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Letter ing vs Fonts


By: Claire Paulsen



1984-Present I’ve been on my own as a letterer, illustrator, type designer and a relentless procrastiworker since 2009‌I love what I do for a living and try as hard as I can to help others find a way to do what they love



Lettering is essentially illustrations of letters, words and phrases. A letterer does not first draw the entire alphabet in the style they like, and then position the letters to spell out the word. They first draw the word as a unique image. This means that in a lot of lettering, if you rearrange the letters it would look bad- it’s meant to be seen and used in that configuration and that configuration only. Typeface designers work very differently. They have to create a system of letters that can be endlessly rearranged and work together. Display typefaces are usually less elaborate than text typefaces. Type designers have to make typefaces that even the least design savvy person can work with and set beautifully. They create software that can


Sketch of magazine cover Great Stuff Cheap about bargain finds in Denver, 2012


Alphabet dropcaps from Jessica Hisches Daily Dropcap site


Can you make this type look like ribbon? Sure! like embroidered moraccan lettering? Of course. Like Shiny wax seal? Love to! She never misses. Jessica’s energetic approach to type, lettering and illustraion is boundless.

Jessica Hische starts with pencil sketches to present to clients. The clients then approve one of the pencil sketches to go to the final. After the sketches are approved, she uses illustrator. She does not use a lot of fancy tricks in illustrator, mostly just the pen tool. She works with a grid on at first, starting with a single weight line and then adds thickness or ornament later. She makes general decisions at the beginning of the final to figure out what kind of lettering she wants to draw (a script, slanted or upright, thick or thin, sans serif, retro feeling or more modern feeling) and then she adds decoration and ornamentation after the skeleton is drawn. Once she has presented her final artwork, the client can of course give feedback for minor revisions.


The Skeleton

The “bone of the typeface or the basic frame on which the typeface is built. The skelton determines the width of the letter, the x-height, and the general proportions of components of the letter.

The Meat

The body and weight of the typeface. Some typefaces are weighted in different ways than other depending on which tradition they emerge from.

The Clothes

All the fun “pizzazz� Jessica Hische adds. Some serifs can be classified as clothes or meat, depending on how essential they are to the structure of the type. Other things considered clothes are spurs, ornamental serifs, drop shades, drop lines etc.





Good fashionistas and good typographers flex their curatorial muscles by putting together items in unexpected combinations that lead to beautiful and harmonious (or purposefully discordant) results.



1.) Sketch for the Summer Movie Preview 3.) Sketch 5.) The lettering process

2. Title type for the Summer Movie Preview Issue. 4. Crazy Cat Lady Poster, Side Project.


To a Letterer or Illustrator, style is very


important. An illustrator is hired to work in a style that their portfolio proves they excel at. An agency or a publisher that is working for a client hires you. The art director pulls pieces you created, that they like, from your portfolio to sell you to the client. The client gets a very clear idea of what the end result will look like even before sketches are made. To a letterer, you work within a number of typographic styles. An easy way to do this is to work with the same medium or same few mediums. You can work in as many mediums as you want but the more consistent your portfolio is the easier it is to sell you to a client.

Graphic Designers do not need to have a style. In the past few years, a new kind of designer has emerged- the designistrator: a designer that is also an image maker. Designistrators tend to have a style because they are illustrating or lettering for their design projects. Not all graphic designers need to be designistrators. While graphic designers don’t need to have style, it is important that their work is consistent. Consistency is showing that you know what you’re doing and that you understand typography and that you can generate good appropriate concepts.

Top: Left to right, InStyle Ultimate Beauty 11 hand-lettered titles, Aqua Forte’ was designed with Louise Fili, Muscle and Pluck Forever for an art show called Wearing Whitman’s Words. Middle: Left to right, Pretty Happy Feeling is a piece based on the lyrics from “I’m Not in Love,”A cover for the Boston Globe’s glossy magazine for “The Makeover Issue,”ADC Paper Expo is a poster for the Art Directors Club’s Spring Paper Expo, This is the cover for Brenda Ashford’s memoir A Spoonful of Sugar, A Nanny Story. Bottom: Left to Right, These posters are to celebrate the life of Doyald Young after his passing, Title Type and headline type for an article about The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Illustrations for New York Magazine’s Wedding Issue, Handlettered spread in Uppercase Magazine second issue.




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The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life


Sources: Little Book of Lettering by Emily Gregory http://www.dailydropcap. com/ interviews/jessica-hische http://www.designboom. com/design/interview-jessica-hische-03-31-2014/

Designed and written by Claire Paulsen Composed in Avenir and Adobe Garamond Pro, Typefaces by: Adrian Frutiger in 1988.and Claude Garamond in 1989 Copyright © Claire Paulsen, Portland, ME, Maine College of Art. 1.) Letter-pressed poster 3.) Showing how to bring sketches into illustrator 5.) Editorial type for an article about women’s heart health


2.) Sketches 4.) Video tutorial 6.) Jessoca Hishe’s Studio



Profile for Maine College of Art

Lettering is not Fonts  

Claire Paulsen

Lettering is not Fonts  

Claire Paulsen

Profile for mecagd