About Iskra

Iskra Johnson portrait

(This bio is an archive of my design career: I am currently a full-time fine artist working in painting, photography, collage and printmaking. Please visit Iskra Fine Art to see how my design and lettering has evolved into new media!)

I have been in love with writing since the third grade, when I was the girl starting my Thanksgiving essay ten times over to get the spacing right between the T and the h.  Once I got that figured out I was indeed thankful. Love of words and love of detail have served me well as a calligrapher and letterform artist.

I learned my craft through years of study in Asian arts including classical sumi and T’ai Chi, followed by independent study and a variety of master classes with teachers including Lloyd Reynolds and haiga painter Sensei Ishii. Calligraphy takes intense focus and concentration, and an ongoing practice of meditation has always been the bedrock of what I do. The mental focus is balanced by movement, and dancing and music inspires much of my work.

I am currently working fine artist as well as a designer, and I bring art and design together in my approach to commercial lettering design. I have a BFA in painting with a focus on printmaking, and this background adds depth and texture to how I think in typography. As an artist I don’t look for what I know already, but for new conversations, juxtapositions and surprise. I love the ink paintings of ancient Japan as much as I love the kitsch of the 1950’s, and I sometimes call the way I think “Zen meets Mad Men.”

My eclectic approach has led to a long career and many publications. My work has been honored in Print, Communication Arts, U&lc, and the annuals of the Type Director’s Club. I am included in Trademarks & Logotypes of the World II, The Creative Stroke, Super Logo Design II (Tokyo), Excellence in Lettering & Typography and numerous other anthologies. My client list is diverse, and ranges from Harley Davidson to Betty Crocker, and from the Kardashians to PBS.

One of my specialties is handwriting. You can see my work for advertising campaigns in magazines, on television and on the web where the human “voice” is expressed through casual, evocative personal application of pen to paper. If you saw the American Express “My Life My Card” campaign and wondered if Kate Winslet really filled out a questionnaire in French and German . . . .? Let’s just say I didn’t mind being Kate for a day. I love my work. I am an actress, channeling the meaning of words through a multitude of styles and extensive knowledge of graphic culture. I work for celebrities and luxury brands, as well as start-ups and small entrepreneurs. I look for clients who understand beauty and marketing, and that they aren’t mutually exclusive.

I work in a studio surrounded by a garden at the edge of Seattle. Currently I have about 32 goldfish in the pond, give or take a visit from the raccoon. My daily routine may include tending the waterlilies, weeding, and scouting for the golden vireo. I am an avid photographer and my favorite way to relax is to take my camera for a walk. Favorite subjects are train yards, industrial zones and factories, and architectural ruins play a big part in my personal art.

I bring my varied interests together in my blog. You can follow my life in letters at Alphabet Roadtrip. Here I post my newest work, thoughts on culture and trends in typography. I also post articles that can be helpful for those looking for guidance with the design process. The latest piece is an in-depth look at how to find the right designer for a logo and avoid common pitfalls of the design process. When you are looking for a custom logo it can be challenging to find a designer with the right fit of personality, philosophy, and style. This article guides you through the kinds of questions to ask to make your design partnership a success. You will find an overview of how I work on different kinds of projects here.

Social media is a big part of my life, and I post regularly on Instagram, Pinterest, and my Facebook page. Please note that if you are already a fan of Alphabet Roadtrip that it is now an integrated part of my (NEW!) website. If you have bookmarked or shared previous posts to Pinterest or other sites the links may not work. So please update your bookmarks and I welcome you to share all the latest!


The pond. Daily inspiration from my garden

The garden is always a source of inspiration.

P. S. My name. iss’ kruh n. from the Russian, spark. My last name is Johnson. I am Swedish. It’s a long story . . . . .

Selected Clients

American Express
Atria Books
Better Homes & Gardens
Cuervo Gold
CF Napa
Estee Lauder
General Mills
Gourmet Magazine
Harper Collins
Holland America
Jack Daniels
Kimberly Clark
Nieman Marcus
Penguin Books
Procter & Gamble
Random House
Schering Plough
Simon & Schuster
Sutter Home Winery
Time Inc.
Warner Bros.
William Morrow