Alphabet Road Trip | the blog of Iskra Design

Category: Experimental Lettering

“Can We All Just Get Along?” Valentines Calligraphy from Iskra

Love in Expressive Calligraphy by Iskra

I officially declare this week “Love All Week Long Week,” in honor of St. Valentine and his disciples, who might include Rodney King, with his timely quote from 1992: “Can We All Get along?” The quotation is sometimes amended with the addition of “just,” as I’ve written it here. On Valentines Day I like to spend time in the studio using my calligraphy practice to think about love. Each year it takes a different turn. Given the chaotic state of the nation, King’s plea is more relevant than ever, and a return to these poignant words from 1992 did not seem out of order.

This set of work is an exploration of voice in letter forms. The quotation can range in tone from Hallmark Greeting to hip hop to something you might see in an alley emblazoned on a wall. Check it out.


Rodney King Quote Iskra


Rodney King Quotation in Script by Iskra


Radical empathy Rodney King Quote by Iskra


Rodney King Graph Font Iskra

Abstract Calligraphy Quote Iskra

Love Expressive Calligraphy Iskra

Wishing you Love in whatever form it finds you!


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The Branded Self: Late Night Improvisations in the Studio

Design provess tissues handlettering by Iskra

Late night improvisations with tissue paper and brushes.


Branding. The hot sting of identity. Do you ever wonder about all this??? It’s a conundrum in so many ways. The self is always changing. Nothing is permanent or fixed. But from the overlays of ambiguity and possibility the world requests we choose. Late night improvisations with tissue paper and brushes.


Fake News in the News, Expressed Through Lettering

Fake News Graphic by Iskra Design

Watercolor,unique lettering and collage © Iskra Johnson

Our meme-maker in chief has ensured that this little word duo remains current. From an abstract design perspective, it is always helpful when words are the same length and lock up with an interesting positive-negative charge. By flipping a few backwards it added even more interest. Watercolor, hand lettering and collage.


Some Experimental Lettering from Coffee Town, Inspired by Balzac

A few years ago I worked on a project for Starbucks with a creative art director who wanted to try something different for a poster design: something with a bohemian flair. He handed me a scribble of a face and a cup on a napkin and said, “go wild.” Ahhhh the golden days of illustration before royalty free pre-fab dingbats had taken over every square inch of the graphic imagination! I drew about fifty faces for the poster, which went into deep focus group and never came back. Later I went back to revisit it as a personal project.

I came across this truly odd quote from Balzac, the original Parisian cool-guy. (How whould he know if somebody was “spiritual” or not? This is the writer who horrified the good ladies of River City in The Music Man with his scandalous prose. Who does he think he is? And how did they translate from the French and come up with the word “grocery store?”) This doesn’t seem right to me. But just because it is so odd, I decided to work with it, in one of my favorite brush styles, “Bohemian Conversational Medium.”*  The face could be Balzac as he imagines he is, or any self-reflective hipster of today, thinking under the influence, at one of our infinite coffee shops.





Coffee Thinker






Experimental writing and illustration using a variety of textures and techniques. Copy and artwork © 2014 Iskra Design.

* No, this is not a font. But it is available as a commissioned style of handwriting. See more examples of expressive handwriting and calligraphy in the portfolios above.

Forget Me Not: A Little Spring Piece Illustrated with Ballpoint Pen

One of favorite drawing tools is the ballpoint pen. Here are two examples of this technique from my sketchbook. "Rosary" is scanned directly and unaltered. "Forgetmenot" has been reversed and colorized.

Illustrated Lettering, "Forgetmenot" © Iskra Johnson

Illustrated Lettering, "Infinity Rosary" © Iskra Johnson

What I love about this technique is its slow meditative quality. And there is no lovelier blue than ballpoint pen ink. I do wish it was archival. If anyone has found a true archival pen please let me know. I have tried all the surrogates, I must have every fine point marker ever made, and they just don't work the same as the ballpoint, with it's little burr of ink and the way it responds to gradual pressure and building up values.

Here's to the inspiration of the garden, where you can find every letter if you look hard enough!