lettering) is that fonts are tools. And it’s has an almost unlimited number of outcomes, or environments it has to survive and thrive in. So there is a tremendous amount of user experience designed in fonts, anticipating how people with use and interact with the type.
What other artistic passions do you have? Where else do you find inspiration?
Besides type design, I round out my experience with lettering and letterpress. I’m not a great cook or musician. I’m an amateur karaoke singer, or at least I try! Maybe I burn too much energy on type. But I see it and think about it everywhere. Last summer, I spoke at TypeCon about type in food packaging. Not even the grocery store is a safe haven for me. It’s a huge part of my life, and I find inspiration in many places, usually unexpected.
Which professionals do you look up to the most in the typography/lettering world?
There are so many talented people involved with type these days, and the internet offers an unlimited stream. I think Ken Barber, Cyrus Highsmith, Tobias Frere-Jones, and Christian Schwartz are great.
What is the most challenging thing about your career?
I think type design, and the design industry in general, is really competitive. It’s been challenging to keep learning and growing, keeping creative habits, and really not comparing myself to others. With our world of RSS feeds and social media, it can be hard to keep the big picture in mind, and realize your career won’t peak when you’re 25. And you don’t want it to! Don’t burn yourself out, stay in it for the long haul.
At the end of the day, what do you love most about being a typographer or letterer?
I love the variety in the type world. There is multiple lifetimes worth of things to see and do in the field. There are always new fashions and new challenges from technology. There are always problems to solve, and a myriad of ways to do it.