I fell in love with letters during my freshman year of college in a calligraphy class that changed the course of my career from wannabe painter to graphic designer. Since then, I have learned the value of drawing out a letterform — to appreciate the benefits of subtlety as well as extravagance by studying letterers and type designers, and understanding that not all type is created equal. The fonts we use on our machines require hours of drawing and digital refinement, while lettering is more of an illustration of letters. Both are an imitation of the gesture of handwriting. Making letters involves repetition and not being afraid to iterate until the perfect mark is found.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a professional designer to appreciate letterforms. Sometimes, the simplicity of a handwritten note can warm a heart. Handwriting can reveal a lot about the personality of the creator. Is it loose or structured? Do the playful curves of the letters connect with one another? How do the letters remind you of the maker? It is a cathartic experience to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil to dictate thoughts and feelings and in return, read from someone else’s hand.
If you are interested in learning a little more on the difference between lettering, calligraphy, and type design or specifics on refining your own letter-making skills, I would recommend checking out Jessica Hische’s book, where she shares her process as a lettering artist. It is a fun and honest tell-all showing her sketches, methodology and overflowing with valuable advice.
There are many unique approaches to adding a personal touch to handmade gifts or cards to give to those we love. Here are a few of my favorite DIY projects from the archives that apply lettering in a creative way. —