Hand-lettering roared back onto the design scene several years ago, and now has gone more mainstream. You've probably seen it popping up on social media, on a wedding invitation, or on the menu board at your local coffee shop.
At first it was just whispered about in design groups, among illustrators, old-school sign-makers and those in the know. It sparked the rise of the Pre-Vinylite Society, a network of artists and makers who are committed to observing the world around them and resisting mass-produced "easy" art. Hand-lettering may have seemed quaint at first, but instead of fading away, it has gained momentum.
What Exactly Is Hand-Lettering?
Hand-lettering is essentially writing that uses hand-drawn fonts to create a design. Calligraphy is one type of hand-lettering, but is more a combination of lettering and writing since it requires only one pass of the pen. Then there is the illustration of letters, where each letter is unique; this is typically what people mean when they say hand-lettering. Typography (arranging text) that uses hand-drawn letters is also considered hand-lettering, though some purists may say otherwise.
Common Ways Hand-Lettering Is Used
- Wedding invitations, name cards, thank-you cards -- anything wedding related.
- Business correspondence: A handwritten note goes much further than an email.
- Signage: Whether it's on a main business sign or the chalkboard that gets filled out with the daily specials, hand-lettering goes a long way.
- Infographics, graphics and photos: It may be low-tech to begin with, but adding a touch of hand-drawn to your digital graphics makes them stand out in a sea of sameness and brings humanity to the cold computer screen.
- Marketing and development campaigns: If you're asking someone to do something like donate money or take an action, make it count.
- Art: Nice art prints that make use of language and illustration are de rigueur.
Why Has It Come Back So Strong?
Hand-lettering is the antithesis of templates and plug-and-play social media quote generators. It is a low-tech, highly bespoke approach, and people love it. It's a way of carving out a feeling of connectedness in our digitized and reproduced world. If you're still curious about what hand-lettering looks like, this might help:
- Print Magazine recently featured 25 examples of great hand-lettering.
- Creative Market offers inspiration via its blog, as well as access to artists who do hand-lettering.
- Canva featured 40 examples of inspiring hand-lettering with tips from a designer.
Join the Hand-Lettering Movement
With the rising tide of hand-lettering, you have more access to artists who do this kind of work -- and there are fantastic guides and classes available to help you get on board the hand-lettering train yourself.
A good place to start is by reading blogs and getting a sense of what exactly you need to begin. Even if you're not an artist, you can likely create hand-lettering that is unique and specific to you. The Postman's Knock has a great beginner's guide to modern calligraphy.
Skillshare offers a plethora of lettering classes, from getting started with the basics to more advanced techniques. For example, the course Monoline Lettering offers a tutorial on how to sketch and digitize your letters. Local colleges and art schools are also starting to offer hand-lettering classes, so check in your area to see what is available.