It's so easy to categorize some of my favorite letterers: Jessica Hische does clean, curvy vectors. Mary Kate McDevitt does hand-drawn letters with texture. Danielle Evans does dimensional type. But what do I do?
I want to easily classify myself so I can market my skills better and attract more clients. It's tough starting out as a letterer because you might not have a concrete style established yet. Never fear: there is a way to narrow it down.
As you create more, you'll notice consistencies in your pieces. Those reoccurring themes help you realize your personal lettering style. Yet creating enough pieces to evaluate is easier said then done. It's daunting to start with a blank piece of paper and not know what to do next, especially if you're not exactly sure how you want to go about creating it. That's where learning comes in:
- Take lettering classes. Maybe somebody is teaching one in your city; maybe it's online. Maybe you have to pay; maybe it's free. Regardless of the details, classes give you opportunities to pick up new skills.
- Read lettering books. Many letterers have published books about how they work and often include their tips and tricks for lettering. A book can be a class in itself.
- Most importantly, leave your comfort zone. Or what you think is your comfort zone. You might be surprised at what you gravitate towards doing.
You can produce so many different pieces by going down any of these paths. Sometimes I want to skip a certain assignment in a book or I get feedback that I don't want to explore because I don't think I'll be good at it. I do it anyways for the sake of learning. I've figured out my process and favorite methods along the way thanks to the information I've soaked in.
That's not to say that once you have a defined style, you're stuck there forever. It's probably going to change. Your taste in design will change. You'll discover a new technique that you can't seem to stop using. Some new product will be invented that will blow your mind and go against everything you thought you knew. But how will you ever notice a different trend in your art if you don't have a constantly evolving body of work to review?
A passion for learning gives you tons of projects to help identify your lettering style. It doesn't matter how you study or who teaches you. As long as you keep that hunger alive, you'll always have enough recent work to help you pinpoint your signature look.