Alphabet Road Trip | the blog of Iskra Design

Category: Handwriting Design

Personal Handwriting Project: Looking for Love (Notes)

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.

Handwriting | Script Lettering for a Fashion Brand

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:
Screen shot 2014-05-06 at 11.06.57 AM

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.

The Treasury Secretary and the Calligrapher: “Dear Jack Lew, I can help you sign that dollar…”

JackLewActualSignatureJack 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.JackLewHardnosedNegotiator
Let's just hope he doesn't give in to irrational exuberance:


Or lose his nerve at the  brink of the fiscal cliff:

JackLewAnd 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:

JAckLewDrunk copy
(Signed receipt posted on Ebay, as a rare example of penmanship done with an olive and a toothpick.)

Straight Rule

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.