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What the font?

Ok, I have a huge confession to make... for ages I used to refer to myself as a typographer, not knowing that what I actually did for fun in my spare time was hand lettering! It's been a learning curve and a journey of self discovery but now I know better, I'm here to pass my knowledge on so you lovely people don't make the same mistake. So really, what is the difference between typography, hand lettering and calligraphy?

In the wise words of Jessica Hische, a simple way of putting it is, "Lettering is drawing, calligraphy is writing, and type/type design is a system of letters, each custom designed, that must work in endless combinations*. Typography is the beautiful arrangement of type by graphic designers"

(*aka fonts)

For a brief overview, a font is something you find on your computer, for example, Times New Roman or Helvetica, which is designed by type designers. Hand lettering is when you draw the letters, usually starting with an outline and refining the letters as you go, this is a completely one-off piece of art. Calligraphy is the art of writing words using a nib pen or brush pen in a single stroke, varying the thickness of strokes by putting more or less pressure on the pen. If you're as old as I am, you may have learned cursive writing in primary school, this is very very simple calligraphy.

So what is a type designer? A type designer is a designer that creates fonts and typography is the art of setting type. They use software to ensure each letter is properly spaced (aka kerning) when typed on Word, for example. Typography is when all of these different fonts are arranged in a pleasing way (as a rule, btw, use no more than two or three fonts in a project!) They're almost like the design world's mathematicians! In my eyes, type design is incredibly precise and it's an art form all of its own accord.

Just to make things more complicated, there can be some crossover. For example, a hand letterer or calligrapher can design a font and make their lettering usable on the computer from their hand drawn and single-stroked letters, therefore they become type designers. Sometimes a hand letterer can draw letters in such a way that it looks like calligraphy BUT calligraphy can never ever be hand lettering as lettering requires drawing and the art of calligraphy is only ever one stroke.

So after all that, what do I do? I specialise in hand lettering and calligraphy! I hope that clears some things up!

If you have any questions, you can always write me a letter!


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