Authentic Hand-Lettering

Friday, August 14, 2015

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In a world that’s vastly digital, it’s important to find ways to create work that’s meaningful and genuine. With designers becoming more and more self-taught, it became a challenge for me to figure out a way I could distinguish myself. From a very young age, I have always loved drawing and illustration, and once I started design in college, it was important for me to figure out a way to marry the two. That’s when I fell into the world of hand-lettering.

What is hand-lettering? Hand-lettering is the art of drawing the letters, different from its calligraphic counterpart. As Ken Barber, Typeface Designer and Letterer at House Industries, puts it “calligraphy is composed of written letterforms with a greater emphasis on muscle movement and the gestural forms that accompany it. Lettering, on the other hand, is drawing.” The main difference you’ll notice between lettering and calligraphy is you wouldn’t want to hire a letterer to do your fancy-scripted wedding invitations. A letterer will obsess over every little detail of every character, whereas a calligrapher has trained for years to be able to write letters the exact same way over and over again. Lettering is also different than fonts. Lets say I letter a phrase for a magazine spread, there will be no other typographic piece that looks just like it. Meaning no one would be able to type out a different phrase using those same letterforms, because the characters simply don’t exist.

A lettering artist often times needs to be more diversified than a calligrapher, but that’s not to say lettering artists don’t have a certain style to their work. To be so diverse, you need to have a strong foundation of inspiration. For example, I grab lots of inspiration from browsing printed pieces in antique shops, as well as, hand-painted signs I pass in various neighborhoods. I can’t stress enough how important it is to search, discover and photograph everything you find. You can’t always expect inspiration to come to you, and the computer can only take you so far. You have to go out and be inspired by what you see. If you gather inspiration from unconventional sources, odds are your work is going to be significantly more interesting and more original.

The main point about lettering is that it’s a “one-shot deal.” This is part of why I became so attracted to the art of lettering. There’s a degree of personalization and authenticity that is unparalleled to anything you can create on a computer. Not only is it a great way to release some creativity, but it’s also a great way to give clients something that is uniquely tailored to them. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely times where making something hand-lettered doesn’t make sense, but imparting hand-made elements wherever possible has proven to be a great challenge and diversifier to my work.

How do you create authentic work, like hand-lettering? Let us know on Twitter via @IntrinzicSays.