How can mastering a skill such as lettering, help you when designing a typeface?


Veronica Grow is the founder and director of Old School New School, Australia’s first and only Typographic Education Centre to specialize in teaching Type and Lettering design for design professionals.

 Image via Veronica Grow.

Image via Veronica Grow.

Veronica has a unique approach on teaching typography. She uses hand-drawn lettering as a base, which makes her a great candidate to ask the following:

Q: how can mastering a skill such as lettering, help you when designing a typeface?

Type designers and letterers are different breeds. Type designers create letters that follow a certain set of rules and that must work on endless combinations, and lettering artists draw specific words or letter combinations to create unique pieces, but how can mastering a skill such as lettering, which is a much more artistic discipline, help you when designing a typeface?


A:  I am always reminded of the salient link between type design and lettering after a day of teaching lettering at Old School New School. This is because the majority of the students that come to one of the OSNS lettering classes are digital natives who lack letter form literacy. They are accustomed to grabbing a font from the list on the computer, without really seeing it and understanding its structure and visual nuances. And so when they start drawing a letter O, or a letter e, they usually omit the subtle nuance of the tapering of vertical strokes that give that letter O its unique shape and character. This subtlety to which I refer is actually the whole DNA of the remaining letterforms in a lettered word, and if we wish to continue the process, of a whole Type Face. With lettering and type design, a tiny nuance goes a long way, and students need to understand this, and know how to make it work. 

Lettering skills are the underpinning basis enabling you to continue on to designing a whole glyph character set of a custom typeface.

If students want to learn how to design the visual system of a whole typeface, learning lettering at a professional level is an excellent starting point. Lettering skills are the underpinning basis enabling you to continue on to designing a whole glyph character set of a custom typeface. When I talk about "professional level lettering", I am not talking about wonky quirky looking lettering which is currently in vogue, but lettering that is precise high quality and professional. This professional grade lettering also teaches you the tools, concepts, and techniques that guide you to see more than pretty alphabets and instead see letters in a whole different way, guiding you on to the right path toward type design.

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