Page 1

EDITORIAL -- by Donburi Pollo

HANDMADE One rather common example of this is the myriad of blog posts and showcases claiming to display “hand-lettered typography” — I’ve even heard university professors say it. Though the phrase seems to make sense, it’s actually a contradiction in terms — hand-lettering is not typography at all! Before you throw your pens and brushes at me in protest, please let me explain! Even though lettering and typography share many of the same concepts, and a good eye and understanding of one will enable you in the other as well, they are completely different disciplines. Let’s begin by defining how we understand each term. Typography is essentially the study of how letterforms interact on a surface, directly relating to how the type will be set when it eventually goes to press. One definition is stated as “the style, arrangement or appearance of typeset matter,” and is a product of the movable type printing system that much of the world has used for centuries. It is related to typesetting and can include type design. In our current digitally-driven design world, this means working with fonts on a daily basis for most of us. Gerrit Noordzij, professor of typeface design at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, Netherlands, from 1960 to 1990, defines typography as “writing with prefabricated characters.” Peter Bil’ak, founder of Typotheque, notes that this “implies a complete distinction from lettering, handwriting or graffiti, which are also concerned with creating letter-shapes, but don’t offer a repeatable system of setting these letters.” Lettering can be simply defined as “the art of drawing letters”. A lot goes into making lettering look right, and that’s an entirely different topic, but the concept is very simple: a specific combination of letterforms crafted for a single use and purpose as opposed to using previously designed letters as components, as with typography. Often lettering is hand-drawn, with pens, graphite or brushes, although some people start their work directly in Adobe Illustrator. Engraving and similar arts are related to lettering.




Rising Talents --

LEANDRO SENNA .................................. 4 Featured Online --

ALPHABATTLE ...................................... 6 Interview --

LUCA BARCELLONA ............................... 8 Toolbox --

BRUSHPEN ..........................................14 Words of Wisdom --

GETTING STARTED ON LETTERING..........16 The Big Screen --

A FILM ABOUT SIGN PAINTING.............. 18 Style Brawl --

LETTERING VS CALLIGRAPHY................22 The image on the left is a close up of an artwork by LUCA BARCELLONA


RISING TALENTS -- by Anderson Polga

LEANDRO SENNA HE’S A BRAZILIAN GRAPHIC DESIGNER WHO MOVED TO NEW YORK CITY. HIS VIRAL VIDEO IS A TYPOGRAPHIC REMIX OF AN OLD BOB DYLAN CLIP. For Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues: A Hand Lettering Experience, designer Leandro Senna transcribed the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” into 66 hand-lettered cards, which he then synced to Dylan’s song in this video. The video is inspired by Dylan’s 1965 promotional clip for “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in which Dylan went through a series of cue cards in sync with the music. I´ve been thinking for a lot of time on doing a personal project where I could get out of the computer for a little bit, and have pleasure doing something handmade. Getting back to the basics. He flips cards with the lyrics as the song plays, I decided to recreate those cards with handmade type. I ended up doing all the lyrics, and not just some of the words, as Dylan did. During my spare time using only pencil, black tint pens and brushes.



The challenge was not to use the computer, no retouching was allowed. Getting a letter wrong meant starting the page over. I had a lot of fun doing this project, researching, practicing and getting deeper on typography. Just wanted the final result to be handmade. On the original song video, so I tried to keep that feeling in a certain way. If you’ve ever seen D.A. Pennebaker’s classic 1967 documentary Don’t Look Back (or even if you haven’t), you know the famous scene Bob Dylan fliping through cue cards.

FEATURED ONLINE -- by John Rubbervald

ALPHABATTLE IN THIS DAY AND AGE, WITH SO MANY FONTS ACCESSIBLE TO US AT JUST THE PRESS OF A BUTTON, THERE ARE STILL AMAZING DESIGNERS WILLING TO GO ABOVE AND BEYOND THE NORM. When it comes to lettering, there’s something about a handmade project that just stops us in our tracks. and hand-letter their work impresses us to no end. This dozen projects are no different; each of them made us stop and say, “Wow, what’s that?.” We hope you’ll feel the same way. Argentina-based designer Lisa Nemetz’s identity for VQV, an organic restaurant, positively demands attention. The masterful, almost casual brushwork perfectly evokes the texture and vibrance of the food on offer. Louisville’s own Bryan Patrick Todd , a graphic designer and artist, documented the process of creating this gorgeous mural he was commissioned to create. Once the initial design and mockups were completed, he worked with a sign painter to see that the mural accurately reflected his design. Toronto-based artist and graphic designer Jason Vandenberg initially caught our eye with his hand-drawn project entitled Earn Your Sleep on Instagram. On his website, however, Vandenberg documents each step of his process, from initial sketches and drafts, to the final, vectorized results. Worth a look! Hailing from Orlando, Florida, Thomas Pena’s impressive Behance profile showcases a knack for typography that extends across a variety of media, along with an arresting capability for hand lettering. His set of three hand-lettered inspirational quotes, edited using a faux-chalkboard effect, would make a real and truly fantastic wall decal or poster triptych.

top / Studio 8 bottom / Jonathan Zawada

The Illumination Project is a DVD study series for small groups, developed from the video content of a live event held in Portland, Oregon. Russell Shaw’s handlettering takes it beyond the ordinary and creates an impactful and memorable product for young adults. It’s easy to notice that the final result is a lovely and stunning view to the eyes.



Ryan Frease for Alphabattle

INTERVIEW -- by Chaz Bojórquez

LUCA BARCELLONA CHAZ BOJÓRQUEZ: At what age did you become aware of the art of calligraphy? Why did it become important to you? LUCA BARCELLONA: When I was very young, mother made me play this game in the car so that I could recognise and read the store signs. I was really fascinated by the letters. So big, so many colours, and each sign so different. I remember the type, Estro, by Aldo Novarese. They used it for the intros to certain cartoons; it was a type for kids that ended up being used for spaghetti westerns! And then there was the type on the packaging of supermarket candy and junkfood I was always trying to copy. Growing up, I would drool for hours over the graphics on skateboards in store windows. Two fundamental stepping stones were my first encounter with graffiti when I was still in graphic design school and the calligraphy of the late 90s. ng very similar to those in writing of the 1950s. It’s a fascinating and infinite world. After being drowned in technology and the homogeneity that software provides, it is understandable,even natural, that people return to manual tradition. A lot of people expressly ask me to not use fonts. But it’s hard to predict what will happen. I try to diffuse calligraphy simply by using it and teaching it to others so that it continues to be passed It took a very natural course, rich with surprises. At the time, I didn’t think that drawing letters could be a career. I just felt like I had to do it and that was that, because it

was something that made me feel good, a sort of meditation. Letters are the codes we use to communicate. A phoneme becomes a graphic sign, and the letter designer’s job is to give those signs form, or to use the right one. As far as appearances go, it might seem like a minor discipline that most people ignore, but everyone benefits from it somehow or another. In a society founded on the image and on communication, letters are fundamental.

CHAZ: If you had to choose, who would you say are your greatest influences?

LUCA: After my training writing graffiti – which really is less about actual rules and more of a self-taught, egocentric quest – I moved on to graphic design, typography and traditional calligraphy, where I came to know the styles of classical writing, the key movements and tools. I had great teachers, both directly and indirectly. I remember that your works and the discovery of the Cholo style were among the first to catch my attention. They turned me on to the idea of being able to blend freedom and modernity with tradition. I’ve worked this way for a long time. So, I could cite your paint-brushed letters among my greatest influences just as I could the work of other calligraphers like Rudolf Koch and Hermann Zapf. Twist’s tags in the mid-90s are just as influential as the wonderful writing examples of John Stevens; then there are the illustrations of Alex Trochut and hard-

Bruno Munari Is Awesome, 2013




to-find calligraphers like Herman Kilian who experimented with different shapes in lettering very similar to those in writing of the 1950s. It’s a fascinating and infinite world. After being drowned in technology and the homogeneity that software provides, it is understandable,even natural, that people return to manual tradition. A lot of people expressly ask me to not use fonts. But it’s hard to predict what will happen. I try to diffuse calligraphy simply by using it and teaching it to others so that it continues to be passed down and understood. There are so many people who are passionate about the world of letters compared to a few years ago. You just have to look in any library at the growing number of books on type design and other related subjects, and the average age of those who attend my classes. They’re all very young and a lot of them come from graffiti backgrounds. I believe that new languages are created spontaneously, by combining our knowledge with the tools of our time.

C: The negative spaces between the lines and shapes are just as important as the letters. How do you know when the letters are finished and well-proportioned? L: I always trust my eye, even more than I trust geometry. At times, it’s useful to go back to a piece after a few days’ time. It helps me realise immediately if something isn’t right. You can waste so much time and so many reams of paper on a curve that just doesn’t convince you, but that’s the beauty of it! So often companies ask you to do just the logo or just the lettering for a project, while the graphics are entrusted to others who use fonts without consulting you, or use the letters of their liking. What you find then is, for example, that the trademark on a wine bottle label is full of Photoshop effects, or that the lettering on an 80s-style book cover is a done in a wood type from the 30s. I often see fonts that are distorted and rotated, in different colours. Honestly, I even find it a little disrespectful. I try to find

equilibrium between commercial projects, which provide me with a living, and personal projects in which I invest time and energy for that passion that’s so easy to lose when it becomes just another job.

Maledigione, 2013

C: Are you a perfectionist? L: I’ve produced a small line of T-shirts and some advertisements that had hand-printed engravings just to alternate the large amount of work I have in the studio with personal projects – projects that involve other people

right / Brodo di Niente, 2013






Dodditche, 2012

as well who make you feel happy and gratified. Moreover, there are occasions when you can freely propose your ideas without someone commissioning them, and, in turn, generate new opportunities.

C: When i visited your studio in milan, you showed me a few calligraphy pens you made by hand. Could you describe the kind of tools you make and use? L: Like I said, the right tool for the right goal. I love the flat brush for the twists it allows. It lets you create lively letters. Calligraphy nibs are precise, but they can also be used in a more gestural way, just like the infinite number of tools that can be built by hand or those you find when sifting through stores. For layouts, I use a lot of stylographic pens for calligraphy. They’re really handy. But for final drafts, I use more traditional tools like automatic pens, and I prefer thin tempera and Sumi – a Chinese ink in stick form – to the more common inks. After being drowned in technology and the homogeneity that software provides, it is understandable,even natural, that people

return to manual tradition. A lot of people expressly ask me to not use fonts. But it’s hard to predict what will happen. I try to diffuse calligraphy simply by using it and teaching it to others so that it continues to be passed down and understood. There are so many people who are passionate about the world of letters compared to a few years ago. You just have to look in any library at the growing number of books on type design and other related subjects, and the average age of those who attend my classes. They’re all very young and a lot of them come from graffiti backgrounds. I believe that new languages are created spontaneously, by combining our knowledge with the tools of our time.

C: I have seen you write “alphabet love” on a wall. Would you say that you’re in love with letters? L: Definitely. You can’t dedicate most of your time to something that you don’t truly love. In fact, the other half of my time I spend with my girlfriend and with the people around me who I would give anything to.

TOOLBOX -- by Pete Pivetin

BRUSH PEN I THOUGHT IT WAS TIME TO POOL TOGETHER WORK FROM SOME OF MY TWO FAVOURITE BRUSH PEN ARTISTS AND GIVE THEM A HOME HERE ON MANUALETRA. FOR THESE ONES THEY’VE USED THE AMAZING TOMBOW DUAL BRUSH PEN. In the past I’ve only posted logos and visual identity presentations here, so I thought it would be a nice change of pace as this is a large part of what I do these days. 2013 was the biggest year I’ve had yet in terms of lettering. The majority of the corporate identity jobs I received were all for lettering style logos. On top of that I was a guest speaker at Typism, Australia’s first all day conference dedicated to typography, featuring the likes of Gemma O’Brian, Wayne Thompson, Aurelie Maron, Nicole Philips, Bobby Haiqalsyah and Dominique Falla (who put the whole shindig together).

To close my speech at Typism I made the first video to the soundtrack of my all time favourite band, Radiohead and their song Daily Mail. I discovered this song when I saw them live in Brisbane at the end of 2012 and immediatly fell in love with it - for me, the highlight of their performance. When I’m stuggling to focus or find that creative zen, Radiohead is my “go to band” that realigns my creativity. It’s also a testament to their creative ability to evolve with every album. What an achievement for a band that’s been around as long as they have. The second video was put together recently when I received a lot of requests to make another video. This time I decided to use the music of a fellow work collegue, the extremely talented Luke Garfield and his band Board of Transportation. When I first heard his music I was blown away by the limitless possibilities of technique using just one pen.

above / Joan Quirós



on this page / Tim Bontan

WORDS OF WISDOM -- by George Isherson

GETTING STARTED ON HAND LETTERING FOR THOSE LOOKING TO BEGIN CREATING HAND-LETTERING OF THEIR OWN, IT CAN FEEL A BIT DAUNTING. THE LETTERFORMS THAT WE SEE SO OFTEN PROVE VERY DIFFICULT TO DRAW FREEHAND. Thankfully, there are a lot of tips and tricks you can use to familiarize yourself with the process and learn how to create pleasing compositions. TRACING Get some tracing paper, and print out samples of well-known typefaces. Trace them over a few times, letting your hand become used to the lines that type designers have carefully worked over and revised until they were perfect. Some good ones to start with are time-honored classics such as Garamond and Caslon, or exceptional recent works such as Okay Type’s Harriet. Avoid using free fonts, since they are often poorly crafted and wouldn’t provide a good model. This allows you to train your eye and hand using the work of masters. PHOTO SAFARI If you live near a town with a historic district or old buildings, make a point to spend a few hours on a weekend just walking around and finding samples of good typography and lettering. You can find great examples in outdoor signage, whether lighted signs, painted or vinyl. Often there are huge letters painted on brick walls at old factories or restaurants. Then, use your photos as models to draw historic styles of lettering.

this page / tracing and final piece by Tim Bontan right page / Daniel Rocha



USE A GRID, BUT DON’T USE A GRID When lettering, you’ll find that perfect measurements often don’t actually look “right.” Draw lines to help yourself keep a consistent stress and even weight throughout your lettering, but trust your eye rather than the grid if something doesn’t look quite correct. Remember, you’re making this to be seen, not measured, so perception trumps geometric perfection. READING Read voraciously! I’ve listed a number of resources at the end of the article for you to check out — books, blogs and other resources. Knowledge is power, and understanding principles behind type design and letterforms help you develop your eye.

THE BIG SCREEN -- by Robert McFellow

A FILM ABOUT SIGN PAINTING AS RECENTLY AS THE 1980S, WHEN SOMEONE NEEDED A STOREFRONT, MURAL, BANNER, BILLBOARD, OR STREET SIGN, THE FIRST PERSON HE WOULD CALL WAS A SIGN PAINTER. That is a skilled tradesman who would do the work by hand, with a brush and paint. But the advent of technology dealt the first major blow to sign painting as a profession when die-cut vinyl lettering plotters were introduced, offering business owners a cheaper and quicker method of getting words on wall or window. Then inkjet printing and digital-design options followed with what was nearly a coup de grâce to the craft. Faythe Levine, the co-director of a new documentary called Sign Painters, is doing her best to make the argument that the “progress” made in technology hasn’t necessarily been for the best when it comes to getting a good sign made. “Within the past 30 years, the concept of a sign painter has drastically changed with the influence of modern technology, and there isn’t the connection with a person’s skill and trade with the actual sign,” Levine said. “Co-director Sam Macon and I] would argue that the progression of technology doesn’t necessarily translate to advancements or improvements in design. You can create a good-looking, well-designed sign with hand paint or digital influences, but what traditional sign painting enforces is a base knowledge in design and layout.”



left / James Bold demonstrates the supporting hand technique below / this is how his workspace looks like when he’s there




As antiquated as the art may sound to some in today’s day and age, if Sign Painters is any indication, the craft remains alive and well in a small contingent of painters who remain true to their calling. While some are bitter – resigned to defeat at the hands of technology – many are pressing on the exclusivityof it in an attempt to remind everyone that what they bring to the table is much more than just words on a wall. “We were both pretty shocked with how many working sign painters were still out [there],” Levine said. “And then once we began talking with more of the old-school painters and realized how much influence sign painting has had on branding, advertising, and so many things we interact with on a daily basis, it really blew our minds.” Levine said a goal in making the film is to help educate the general public about the sign-painting tradition in the United States and hopefully instill a respect in audiences for an industry she still considers a “relevant, available” alternative to new methods, rather than simply create “an old-timey-looking film about a dying trade.” The film is a follow-up to a companion book of the same title Levine and Macon had written, released last year. Peter Blake works on a shopfront with some mad techniques

But rather than waging a war on the digital age, he does not put his head down, Levine said she recognizes that there is room for both crafts to co-exist and maybe even better each other. “Our movie is the perfect example of this,” she said. “We wanted the titles to be hand-lettered, but we obviously then needed to scan them in for postproduction purposes.”

STYLE BRAWL -- by Bill Billiger


THERE ARE A LOT OF DIFFERENCES, BUT WE’VE ALWAYS SIMPLIFIED IT BY SAYING THAT LETTERING IS DRAWING LETTERS AND CALLIGRAPHY IS WRITING LETTERS is a battleground between the techniques of lettering and calligraphy. Each day, dueling graphic designers Giuseppe Salerno and Martina Flor are challenged to draw or write a single letter of the alphabet. A referee selects the letter and any other attributes to be conveyed; the typographical volleys are then uploaded and the status of champion conferred by the site’s readers. Typophiles of either school are well represented by these seasoned Berlin combatants: Giuseppe studied calligraphy in his hometown of Torino, and Martina took her Masters in type design at the University of Buenos Aires. Whence the acrimony between the arts of calligraphy and lettering? What are their favorite designer type logos? Which letters would they save from a capsizing ship? Read on to find out.



Martina Flor

-- 5 MINUTES --

Martina Flor

Mathew Prada

Giuseppe Salerno

-- SPRING ‘X’ --


Giuseppe Salerno

Paul Naveda






A faux magazine about handmade letters.