Working on Lettering Hub I conducted various interviews, attended various talks and workshops, and read a bunch of lettering books, all contributing to a list of ‘to do’ items for anyone who wants to learn the art of lettering and become great at it. So here goes!
1) Learn the Basics
Start by learning the basics of old-school calligraphy techniques and type design. Even if you don’t want to become a calligrapher or design typefaces, you have to know the rules to be able to break them. And the more you know about those rules, the easier you’ll be able to spot and fix when things don’t look quite right.
The best way of doing this is to attend a workshop. Nothing beats learning under the watch of a professional who can teach you their tricks and help you correct how you are holding that brush!
2) Collect Inspiration
Take photos of type you spot in the wild, buy books, collect posters, packaging, magazine ads, and start Pinterest boards. You’ll be thankful to have a collection of inspiration next time you’re stuck and urgently need it, because you won’t have to go and spend hours browsing the internet. You also tend to find the best bits of inspiration when you’re not actively looking for it – so keep your eyes open and look around you!
Experiment with different pens, paper and random materials – you’ll be surprised by the styles you’ll discover. You can also draw inspiration from other art forms, e.g. watercolour, oil paints, wood, stone, metal, stencils, spray paint. Let your imagination run wild and have fun with this. Don’t be afraid to try something silly. Gemma O’Brien held an ‘Experimental Lettering’ workshop a while ago that was heaps of fun – Check out the photos and you’ll see what I mean.
“I think it helps to just pick some cheap brushes up when you go out and have a play around and see what comes from them.” Jasmine Dowling
4) Start a Side Project
No one will hire you for work you’ve never done before, so create the work you want to do for yourself in form of a side project. This is how legends got popular, for example take Jessica Hische’s Daily Drop Cap which started her off to a very successful career. Put yourself out there and make it public so you follow through! Which takes us to the next point…
5) Practice, Practice, Practice!
This is by far the most important one. Get into a routine and practise your lettering skills on a regular basis. Done over a longer period of time you’ll be able to look back and actually see your progress!
There’s different ways of doing this, and getting yourself to follow through:
- Practise just for yourself – this requires the most self-motivation
- Start personal side project where you publish your work daily as mentioned above. Making it public holds you accountable.
- Join in on online initiatives like Melissa Smith’s #togetherweletter or #36daysoftype, so you don’t have to do it on your own!
- Submit your work to hashtags on Instagram like Lettering Hubs #aussietype, The Design Kids #tdkpeepshow or Goodtypes #strengthinletters – this is not as much of a commitment as it doesn’t hold you to do it regularly, but if you’re lucky you might score a share to a bigger audience, in turn increasing your own.
6) Stay Motivated
Sometimes your brain is stuck in a rut and needs to be freed – if you feel stuck, don’t try to force yourself to finish a project. Walk away and do something that’s fun for you – you’ll see how this helps when you return to your work.
“The last thing I would want to do is to be constantly doing lettering or typography all day, every day, day in and day out. Sometimes you need to get yourself out of that headspace.” Wayne Thompson
But also, never stop learning and don’t give up. Keep going to talks, conferences and meetups. Read books and magazines (e.g. The Collective).
Over to You
There you have it – so go and get started already! Do you have more tips to share? Comment below and let me know.