How do you develop hand lettering aesthetics?

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Jesse Phillips's picture
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How do you develop hand lettering aesthetics?
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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?

Claudio Piccinini's picture
Joined: 11 Jan 2003 - 9:32am
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Hopefully. :=)

Back to the "hand" issue: a silly article I did on the topic for Max Kisman (& FontShop) in the far year 2002:
http://www.hollandfonts.com/tribe/tribe02/0007/000704.html

If you forgive the naiveness, it still includes some interesting data…

Peter Enneson's picture
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One of the things that came up here was "the notan the body needs".

In the process of writing up a post to the Rule or Law thread, I came to think the following might apply: the white needs to have a proper salience and criterial components of the black, distinctive cue value.

Proper here means: so that the pattern of the whites inside the bounded map is well-defined and assertive; criterial means criterial in relation to their place in visual wordform resolution, not just letter identification. (I read recently in some papers on ‘crowding’ that reading operates on not one but two spatial frequency registers.)

Chris Lozos's picture
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Sounds good, Peter.

ChrisL

Jelmar Geertsma's picture
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[[http://dpc.uba.uva.nl/cgi/i/image/image-idx?view=entry;subview=detail;c=...|Nothing beats drawing type by hand]] ;) (use the drop-down next to "andere weergave" for the rest of the family, and the controls in the bottom to zoom and such).

William Berkson's picture
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Thanks for the link Jelmar. Totally fabulous.

Jelmar Geertsma's picture
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No prob. I agree, totally fabulous. Especially with the comments in the margins and all (directed to Peter Matthias Noordzij).

[[http://dpc.uba.uva.nl/cgi/f/findaid/findaid-idx?c=bc;cc=bc;view=reslist;...|Here is a link to the main page of the collection]] (Amsterdam University "special collections" archive), although the gallery I linked to are the only images online. It's in Dutch, so that's a pity for the English speakers here. ;) Basically it tells the history of the material and some other background info.

Theunis de Jong's picture
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Interesting read! From that article:

"The profit margin for spam may be meager enough that spammers must be sensitive to the details of how their campaigns are run and are economically susceptible to new defenses."

That explains the sudden interest in spamming here, they are desperately seeking new ways to push their thrash.

Maybe they'll give up if they realize their precious one in a 2 million hit didn't come from this site.

Claudio Piccinini's picture
Joined: 11 Jan 2003 - 9:32am
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Thanks to whoever brought this old thread back!

I think newer designers get too precious, careful, conservative and restained as soon as they get in front of a screen. Why? I have no idea. But I think they do.
On the other hand when you give somebody a chalk & chalkboard, pen & napkin; or a crappy sheet of paper and a pencil - the very informality implied by the materials opens them up to a comfortable, playful and freer kind of expression. 99 times out of 100 that rough crappy drawing isn’t a product in itself afterwards. But it is a byproduct of something more precious - exploration, learning, and sometime invention. Which can then be applied in a variety of ways and using a variety of tools.

Amazing, Eben, and you wrote it two years ago… Thanks!

Leaving the psychology of it out of the equation it still remains that most digital tools are not made with rough idea exploration in mind.
Yes, yes, yes! While I agree an awful deal with Nick (Drawing is *in the mind*), it's at the same time, for most ideas, a million times difficult to refine things with vector tools, instead of a physical tool. I recall Jon Barnbrook wrote a review of the software FontStudio, many years ago, and he underlined how still unfriendly were these digital tools for the fine-tuning of forms (or should we say "inking"?).
Of course there are tablets, but the result seems different to me.
And it seems to me we're witnessing a plethora of almost identical typefaces coming out from "mere computer environments"…

Thanks to all…

Claudio Piccinini's picture
Joined: 11 Jan 2003 - 9:32am
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Thanks to whoever brought this old thread back!

I think newer designers get too precious, careful, conservative and restained as soon as they get in front of a screen. Why? I have no idea. But I think they do.
On the other hand when you give somebody a chalk & chalkboard, pen & napkin; or a crappy sheet of paper and a pencil - the very informality implied by the materials opens them up to a comfortable, playful and freer kind of expression. 99 times out of 100 that rough crappy drawing isn’t a product in itself afterwards. But it is a byproduct of something more precious - exploration, learning, and sometime invention. Which can then be applied in a variety of ways and using a variety of tools.

Amazing, Eben, and you wrote it two years ago… Thanks!

Leaving the psychology of it out of the equation it still remains that most digital tools are not made with rough idea exploration in mind.
Yes, yes, yes! While I agree an awful deal with Nick (Drawing is *in the mind*), it's at the same time, for most ideas, a million times difficult to refine things with vector tools, instead of a physical tool. I recall Jon Barnbrook wrote a review of the software FontStudio, many years ago, and he underlined how still unfriendly were these digital tools for the fine-tuning of forms (or should we say "inking"?).
Of course there are tablets, but the result seems different to me.
And it seems to me we're witnessing a plethora of almost identical typefaces coming out from "mere computer environments"…

Thanks to all…

Theunis de Jong's picture
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Thanks to whoever brought this old thread back!

So that's finally a plus point for the spammers!

(In case the post gets deleted -- this thread was resurrected from the archives because someone thinks this is a great way to attract attention to his product. THINK AGAIN, DUDE.)

Jelmar Geertsma's picture
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Oh, I didn't even see it was brought back. Thought it was an interesting read, so I didn't look at the dates when I replied earlier.

Theunis de Jong's picture
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No worries -- the capitals were not to shout at you, Jelmar.

What is it that people take the trouble to create a login, just to post spam? I heard "spamming works, because 1 in 100 people respond to it". If one of you typophiles is that person, can't you go and **** ***?

(The asterisks are mine. Don't wanna offend anyone, or something.)

((Is it just me, or is this entire thread in italics?))

Jelmar Geertsma's picture
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It's you. I don't see italics. ;)

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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> “spamming works, because 1 in 100 people respond to it”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7719281.stm

hhp

Stephen Coles's picture
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Jesse Phillips's picture
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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.

Göran Söderström's picture
Joined: 15 Feb 2006 - 2:53am
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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
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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…

Jesse Phillips's picture
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@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
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Lettering lessons from Frank Blokland.

Jesse Phillips's picture
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Thanks! That site is pretty sweet. The lesson seems cool and the site is fun to explore.

Dave Williams's picture
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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.

Tim Daly's picture
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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

Dave Williams's picture
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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.

Tim Daly's picture
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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
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[[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.

Chris Lozos's picture
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"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
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>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
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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.

Jesse Phillips's picture
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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!

Jesse Phillips's picture
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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
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i have not... there are so many books out there that i need to read...

Eric West's picture
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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

David Berlow's picture
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>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.

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"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
Joined: 9 Jun 2005 - 2:21pm
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> 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".

Frank Lin's picture
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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)

Tim Daly's picture
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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
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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.

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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

Frank Lin's picture
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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
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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.

Tim Daly's picture
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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

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"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.

Jesse Phillips's picture
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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.

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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.

Carl Crossgrove's picture
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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".

Tim Daly's picture
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>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
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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.

Tim Daly's picture
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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