Last year I had the opportunity to work with a wonderful photographer on a new identity for her business. “Simply Ania” already had a pretty fine site and look, but Ania wanted something even better, more customized, that would express her personality and the quality of her work. Ania specializes in portraiture of babies, and after seeing her portfolio I couldn’t wait to see what we could create for her.
After reviewing her inspiration file and gathering styles from my site we established a general parameter. I would focus on her name, “simply” would remain set in type, and I would explore a range of directions, from informal to elegant, blending femininity and strength.
Above, the final choice, as it appears on the Simply Ania website. One of the unique challenges of this project was the very shortness of the name involved. Also, repeated letters. It can take many tests and variations to balance out repeated letters so they look different in a way that looks intentional. An upper case A would have given more variation to the logo, but the choice of lowercase adds approachability. When a logo is signature based there is always a key question to ask: is the main goal of the logo to amplify the identity and image of the business so that it becomes aspirational by association? Or is it to open a door and create a relationship with prospective clients? When I work on celebrity logos we usually take an aspirational approach and put the focus on expressing the celebrity brand. In a service business, particularly one where relationship is as important as it is in portrait photography, a quieter approach can be more appropriate. It is a subtle difference, and is one of the elements I love working with in creating custom logo design. You can see more examples of custom calligraphy logos in my handwriting portfolios.
Awhile back I did some handwriting explorations based on personal ads. I have recently revisited the idea with a new approach, seeing how photographic story telling can be added into the mix. Here are a few of the recent mini-stories. Each one uses a different kind of pen and is composed from my photographic backgrounds.
Unlike fonts, hand lettered scripts have an authentic quirkiness and variation. As a handwriting artist I channel voices. Each personality calls out a different way of holding the pen and putting down thought. I love the theater of it — each time I get to change my clothes. See a few more of these explorations in the Personals project. Handwriting campaigns for clients, including Chase Ink, The American Heart Association, and others are collected in the Handwriting section of my website.
I recently completed a branding project for Le Jun, a new fashion company in Japan. I was originally contacted to do lettering for embroidered labels for the clothing, and then the project expanded to include cards and a positioning line for the website. The style design brief changed many times, which gave me the opportunity to try a lot of different lettering tools. The overall guide was for something “informal” yet with that intangible “something” that makes it special (and very legible to a Japanese audience.) Below is part of the evolution of the style.
The final direction was chosen from these last four samples above: simple, monoline, but done by hand, not vector, for a human touch — as close to artless handwriting as possible. Below are some of the cards. The style of lettering extended to about a dozen labels, where the simple monoline style translated very well to embroidery at a small scale.
A slightly different, more condensed style was used for the Le Jun website
It’s great to work with a client who understands the nuances of handwriting. A standard script font can never provide this authenticity of expression. By using custom handwritten script the brand enhances its unique attitude and positioning. See more handwriting for advertising in the handwriting
section of my website.
Jack Lew's signature, before handwriting school
When handwriting makes it into the national news it is a big day for calligraphers. For once, how you write, and specifically how you write your name, is treated with the importance it deserves. Peggy Noonan, Donald Trump, Fox News, President Obama, everybody and their mother has weighed in on Jack Lew’s handwriting and what it bodes for the future of our nation if a man with his signature is allowed to sign a dollar bill, much less run the Treasury. On the basis of his handwriting Jack Lew has been accused of arrogance, obssessive compulsive disorder, extreme secrecy and worst of all: not caring what other people think.
I say give the guy a break. For one thing, the signature he has now is a logical outcome of working with the letterforms, not, as pundits would have it, an homage to a Hostess cupcake. Examine his signature above, and then take a look at this exploration with a pen showing you how the loops in the letters naturally evolve into…..loops. Or as I prefer to think of it, as falling coins.
It is clear that like any good lettering artist Jack enjoys the abstraction of letterforms. He has great wrist motion and fluency. I do agree however that he may need training if he wants a signature that will stand the test of time and popular opinion. Herewith I suggest some options, ranging from signatures based on models of historical penmanship to contemporary handwriting that expresses the writer’s very soul.
As Thomas Jefferson:
As a historically correct John Hancock, and with a more personalized "Jack's loopy meme" option:
As John Maynard Keynes:
And as that other economist, the Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, the guy who got everything right? Who predicted the housing crisis, the bank failures, the crash of Greece, the oh well, whatever, I can't imagine why I'm thinking about him. He too is illegible. Although I see evidence of realism and budgetary restraint in his brevity of strokes.
Actually, even though Paul Krugman was for some mysterious reason passed over, he thinks Jack might be the right guy for the job: “What the president needs right now is a hard-nosed negotiator. And rumor has it that’s what he’s got.” Here Jack channels his hard-nosedness and gets right to the point.
Let's just hope he doesn't give in to irrational exuberance:
Or lose his nerve at the brink of the fiscal cliff:
Once Mr. Lew has been nominated and survived four years he may wonder…..
Perhaps he considers that other Jack, Pollack, and begins to explore his creative talents:
But when the galleries say they've seen that before he calls up Don Draper and launches himself as a cologne, 'the scent for the mobile metrosexual':
They always say that to be president, or for that matter to run for office anywhere north of Utah, you have to be a guy people want to have a beer with. Unfortunately these attempts at drinking to be liked may start with an innocent beer but they easily lead to much harder stuff. Our last sight of Jack may find him face down at the bar at 15th and G, finally, really, not caring what people think. It takes a strong man to outlive his meme:
(Signed receipt posted on Ebay, as a rare example of penmanship done with an olive and a toothpick.)
All content and artwork © Iskra Design
Iskra Design specializes in custom lettering, calligraphy and expressive handwriting. Iskra has been the invisible hand behind many famous and infamous people, including The World's Most Beautiful Woman, The Whiskey Guy, The Beer Brothers, The Ingenue, The Reclusive Hotelier, and The Rocker with the Incredible Blue Eyes. You can see more of her work on her website, Iskra Design.
I had the opportunity to work on a wonderful project for the Seattle Study Club this summer. The brochure for their annual symposium was composed primarily of words; it featured one person talking, with no photographs or color. The designer came to me for handwriting to call out highlights in the text. I developed a style of quirky calligraphy done with a ruling pen. My goal: to enliven the copy and bring the subject matter, of inquiry, study and conversation, to life. In this era of font proliferation my invisible goal behind the scenes was to "not look like a font." I love it when a client wants custom work to actually look like custom work and not like something that already exists!
The symposium gala takes place at Ngala, a wild-life preserve that features a much-beloved giraffe named Coulter, and he appears towards the end of the brochure. It was his spirit that animated the handwriting. You can see the complete brochure here. I have pulled out representative pages, some in layout and some cropped, so you can see how the custom lettering design works with and without type in the actual layout. Click on the individual pages to see them larger.
Custom handwriting and calligraphic illustration ©Iskra Design