How do you develop hand lettering aesthetics?

j_polo9's picture

I would love to be able to hand letter good logos, or compete in this weeks battle, or even have good day to day handwriting :/ So what are some good practices I can do to learn how to hand letter beatutiful type?

j_polo9's picture

Yea its a great read/ on my shelf/ one i need to re-read. But that one is more of a generic book and I don't remember too much on hand lettering in it. But ill check again.

Goran Soderstrom's picture

Maybe you should considering taking some calligraphy-lessons with a good teacher, it's a great way of getting to know the proportions of letter and practice the hand muscles :)

Bert Vanderveen's picture

I remember using a smallish book by Edward Johnston about writing Italic (the preferred hand for typographers) when I was in Art School (published in the twenties?). And I kind of remember there being a more recent fascimile edition of that book, published by Dover Books (seventies?).
I loved the handwriting of one my graphic design teachers and he pointed me to that one (me being to lazy to take the course he gave). Well, this being 30 years ago, and my memory fading, I may be completely off track here…

j_polo9's picture

@Goran: I've always thought about calligraphy but not sure where they offer classes around me.

@bert: sounds very intriguing. So far i've found:
The House of David, His Inheritance: A Book of Sample Scripts 1914 A.D.

Lessons in Formal Writing

Decoration and Its Uses: Transcribed by John Ch. Tarr from the Imprint, 1913

Writing and Illuminating and Lettering

I bought the last three! Total, including shipping: $23 using Alibris + Abe books + amazon.

Stephen Coles's picture

Lettering lessons from Frank Blokland.

j_polo9's picture

Thanks! That site is pretty sweet. The lesson seems cool and the site is fun to explore.

dtw's picture

Any suggestions for left-handers? I know there are angled nibs, but they always seemed kinda awkward to me. Southpaws have not only the problem of smearing the ink we've just written, but also pushing the nib ahead of our hand instead of letting it trail behind it.
This does tend to leave us constructing the letterforms for everyday handwriting differently from right-handers (eg tending to start a capital E at the top-right hand corner and then drawing the central crossbar right-to-left).
Or am I just making excuses for myself because I know my handwriting is crap? I'd love to have an elegant script like my dad (and his generation?) did...

________________________________________
Ever since I chose to block pop-ups, my toaster's stopped working.

timd's picture

The calligraphy basic exercises (forming oooooo and mmmmmm shapes) are just as applicable for the lefthanded, just a little more complicated, you could try cutting a pencil to a chisel point and amending that (by using it and wearing down the edges you need to use) until you achieve an angle that you can make successful marks with, rather than using a pen which will reduce the pushing problem or you could try working upsidedown (I know someone who does this and it's not for everyone). It's a different discipline to lettering though.
Tim

dtw's picture

Thanks Tim.

It’s a different discipline to lettering though.
Understood; but it's the sort of thing where if you can write it elegantly to start with, you have something to base a calligraphic lettering solution on.

...could try working upside down (I know someone who does this and it’s not for everyone)
LOL; I can see how that would work, but it'd take a while to get used to (basically learning to write all over again AND without the contextual cues of seeing it look right while you're writing it) and boy would you get some funny looks if you ever chose to do that in company!!

_________________________________________
Ever since I chose to block pop-ups, my toaster's stopped working.

timd's picture

One might follow the other, handwriting can be improved by calligraphy too. The difference in disciplines I was referring to is calligraphy on one hand and lettering a logo on the other, for the latter you need more of a skill in hand rendering typefaces and developing them, they aren't totally separate but there is room for more imprecision with calligraphy. For that kind of skill I would look at drawing up a few characters by hand until you can identify the typeface by the sketch.
Tim

paul d hunt's picture

Drawing_How-To

Also, I've been scouring Ebay for lettering books for the past couple of years. One of the best books i've been able to buy is Lettering for Advertising by Mortimer Leach. It covers Bodoni lettering, Caslon lettering, scripts and gothic lettering. a valuable resource.

dezcom's picture

"Any suggestions for left-handers? "

My caligraphy teacher in the early 60s (Arnold Bank) would walk by the lefthanded people in our class and tell them to work on Pointed Pen Italic because it was a left-handers dream script (and a nightmare for right-handers).

ChrisL

William Berkson's picture

>scouring Ebay

Paul, I often have used ABEBooks.com . It includes includes stock from used book stores all over North America, with links to other international branches. Do you find Ebay better, cheaper, different?

paul d hunt's picture

re ebay: i'm just a junkie. i don't know why i prefer using it, it's kinda irrational. there are services that show used books from various booksellers and if you're really wanting something, that's probably the best way to buy books. i guess i'm really just an impulse bargain shopper, but i have gotten some great books at whopping deals once in a while (the 1923 ATF book in near-mint condition for ~$35) on Ebay.

j_polo9's picture

Pricegrabber is great for finding books; though it usually leads me to Amazon so most of the time I check their first, then Abe books or Alibris, which has good prices and out of print books. Oak Knoll Press! is an awesome place to look for rare books, I get lost wondering through their. In fact check out their Typography Selection.

While I'm on the subject Published Art, 3 deep publishing, and Ballistic have great designer books. Let me know if there are any other good sites I dont' know about!

j_polo9's picture

lol Paul, I bought Lettering for Advertising; the 4th of July has put me in a sort of Frenzy so that I can't control myself. Anyway, have you read Letter Design in Graphic Arts, also written by Mortimer Leach?

paul d hunt's picture

i have not... there are so many books out there that i need to read...

Eric_West's picture

ABE.com is def. awesome. I get most of my books there.

This discussion reminded me of a book by/on Edward Johnston edited by Heather Child called Formal Penmanship and Other Papers 71/77 Pentalic NY (sounds like one for the wiki) I got it at Half Price Books for $4.95. One of those semi-lucky days. Treasures abound.

It's ALOT of his sketchbooks/calligraphy and also tutorials written by himself.

I do like ebay for somethings, i get really annoyed fighting for stuff tho. I find the best treasures on ABE or at the used book store.

I found this recently for rare books…

http://www.abaa.org/cgi-bin/abaa/abaapages/index.html

dberlow's picture

>So what are some good practices I can do to learn how to hand letter beatutiful type?
Hand lettering and Calligraphiy were two things. If you want to learn the former, a good practice is to tracing letters.

>Any suggestions for left-handers? “
My caligraphy teacher in the early 70s would walk by the lefthanded people, go back into his office, get a lugar automatic pistol, and bring it to you. No lie. And this, was a required course. I changed hands until I got migranes, then I went into the litholab, learned backwards left-handed, printed, and got credit for two classes by the time I was through with them four years later.

dezcom's picture

"My caligraphy teacher in the early 70s would walk by the lefthanded people, go back into his office, get a lugar automatic pistol, and bring it to you."

A bit more extreme than Arnold Bank but the sentiment was the same :-)
Arnold would just ask left-handers if they had ever considered a career in baseball :-)

ChrisL

Norbert Florendo's picture

> Hand lettering and Calligraphy were two things.

Just to agree and expand on David Berlow's comment --
Handwriting, hand-lettering, calligraphy and type design, though releated, are ALL VERY DIFFERENT in intent, expression and execution.

Being adept in one of these disciplines does not necessarily give you mastery in any of the others, oddly enough. And to make matters worse, none of these talents will assure you of making "good logos".

caboume's picture

Very well said Norbert!

Hand lettering is a specialized skill which doesn't include
an automatic gateway to great designs.

If one is concerened w/ execution of an idea, then the computer
is the place to be. Sketches are for concepts and ideas, not details.

(btw, I had a very similar post on this topic awhile back, I speak
from experience)

timd's picture

I have to disagree, while a computer is great for producing final artwork, a drawing can save time and allows for quicker development, it also allows one to learn more about what makes up a character or word.
Tim

Norbert Florendo's picture

We've had some discussion about computer vs. handwork in the past.

My take at the moment is this --
Each "tool" has intrinsic apects that are unique in approach, hand-eye-brain processing, execution and result.

The more versed you are in using several "tools", the better you are able to make judgemental transferences between process and outcome. (Like using Illustrator to create chisled letterforms.)

But the unique experience of using a particular "tool" or medium can lead you down particular "higher function" paths... all viable, by the way, but all unique nonetheless. Like the difference between an artist using brush and oils vs. collage, or a composer writing a score while humming vs. using a synthesizer, or mathematicians/physicists solving equations on chalkboard vs. calculators.

I can't tell you which approach is "better", I can only tell you that each is different based on tool and individual.

dezcom's picture

I think different individuals "connect" with different tools. Perhaps a more tactile person would prever carving letteres in stone and a mre structural minded person might like compass and ruler better. Norbert is right, each person has to find their way with both tool and process and make a home.

ChrisL

caboume's picture

I have to disagree, while a computer is great for producing final artwork, a drawing can save time and allows for quicker development, it also allows one to learn more about what makes up a character or word.

I don't think we are in disagreement. The computer is indeed great
for producing final work (execution), and sketches are great for
conceptualization, ideas -- development.

William Berkson's picture

Just out of curiousity, Tim, are you speaking of art work, or type faces? These seem to be somewhat different animals. I think I heard that some who used to draw type all the time, pre-computer, such as Matthew Carter, now mostly work directly on computer.

If I remember rightly, a number of type designers reported here doing sketches to get ideas and initially test them out, but then move quickly to the computer, without doing a complete alphabet or refining it on paper.

timd's picture

I am talking about hand lettering logos, where for example you might want to shape letters on a curve, for an example there is this thread in the critique section. Indeed a different animal but not unrelated. The reason I mentioned drawing type (as opposed to tracing) is that, for me anyway, it seems to be the best grounding in going on to draw logos. As for drawing a typeface, I imagine that to work up a concept based on a few characters or parts of characters on paper followed by computer would work, but where distortion/ligature (or whatever) is involved I prefer to work out most of the detail before going onto computer, partly this is because it seems to me that opportunities may be missed when you get down to beziers. And as Norbert notes it is really about what one feels most comfortable/creative with.
Tim

crossgrove's picture

"If one is concerened w/ execution of an idea, then the computer
is the place to be. Sketches are for concepts and ideas, not details."

Frank, how old are you? You seem to be unaware of all the products, tools and machines humans have made and employed over the millennia. Computers are a recent convenience that facilitate quick fabrication. You also seem to be unaware of how central drawing (what you call sketches) is to all this design work. There's more to drawing than sketches.

The computer is a place to huddle if there are no other skills present. Take away the computer, and you separate the inventive thinkers, the designers and creators from the mouse jockeys. Raymond Loewy did not use computers to develop his car, train, furniture, or product designs. He drew them, typically to a high degree of detail and finish. Computers are tools like pencils and light tables. Drawing is indeed for details and executing ideas. Just ask Adrian Frutiger, who hand-cut his own rubylith typeface masters, from his own hand-drawn final art.

j_polo9's picture

well have you used Corel Painter with a nice Wacom Tablet? To each his own. Though I still prefer paper, it is just my preference.

Nick Shinn's picture

I don't buy the digital/analog split.
One can draw on screen.
Grabbing a curve between two BCPs and manipulating the shape until it looks right is drawing.
So too is selecting a number of points, or even an entire glyph, and manipulating that with, say, the skew tool.

The distinction between the media is that analog drawing is about making marks, whereas digital drawing is more about adjusting shapes. For instance, constructing a path shape with the pen tool is very difficult as straight drawing, even with a stylus; however, the best practice working method is to draw the rough shape and then refine it with other pen tools.
The subtle real-time adjustment of a digital shape till it looks right to the eye constitutes drawing, just as much as making a mark with pen on paper. Drawing is the interplay of hand, eye, and image, with real-time feedback.

While it's true that some curves can best be drawn on paper, using the kind of control facilitated by the drag of friction between pen/pencil and paper (or the suppleness of a fine brush) -- and scale may be a factor too -- it's also true that other kinds of curves, most notably those of simple mathematical form, are best drawn with a ruler, compass or template, and these are best done with a computer. Actions like playing with skew can only be done on a computer.

crossgrove's picture

Nick:

Do you think you would feel that way if you had never had any experience drawing?

Maybe what you mean is "I can draw onscreen".

timd's picture

>Actions like playing with skew can only be done on a computer.

Or using a copy camera, or a photocopier or a Grant, it sometimes is easier/more predictable to use the computer, but I feel one does miss out not exploring the manual process.
Tim

Nick Shinn's picture

Do you think you would feel that way if you had never had any experience drawing?

You mean drawing on paper? Everybody has had that experience.
I'm puzzled you think that working a mouse or stylus -- manually, of course -- to create lines in a software program, is somehow not drawing.

Maybe what you mean is “I can draw onscreen”.

Not just me. Anyone who uses the pen tool in Illustrator (Fontographer, Fontlab, etc.) to create a path, either by clicking points and dragging handles to control the curve, or by using the free-form pen tool, is drawing. It's just a way to "draw out" a line.

Anyone who grabs a curve between two BCPs and plays around with it, controlling it with a stylus or mouse, until it looks right, is also drawing.

it sometimes is easier/more predictable to use the computer, but I feel one does miss out not exploring the manual process.

Drawing with pen on paper is a manual process.
Drawing in a software program is a manual process.
If you only do one, sure, you miss out on the other, as each tool has its own strengths and weaknesses.

timd's picture

I’m not convinced that not drawing on a computer means you miss out on an experience you couldn’t have with pen or pencil, conversely, you do miss the marks that pencils and pens make when you apply more pressure or use a softer graphite or a different nib or on a different medium – the approximations made by software are still pitiful.

Further, I am not sure that drawing on computer is somehow going to improve handwriting or calligraphy.
Tim

dezcom's picture

I view the difference between computer drawing and paper drawing much the same way as I did the difference between the several types of paper drawing. In the before computer era, we did freehand drawing, constructed drawing (using drafting tools) and even cutting with knife and straight edge (Rubylith, etc.). Knowing good constructing/drafting technique was not-that much aid in freehand pencil technique, true, but in training the eye and mind to see and understand, it all helped. There is no "best Way" to work or learn. Each person has to find their own best way. It does help to drink of many waters though to know about other possibilities.

ChrisL

crossgrove's picture

"Drawing with pen on paper is a manual process.
Drawing in a software program is a manual process."

Nick, this is absurdly simplistic.

"You mean drawing on paper? Everybody has had that experience."

No, they have not! That is my point.

"I’m puzzled you think that working a mouse or stylus — manually, of course — to create lines in a software program, is somehow not drawing."

That is not what I think. You have it in reverse. All Chihuahuas are dogs, right? Well, are all dogs Chihuahuas?

Maybe I've not been clear enough: *IF* one has had some substantial training or experience with drawing manually, then of course that person will have some facility with a mouse and beziers. A person who has already gained hand skills can pick up almost any tool and make letters, drawings, shapes. Chris, Nick, not to be unkind, but you've both been around the block a time or two. There weren't computers around for you to rely on when you started out. That has changed. There are lots of people in the graphic arts today who actually have not had any experience drawing, lettering, or doing anything to develop hand skills. Are you really not aware of their presence?

Hand skills enable one to use beziers (or any other tool) and adjust them to match their vision without a lot of struggle. However, if the only skill one has is moving a mouse around and tapping keys, that does NOT offer the "designer" anything like the control, visual acuity, or coordination to convey their ideas visually, that one develops while learning to draw. If you think it does, you're not paying attention. Look around typophile for examples of people who can't get the thing onscreen to do what it does in their head.

Imagine your own life without *any* time spent drawing, sketching, comping type in layouts, cutting rubylith, painting, lettering, white-out, re-inking, carving, pottery, sculpting, cutting, woodworking or drafting. Then imagine starting a career in graphic arts with nothing but a computer and software. That's what I'm talking about, what's happening now.

dezcom's picture

"Chris, Nick, not to be unkind, but you’ve both been around the block a time or two."

Perhaps even more than 2 :-)

I am not dissagreeing with anything you said. Notice my last phrase where I said "It does help to drink of many waters though to know about other possibilities." I think hand work as we did in the dark ages really helps hand-eye work as done on the computer today. Having done it for half a dozen decades, I have no fear of drawing. Some of todays young people may feel differently though.

ChrisL

dberlow's picture

" it seems to me that opportunities may be missed when you get down to beziers."

I don't think anyone is going to argue that point with the "may be". But...No opportunities exist for a pencil sketch to look like a digital letter, and...even fewer opportunities exist for pencil sketches to look like a digital font. ;)

Nick Shinn's picture

“You mean drawing on paper? Everybody has had that experience.”
No, they have not! That is my point.

Carl, everybody starts out drawing on paper, usually with Crayola.
I'm defining drawing as the process of physically making a line, non device-specific, quite literally drawing it out. I'm not investing "drawing" with any cultural values -- such as I've acquired at art school and as a pre-digital art director.

My philosophy here is not to overvalue my own pre-digital drawing skills against those of (younger) digitally-centred designers. It's because I'm trying to "imagine starting a career in graphic arts with nothing but a computer and software," that I'm wondering why it's necessary to master an obsolete medium.

Using drawing on paper as part of the process to design and render lettering or fonts is still legitimate, and I have a great appreciation for it -- but it's not necessary. There are other ways of working, which may be more in tune with present day reality, more true-to-materials than legacy media.

However, if the only skill one has is moving a mouse around and tapping keys, that does NOT offer the “designer” anything like the control, visual acuity, or coordination to convey their ideas visually, that one develops while learning to draw.

I agree with you about the mouse being a poor tool, a stylus is much better. But I disagree with the notion that learning to draw can only be done on paper. If designers don't have hand skills it's because they haven't spent enough time developing them. Whether they do it with ink on paper or stylus on tablet is irrelevant.

Ideas which are to be conveyed visually don't just materialize out of the purity of the designer's mind, they also concern the potential of the tools used, and the way the designer works with them. In that sense, it is false to bring the baggage of paper-drawing skills into digital work.

There is a relationship between old-school drawing, a certain kind of visual acuity, and classic lettering styles, obviously, and if some type designers want to create classic work from scratch, pen and ink provides insight. That's part of what I do. But it's not the only way to repurpose the past with digital media.

I recall another Typophile thread, where it was revealed that several accomplished type designers can't draw worth squat.

crossgrove's picture

"Carl, everybody starts out drawing on paper, usually with Crayola"

And some of them stop immediately after they put the crayon down.

"If designers don’t have hand skills it’s because they haven’t spent enough time developing them."

How about ZERO time? Am I being clear enough?

I notice that people who only draw onscreen or with beziers tend to be seduced into believing their work is finished long before they have explored all the possibilities. Sketching, erasing, testing several ideas, all operate as part of a pre-digitization stage that is very useful in weeding out stupid ideas, helping make decisions and saving time. That's really valuable to me, and judging from all the bad new typefaces out there, it would benefit a lot of others.

You can certainly digitize a typeface and then play with it, change it, transform it. I do that myself. I just don't think everyone is making use of a development period, and it shows.

ebensorkin's picture

Nick your points are good ones - however I think that they are most applicable post-training. For lots of folks ( maybe not everybody ) there is no better way to train the mind to think in visual tems than with drawing & hand skills of all kinds. I don't think it's a question of old & busted media vs. the new hotness of digital so much as a question of having a full set of mental tools and approaches to draw on. After you have some experience with the full set of tools and ways of thinking & experiencing you can better afford to pick the ones that work best for you. Being without the options is a kind of mental impovrishment. I think that Carl is sort of saying 'don't put these kids in a digital ghetto'. And if so I think he is right. I also think that the 'baggage of paper-drawing skills' is a rich cultural hertiage that is worth having a nodding aquatance with at least - again from a training point of view.

hankzane's picture

If you want to have
a good day to day handwriting

find a good pen
avoid the fat ones
or anything
with
a button on it

black ink is best

when combined with red
perhaps even better

and some time
to copy styles of
the old dogs

don't listen to teachers
or consult anyone in here
or me
for that matter
just look at that thread
(you know which one)
if you really have
to know

why

drink coffee once in a while
but don't overdo it
your hands will start shaking
and you'll write
like an old wounded hen
if you don't do that
already

keep scribbling
or scrawling
whatever you prefer

write some love letters
or poems
whatever you do
as long as it's not
too corny
people will forgive you
except for the jerks

maybe

it's like a language
don't try to put
too much at once
into your mouth
unless you want
to embarrass everyone
around you and
yourself

when you're at
a point
thinking
this isn't too bad
or too good
let me know.

Nick Shinn's picture

Sergej, that sounds like Dwiggins or Cooper.

Being without the options is a kind of mental impovrishment.

Hey, I'm all in favour of eclecticism.
But the poverty of being single-minded is also a virtue.
Why can't Jesse practise drawing beautiful lettering on screen, with a stylus and tablet?
Why does on-screen drawing have to be an imitation, or refinement of paper drawing?
Why can't it be its own beast?

Norbert Florendo's picture

> Why does on-screen drawing have to be an imitation, or refinement of paper drawing?
Why can’t it be its own beast?

It IS its own beast!

I tried to "hint" at what I meant by each tool having its own unique and intrinsic aspects, but I guess I should elaborate (duh... too many words to express what's beautifully simple in nature).

It's not about getting from Point A (nothing) to Point B (something).
It's about the pathway which makes for unique learning and discovery.

Each tool, each method, each technique, each medium, each problem, each and every time you engage yourself is an opportunity to explore and discover something.

If you could "will" a house into existence, that would be terrific!
(And I'm certain that at one point in technological/biological developments, one will be able to "draw" imagery on the screen by mental commands.)

Though building a house using only hand tools, or only power tools may get the same or similar results as the "mentally" constructed one, the experience (pathway) and understanding (discovery) would EACH be uniquely different.

In other words, it's not about the end result, but it's about YOU, how you got there, what you've learned, and what you've experienced... all of which will make your next project "slightly different" with something more of YOU in it.

In summary -- each tool offers unique pathways, and each pathway is an opportunity. In the end, it's really YOU who count and not "how you did it".

dberlow's picture

"Sketching, erasing, testing several ideas, all operate as part of a pre-digitization stage that is very useful in weeding out stupid ideas, helping make decisions and saving time. "

I know Carl, but how do you know what's useful, and what's stupid until it's a letter among letters, which it isn't until it is. I'm not saying no one should draw letters with pencils or crayons, but I'm fairly certain from being born early enough, that I know I could have skipped the pencil stage for type design entirely and not missed a beat, (with the exception of 1 or 2 napkin sessions). I could not have skipped calligraphy. But if you look at development: metal types are made in metal, film types in film, sign painting is painted, and digital fonts are digitized, because it's where the idea hits the medium that type design happens. Before that happens, anything else is a substitute for a well trained imagination and experience. And, you don't get the experience to train your imagination until you know how to make fonts in their native from from the start.

William Berkson's picture

>I could have skipped the pencil stage for type design entirely... I could not have skipped calligraphy.

Interesting. What did you learn from calligraphy as opposed to pencil sketching?

ben_archer's picture

Hey Jesse

Some good points are made here; logo lettering skills are not necessarily the same as having worthwhile day-to-day handwriting.

However, all of them are based in drawing and borne out of practice.

In addition to Stephens good advice at post#2 (which you say you need to re-read; heck! I re-read it all the time !) you could look at the writing manuals produced by Alfred Fairbank. These should be available secondhand at many of the sources listed above.

I think I'm right in saying that Fairbanks work in the UK left a legacy of instruction for all English primary schoolers – cursive hand was still taught by rote when I was there, but like Bert says, that's going back a while.

Of course, you could also pick up a copy of The Stroke by Gerrit Noordzij if you want to take it further.

paul d hunt's picture

Interesting. What did you learn from calligraphy as opposed to pencil sketching?

i'm guessing ductal logic and a feel for notan.

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