Hand lettering has existed for as long as people have been writing. It is often confused with typography, but the two have key differences. Each hand designed letter is made to suit the situation whereas fonts use the same letter form each time. Fonts remain unchanged, but hand lettering gives any piece of work a human touch.
Calligraphy can also be mistaken for hand lettering, and while it is not too far from it, calligraphy involves writing letters in a traditional way and follows strict stroke rules. While hand lettering can follow basic rules too, it consists of drawing letters rather than writing them which gives the artist the freedom to create something beautifully unique. By being completely suited to the project, hand-drawn letters evoke emotions and attract people in a way that typography might fail to do.
Mary Kate McDevitt is a Philadelphia based letterer and illustrator. She uses bold colours, lots of design elements and a vintage style in her lettering. Her work has gained immense popularity over the years with an impressive client list including Nintendo, Nike and Sesame Street. Along with freelancing, Mcdevitt also teaches at Tyler School of Art and Okay Fine as well as online through Skillshare.
Another well-known artist, Dana Tanamachi is a graphic designer and letterer recognized for her chalk lettering skills. She worked under professional designer Louise Fili and now owns a studio specializing in custom hand lettering and illustrations for editorial, lifestyle, food and fashion brands. She has been commissioned globally by clients such as Google, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Instagram.
Joseph Alessio’s work (pictured in title image) bypasses the usual as he chooses to use materials other than the traditional pen and paper. Instead, he turns things such as dollar bills, books, tools and snow into pieces of art. Alessio’s past clients include Target, KFC and The Washington Post.
Darren Booth is a Canadian letterer, illustrator and surface designer. He creates his colourful style pieces by over-layering paper collage with acrylic paints. His extraordinary designs have led to him achieving multiple awards and working with high profile clients such as Coco-Cola, Google and Disney. Booth continues to aim high as he wishes for his work to be someday featured on a billboard at Times Square and would like to design a children’s book series.
Jessica Hische is a hugely successful hand lettering artist, illustrator, type designer and author. She has been featured twice on Forbes 30 under 30, and her remarkable client list that includes Barack Obama and Facebook explains it. Jessica Hische spends the time she isn’t lettering spreading her knowledge through her Skillshare class ‘Lettering for Designers’. Her book ‘In Progress’ is a useful resource for aspiring letterers as it shows her lettering process – from pencil sketch to final piece.