My Rediscovered Love of Lettering

Holy inspiration and learning, Batman!!

Several months ago, I had the great pleasure of meeting Sherry Saunders, the new graphic design professor at my alma mater, after she sent me an e-mail asking me to be on a critique panel for the latest batch of advanced graphic design students.

We’ve had a few lovely lunches between now and then, and I have tried to soak up all of her design knowledge and advice like a sponge. During one of our lunches, she asked me if I knew anything about Jessica Hische*, but me being in my weird “I’ve got a million things going on, I don’t have time excuse” bubble, I had not.

*Note:  If you have any appreciation for beautiful and amazing work or creativity, you may end up spending hours going through this website.
 UMM. WOW. Where have I BEEN!? I realized exactly how utterly lost and behind I’ve become in regards to the world of graphic design or art and creativity in general after I looked more into Jessica Hische’s work. Her work led me to more and more amazing places such as to the websites of Sean McCabe and Dana Tanamachi. But the thing that surprised me the most about falling in love with these artists’ work was that they’re not exactly graphic designers. They’re LETTERERS first. Find out exactly what that means if you have some time on your hands:  Watch Jessica Hische’s Lecture at the We Love Graphic Design Conference in Denmark


As I looked through these 3 amazing artists’ websites, I realized that they have achieved something I didn’t even know was possible. They have made successful and meaningful careers out of such a specific artform that I didn’t even fathom as possible when I was growing up. LETTERING? Really? What high school student these days is encouraged to pursue a career in illustrating letters!? My mind was/is blown.

When I was in high school, people used to pay me to write/draw their names. Seriously. Nothing big by any means, just 75 cents or so. I’m pretty sure that was how I got most of my loose change and lunch money my sophomore year of high school. My freshman algebra teacher even asked me to draw the words “Thunder & Lightning” on his paddle so that his corporal punishment device would have some “pizzazz.” Maybe he thought the lettering would make it hurt more. And even though it seems laughable now to think that I used to get paid tiny amounts of money to write out my friends’ whole names or encase their names with their boyfriend’s within a heart, I loved doing it. If you told me back then that I could have made an entire career out of doing things like that, I would have laughed in your face. I wish I had pictures of all those drawings…

But lately, I’ve been on a research rampage. I’ve been glued to my old college text book, A Type Primer, trying to relearn typography basics all week, and I’ve probably added a billion more lettering and typography books to my Amazon Wishlist.

In my rampage, I also discovered this simply delightful, knowledgable, and immensely talented young lady named Karen Kavett who has an entire YouTube channel about graphic design, crafting, and other fantastic things. I seriously wish I had discovered her before I went to college, but at that time, she was only 12-years-old. Gah, if that doesn’t make me feel old, I don’t know what does.

I want to be friends with all of these people. Karen Kavett and Jessica Hische are based in San Francisco, so if/when Nick and I ever move out there, maybe it’ll happen some day! (Hey, a girl can dream…)

Thanks to some advice from fellow creative friends and the people I mentioned above, I started practicing my hand lettering a lot through tracing existing letterforms to better understand their nuances and to develop my muscle memory when drawing. I haven’t felt this excited about anything in a really long time, and I hope my passion and skills continue to grow.

As my first attempt to start illustrating letterforms, I got one of my favorite quote about one of my most hated garnishes in existence:  cilantro. I figure if this quote came from the superstar legendary chef, Julia Child, I know I’m not crazy for loathing it as much as I do…



I’d like to keep recreating this quote as my skills progress to track how much better (or worse) I get at hand lettering. Practice makes perfect, right?

I have a long way to go before I’m nearly as good as any professionals out there, but this is definitely something I want to become great at doing in my lifetime. It’s super tedious, but it’s almost like meditating, and I love it.

I’m always looking for other ways to improve my skills. If anyone out there has any recommendations on how I can get better at hand lettering, please feel free to share!! I know I have a lot of technical skills to learn and that my composition kind of sucks, but that’s what the learning process is all about. I hope to eventually start transferring my hand drawn lettering into Illustrator so that I can mass produce my artwork and maybe even sell some one day. This is *way* more challenging and stimulating than I could have ever expected, and I can’t wait to do more!

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