Hand lettering

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There is certainly a hand lettering boom happening right now in the design community. Like many trends it is seemingly a fast growing explosion of interest. It makes sense though, from a design perspective, that as a society we are embracing the craft and hand touch feel and rejecting the colder modern digital age.

One thing I’ve noticed happening, is many people are creating these drawings on their own time simply for fun or down time. At work, designers usually feel a set of boundaries from clients and that leaves some of us wanting to stretch our wings elsewhere. We then seek freedom and creativity in another form. For the professionals in design I can only assume that most of them spend a majority of their time working on a computer, moving type and image on a page. And when they have free time, doing the opposite might be creating hand-drawn lettering with a pencil and paper. It does seem like a great combination. Plus you learn so much about letterform and typography in general.

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But, one thing that should be said is to give the credit deserved to those who design and create hand lettering full time. They are the true stars and one can only tip toe in their presence of expertise. I feel the professionals in this field has grown in numbers as well due to a renaissance of hand lettering and hand painted typography and signs.

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One thing that led me to creating my first hand lettering poster, was taking a course on hand-painted signs. It was a two day course led by the well known sign painter Mike Meyer, who was featured in the film Sign Painters. He now lectures and gives short courses in the UK, Europe and the US.

Before the digital revolution, store fronts, building signs, trucks, etc. were all hand painted by professionals in the field. Now, the majority of stores and signage are done with vinyl decals or digitally printed posters because of the fast turn around and cheap prices. There is however a rebirth of this craft at the moment, and small to large store chains are highering professionals to paint their signage to create a human touch. Again, people are opting for a change from the cookie cutter design, and businesses are seeing an advantage to the hand painted quality, which then defines them as a brand.

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There is a unique personality to each sign that comes from the craft and the individual painting it. When I took the short course it highlighted my terrible ability to draw the letters quickly and easily. The painting was hard as well, but I thought it would be more beneficial for me to practice drawing the letters before trying to paint them. In the few courses at universities left, they spend much of their time practicing letterforms and drawing them freehand first.

myhandpaintedMy hand painting course

This is what turned me to lettering. Having already taken a calligraphy course, I felt informed enough to just start drawing. Granted my hand drawing was very very rusty since my days at fine art school, but there is no better way to learn than doing and practicing.

My first attempts: 

Practice makes perfect

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After that it was picking a phrase I related to and starting the rough sketches. For whatever reason I had the song “She Works Hard for the Money” by Donna Summer in my head. In general I find a slight satire works well in life. It allows us to laugh at our pain a bit and become more self-aware.

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The sketches got better the more I refined my letters and got the drawing working the way I wanted it to. 

Once the final 7th sketch was completed, I scanned it into the computer to be finalized and printed. To be honest, this was my least favorite part as I was enjoying the off screen process a lot. But I had a vision to print it using Risograph printing and I needed it to be digitized. So after refining the digital vectors I sent it to a local print shop to be finished off.

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In general, I enjoyed the process but I admit I need a lot more practice and perhaps adding more of my own style to the hand lettering. It is a skill I am interested in getting better at, so hopefully I will have more sketches to post soon.

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