Alphabet Road Trip | the blog of Iskra Design

Category: New Work


February marks the beginning of an annual project, the #100DaysOf____ something….! that promises to shake up an artist’s creative world. This year I am starting the move from digital collage and photography to new hands-on methods, going back to my roots in painting, mark making and collage.

Through the use of typography, altered books, drawing and collage I’m jumping off into a conversation that will challenge my brain in completely new ways. There will be a different kind of post here at Alphabet Roadtrip: rarely professional projects in lettering design, but rather, hybrid work that bridges worlds between fine art and design, and essays about the creative process. More on that soon, but to begin, here are the first two days of my #100.

100Days Without Command Z Iskra

100 Days Without Command Z

For 10 years or so I have been composing my images primarily with digital methods, taking what I do by hand and mixing it with other elements, always with the liberating (but torturously open-ended) tool of Command Z. To always be able to revise, to fix, to un-mistake the mistake has been an amazing journey of (mostly) freedom. It has also reshaped my way of making decisions so that everything I do is hedged by uncountable alternates and I have forgotten how to make mistakes by hand, in the moment, and to love and forgive than moment as it calls for the next move.

This process is the direct route to the kind of painting I love to look at, which is the record of error laid bare. I am beginning in my native language of typography, using all the command z’s at my disposal, but counting on operator error to help me find a new form of more intuitive expression. One of my goals in going back to analog methods is to return to digital work with more intuition. I retired from lettering design to focus on fine art about a year ago, but in the past 12 months as I have tossed and sorted a lifetime in the alphabet I’ve had a sense that words would return on new terms. The inspiration here is my friend The Thesaurus, which offers sometimes infinite ways to say the same thing until you realize you really meant to say something else entirely. Sometimes this can make you feel like a Dunce. (see: education, schooling, instruction, daydreaming, authority figures (alt. to flunk, fail, exit–) But goodness! you have such interesting thoughts when you wear a cone on your head…..

The Dunce Collage by Iskra

The Dunce

To see more of this project visit me on Instagram where I post almost daily. And to see my fine art portfolio visit Iskra Fine Art.

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.


New Inspirational Quotes from Iskra: Be Happy Why Don’tcha?

If like me you have been reading and watching news obsessively for far too many months, you may want to go rogue for a minute and just think about pleasure. Cake, for instance. Maybe you are planning your wedding, or someone else’s. Maybe all you want to think about is frosting, and satin kitten heels, and how many bubbles you can fit in a champagne flute before it just becomes air. Maybe you want to feel giddy and strew ribbons around the room and you don’t want anybody telling you otherwise.

I stumbled upon this wonderful quote by Nigella Lawson and it made me unreasonably happy. Experimenting here with new styles of calligraphy and hand lettering and lots of color. Yum.


Iskra quotation calligraphy Guilt and pleasure

Pleasure the British way, dapper and a bit buttoned down.

Nigella Lawson calligraphy quote by Iskra

Or maybe better in French? Luxurious. Plush. Of course if you are going to obsess about cake, that leads inevitably to champagne, and going a little bit crazy with pink.



Drink champagne and dance all night calligraphy by Iskra


Champagne and dancing quote by iskra

There are so many ways to work with color in custom lettering design. Each color twist gives a different feeling to the words, elegant, playful, a cheap date or something luxe. It’s all in the subtle detail.

More new work in the pipeline, coming soon! To see the latest you can always follow me on Instagram, or Facebook. Drop me a note if you have a project in mind.


The New Workbook Portfolio Design | Iskra Design Calligraphic Icons & Logos

I am excited to see big changes at The Workbook, where I have been part of the illustration and design community for many years. They have just launched a dramatic redesign of their online portfolios, and I am very impressed. Take a peek at my portfolios at

Here are a few pages of icon designs I put together for my new portfolios that show how calligraphic thinking can lead to unique ways of looking at archetypal symbols.


butterfly icon by Iskra


butterfly icon process by iskra


Above, a small part of one of my favorite projects, created for Neiman Marcus for their spring fashion catalog. Each butterfly represents a different personal style of fashion.

treble clef icon designs by iskra

When I created a logo for the University of Washington School of Music I did probably 50+ variations on the treble clef. This is one of my favorites, in a set that mixes colorways and media to evoke the experience of music.


Panda icnon development by Iskra


How many times have you seen a cute panda logo?? There are still new ways to visit this little guy. Some of the many approaches I did with sumi ink, showing how personality and a unique line quality can revive a familiar symbol.


iskra design icon process for seahorse identity


This client had a last name starting with S, and a passion for seahorses. These are some of the different ways I looked at incorporating the two elements.


These days when virtually all design and illustration portfolios are shown online, having a beautiful platform to show work in-depth is essential. The platform itself can inspire new ways of thinking. I can’t wait to see how designers and creative directors respond to the new Workbook design.