“So, what do you do?”
"I'm a designer, hand letterer & illustrator.”
*nodding* “That's cool.....So, what is that?”
This is a common exchange when I meet new people & start talking about my business. Although hand lettering has become ubiquitous in the creative & DIY worlds, it is often misunderstood in other industries & parts of society. Many people have seen the work of a hand letterer & don't even realize it, let alone fathom the possible uses for it beyond a fun hobby.
What is Hand Lettering?
Hand lettering an art form where words are drawn by hand instead of typed, using a keyboard. Hand drawn text can trace its origins to the Middle Ages, when all books were written by hand & often included elaborate drop caps & accompanying illustrations to help tell the story. These elaborate books are often called illuminated manuscripts & were most often religious texts created by monks.
Today, hand lettering is used to create unique, expressive text that can perfectly fit a specific style in a way that typefaces & fonts cannot. Each letterer has a unique style & approach to their work, but they can create vastly different pieces to best fit the specific project in mind. Letterers use a variety of mediums in creating their design, including paint, ink, chalk, pens, food & makeup.
Isn't that just calligraphy?
Calligraphy can be considered a type of hand lettering. Calligraphy creates text by hand; however, calligraphers use specific stokes & techniques to create consistent lettering that has a traditional, elegant style. Each calligrapher usually has 1–3 consistent styles that they use for everything from place cards to signs to invitations and envelopes.
Hand letterers can be more free flowing in their work, adjusting their style vastly to match each project. Some hand letterers use “faux calligraphy” in their work, while other letterers create more illustrative letters.
Why use hand lettering?
Each hand lettered piece is one of of a kind, made for a particular project which helps it stand out. Since hand lettering can match a broad range of styles, based on the project & hand letterer, it can add a personal, hand-crafted feel to any type of design from invitations & place cards for a wedding to logos & ads for your business to a unique conversation piece for your home. The list of applications is endless. What are you favorite hand lettering examples?
Want to add a unique touch your work with hand lettering? I love working on custom projects & would love to work with you. For inquiries & pricing, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hand Lettering 101 is an ongoing series that address various aspects of the hand lettering craft. Is there something you want to know more about? Let me know in the comments or email me at email@example.com.