I love the idea of progress and of looking back to see how much something has changed and how far I have come. I have recently reviewed my history and looked at my work that goes years back all the way to high-school, and have noticed a vast improvement in both my craft and the style of my work, and I wanted to share with you that progress, growth, and change is something that occurs over a long period of time:
My final year of high-school in 2010 was when I was introduced to Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I was not familiar with design and font choices at this point, but was more interested in the effects I could create with Adobe to make images I thought were rad. Still a long way away from hand-lettering. I also used a lot of grunge display fonts and textures, which at the the time I thought were the most eye-appealing things in the world. I later became part of the team that designed the school yearbook of 2010, and I put a lot of extra-effort designing the cover. I really wish I had a photo of the yearbook to show you just how terrible it was, which at the time seemed really awesome.
Like any normal teenager, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduating. I knew I enjoyed working with Adobe, but was not something I took seriously and was also unaware of the possible career choices that came with it. I actually ended up studying a year of Business Accounting at university, and dreaded every minute of it. In any free time I had, I would continue ‘designing’ with photoshop and posting them online to see its reception. Later I realized that the thing you do in your free time or to relax is the thing you should be focusing your time on because it is what you naturally love to do, and I thought maybe this whole designing thing had potential.
After leaving my major in Accounting, I continued to create images to build a portfolio to get me into a course in Design. At one point, I retouched a photo of a lion and posted it on tumblr, and it got over 500 notes, so obviously I thought I was the coolest kid on the block.
The Day I Got Into Hand-Lettering
During this gap period, I had the opportunity to spend time with illustrator Nathaniel Eckstrom, who illustrates for children’s books, prints, and packaging. He introduced me to lots of books on handcraft and the power of drawing. He helped me understand that rather than relying on photos, fonts, and images, I could be completely independent by illustrating in my own style and creating something out of nothing. This was a huge game-changer for me, and it paved the way to where I am now.
I spent hours of my day researching other letterers, studying letterforms and practicing on my own; here is a collection of my earliest lettering works; you can clearly see the unrefined, amateur approach:
Practice Practice Practice
To get better at the art of hand-lettering, I began applying it in my daily life by lettering positive phrases to share a message or lettering things I have learned. I posted these on my social platforms and this body of work slowly accumulated traction, and people began appreciating my work. Gradually, as I got more and more familiar with lettering, I began to develop my own style based on my tastes and sense of design.
All This Leads to the Now
After years of practice and refining my craft, I have come to a point where I am finally comfortable with my own style and you will find me working on personal lettering projects, selling merchandise, creating case-studies, and sharing my process work as well as my resources in the hopes of helping somebody else find what they love to do.
I use lettering as a form of voice, and use it in my design career to work on projects such as logo design, apparel design, packaging, and wedding invitations.
Over time, I have merged my artistic background with strategic design thinking and this formed my style where at first glance is visually engaging, but upon further inspection, is meaningful and rich with content.
*This blog post has been written in 2015, and a lot has changed since then where I’ve stepped away from lettering and entered into a more branding and visual communication sphere. I will make updates soon!
So What Does This Mean For You?
Reflect on your own life. Revisit some of your earlier work and your milestones. I hope you can see your own development and appreciate the hard-work you’ve put into it, and continue to do so.
If you don’t see much difference, then maybe not enough time has passed for any significant change.
My advice would be to see yourselves in the next 10 years. What do you see yourself doing when you are in your 50s?
Imagine you have traveled everywhere you wanted to go, and have done everything you wanted to do. What do you see yourself doing then? That is what you should be committing your time to now. Have very specific goals that you work towards and set out to achieve them; not doing so is the same as preventing yourselves from success.