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Real Talk48:48 with Jen Mussari
Jen Mussari talks about her journey as a designer, and the influences around her.
[MUSIC] 0:00 I'm gonna kind of give you a disclaimer about my talk because it's a little 0:04 different. 0:08 First off this is my first ever real conference talk, 0:09 I've only ever done little bitty things here and there so bear with me. 0:12 I might be kind of all over the place, this isn't practiced at all like, well I 0:16 mean I practiced but I haven't given this talk before obviously Super new at this. 0:20 I don't, I don't have any answers for you. 0:26 I think a lot of times we see really elegant talks that have a lot of 0:29 lists of rules of how to live by. 0:35 And bullet points on how to be an awesome designer or 0:37 even an awesome human and I don't have any of that. 0:41 In fact I don't have any answers I just have a lot of questions. 0:44 And so I'm really excited to be here and kinda talk through all of this with you 0:47 because these are all things that I've been thinking about a lot about design as 0:52 an industry and about specializing because I've become kind of a specialist. 0:57 But first off I feel like you kinda need to know a little bit about me first. 1:02 So I'm gonna introduce myself so that I can like back up what where I'm going 1:07 with this so stay with me I'm gonna go with this kind of fast I've got a lot for 1:12 you [LAUGH] so this is me. 1:17 I'm here. 1:18 My name is Jen. 1:20 I'm [LAUGH] thank you. 1:21 And really, I just wanna be your friend so, like, hit me up. 1:23 I'm on Twitter all the time. 1:26 And I have a lot of thoughts here so 1:30 if you have thoughts what I really want is to hear those and, so 1:31 talk to me about this, even like during this whole thing, you know? 1:34 I'd be really excited to hear from you about some of the things 1:38 I'm going through. 1:41 So first off, I started off in southeastern Pennsylvania. 1:42 And I grew up in a family that really loves cars. 1:47 And so my grandfather bought all these cars new in the 70s. 1:50 My uncles had all these wacky cars and motorcycles, and 1:54 my dad inherited a lot of these cars and we restored them as I was growing up and 1:58 the typography in these cars was just hugely inspiring to me 2:03 oh I don't have speaker notes anymore oops oh well. 2:08 I'm just going to wing it. 2:12 [LAUGH] There might be some like names and dates that I miss then so forgive me. 2:14 So this really impacted me and I didn't realize it for a long time. 2:19 I had been going to these car shows my entire life and 2:23 I didn't realize until I became a designer and 2:26 started drawing letters that these letters were really inspiring to me. 2:28 Really impacted me. 2:32 So this is kind of where I come from. 2:33 This is my perspective. 2:35 And I'm one of those kids who like drew, like band logos on their notebooks, 2:37 and like then drew band logos on your friends notebooks, and 2:42 then like continued to do that. 2:45 And like the difference between me is like I never stopped doing that, and 2:46 I would go home and 2:49 continue to draw, and I started putting my work on the internet when I was like 13. 2:50 And you can find it. 2:56 It's still there. 2:57 Like, I wouldn't suggest doing that, but you can. 2:57 [LAUGH] And that feedback from all across the globe, 3:01 even if I'd only hear from a few people, was really important to me. 3:05 And it lead me to this place of realizing what I liked. 3:08 Realizing what I liked to draw. 3:13 And that was letters from the very beginning. 3:15 I'm just super compelled to draw them. 3:18 I love letter forms. 3:19 I love calligraphy. 3:20 I love lettering. 3:22 I love typography. 3:22 And so now, skipping over a whole lot of my life, I'm a specialist. 3:24 And today I'm a freelancer and I stand before you as a freelancer. 3:30 I am not a typographer. 3:34 I don't like, go around correcting people, cuz I think that's really rude. 3:37 And honestly, a lot of people, most people do not know, 3:42 need to know the difference between lettering and typography. 3:44 Like, let's be real. 3:46 But we're all professionals here and we work with fonts and 3:47 we work with letterforms, and 3:51 we should be using the right words within our industry, I feel like. 3:52 So, first off we're going to talk about lettering, and what it is. 3:56 It's, like, the custom design using letter forms in an illustrated way and 4:01 whereas typography is using, gifs within a system. 4:07 To create fonts and then, you can create really awesome designs. 4:10 Like, I'm sure a lot of you guys do too with them. 4:14 So all my work is hand-drawn though. 4:17 Which is a little bit interesting. 4:19 And it's always been hand-drawn. 4:22 I've never really been compelled to create something directly from the computer, 4:23 even though I really, really, hugely respect the people that do. 4:29 Especially with lettering. 4:32 It's very hard. 4:33 And I'm, I'm just like green you just gotta get in there. 4:35 I use a lot of traditional calligraphy practices, and 4:37 my background's in fine are too, so 4:41 I often apply the fine art thinking into how I make the work that I create. 4:43 And I end up with just a lot of drawings, just so many. 4:48 There are just piles everywhere. 4:52 And it, I love the chaos of lettering because it's completely custom and 4:54 everything is unique and this chaos, this mess is mine. 4:59 It's like this is, this is me. 5:03 Really. 5:06 And, and it just has such a unique perspective to me, so maybe some of your 5:08 desks look like this, too, but it's just kind of all over the place. 5:12 Once the drawing is finished, and I try and draw it perfectly, 5:17 [LAUGH] on paper so that when I take it into Photoshop and 5:20 I fix it digitally, I really don't have to do too much editing. 5:26 And that's kinda my point. 5:29 It's like, I am obsessive about getting it right, physically first, and 5:30 then doing as little edits as possible. 5:34 And that might turn into personal projects like this Cotton Veer tee on the left. 5:36 Hopefully you guys all know Cotton Veer. 5:41 They're such a great company. 5:43 Small business based in Pittsburgh. 5:44 Every dollar you spend with them goes directly to someone who really needs it. 5:46 And, supporting folks like us really. 5:50 And, then it might turn into client projects which is what I mostly do really 5:53 and like this tee on the right for Art Directors Club. 5:57 But, then, sometimes I'll do work on garments. 6:02 And it's completely different. 6:05 It has a completely different context from a t-shirt and this was an art piece also 6:06 for the Art Judges club but it has such a different, it lives in a different world 6:11 than that first t-shirt does, and I really love exploring the context that 6:16 lettering can live in because it's such a like, straight basic. 6:20 It's really black on paper, black on white. 6:24 And I draw in black and I take it and then it can go anywhere. 6:28 And I love playing with the boundaries of that. 6:31 Or it can go live in public, where, which is really fun. 6:36 I'm not sure quite if you can see, let me see if I, oh, there it is. 6:40 So that's, I drew that. 6:43 That's my website, which is just so crazy. 6:45 And those are like my hands. 6:48 So [LAUGH] Squarespace, is a really interesting company. 6:50 And I knew the people who worked there before I really knew the product. 6:56 And the people who worked there were always really supportive of me, but 7:00 in a very professional way. 7:04 And we always had a very professional connection, and it's, it's always lovey 7:05 dovey sure but it's, they've never like, kind of sponsored my life or 7:10 anything like that, it's like they hire me for this job and like I get paid, 7:14 just in the same way as any other client, and that's super cool and so 7:19 they decided to after a few projects that we've done together. 7:22 For their sponsorships for things like this, 7:26 they decided to put me on their campaign as like, one of their cover girls, 7:29 and I got to be on commercials and stuff, which was super crazy. 7:34 So my, my work and my website was magnified by this company, and 7:38 and then I, on the other hand, which is kind of really interesting. 7:43 This is Starbucks on the right, and I did not get to say that I drew this. 7:48 Like, I probably shouldn't even be telling you that I drew this. 7:52 [LAUGH] And, like, so it's like two very different, and yet, 7:55 equally large campaigns that, that kind of have an interesting context for 7:59 the use of my lettering. 8:04 But then sometimes it can get even bigger and this is super crazy. 8:06 This is a commercial that I worked with an ad agency for and 8:10 I don't, I, up until this point I hadn't worked with ad agencies that often. 8:13 And I was really intimidated. 8:17 I come from like super DIY punk background and 8:18 I'm like damn the man advertising is evil or whatever. 8:21 And but I loved cars and when Lincoln came to me, I was like, 8:25 this is actually dream come true, but how do I feel about like, trying to sell new 8:30 cars like, and so I got past it really quickly [LAUGH] and, I'm so glad I did. 8:34 It was like a, an internal thing I still do like 8:40 think about the clients that I work with if I ever work at a scale like this. 8:44 Really what it means for my work to be applied to this brand like, and 8:48 I will only take clients that I feel really comfortable partnering with. 8:52 And so this was just so cool. 8:56 I worked in house and I created like a stack this big of drawings. 8:58 We had so many iterations on all these pieces. 9:02 And the, it was crazy to draw something and 9:05 then scan it and hand it to a designer who turned it in to a vector for me. 9:09 I was like, really? 9:13 You're gonna do that? 9:14 That's awesome, cause normally, I have to like wrestle with Illustrator and 9:14 he was great. 9:17 And he was like, no I'll take care of it and he cleans up my files for me. 9:18 I was like, I wanna hire him forever. 9:21 >> [LAUGH] >> And then he would give it to a 3D 9:23 modelling guy, who would like, turn it into a three dimensional object. 9:27 And then he would give it to the lighting guy, who would light it. 9:31 And then he would give it to the animator guy who would, like, mask it out and 9:35 make it kind of move like this. 9:38 And this turned into a commercial that would air at the Grammy's in front of 20 9:40 million people. 9:44 Like, I could never get my work to 28 million people just on my own, 9:45 even though I really have that, like, moxie to do it. 9:49 [LAUGH] I just don't think I could and 9:53 This partnership gets the context of lettering into an elevated state for me. 9:55 It literally elevated my work to a level that I just couldn't do on my own. 10:00 But, honestly, 10:05 I think my favorite projects are those collaborations that you do with friends. 10:06 And this was a project that my friend Taras Kravtchouk, 10:12 who's Swedish and also a product designer. 10:15 He was contacted by Belstaff, which is a luxury motorcycle jacket company, 10:19 which I think is kinda an oxymoron. 10:25 But, basically, over the past few years, like, 10:27 they have a long history British company of building these gorgeous field jackets. 10:30 That were meant for 10:35 motorcycling that dudes on Tribes would would ride these a lot. 10:36 And over the last few years I started making like $2000 jackets that are canvas. 10:40 And like David Beckham's wearing them and they're all like models and stuff, and 10:47 real motorcyclists aren't wearing these jackets. 10:51 And so in an attempt to like reassociate their brand with motorcycling culture, 10:54 they hired my friend Taras, who's a product designer. 10:59 I don't even know how they knew he was building custom bikes. 11:02 Their like, we need some bikes for 11:05 our shop, and he brought me on, because he knew that I could sling some paint. 11:06 And I love motorcycles, obviously. 11:11 [LAUGH] And, he asked me to paint the tank, and the details on the racing plate. 11:13 And this is something I've actually wanted to do my entire life. 11:17 Going to car shows with my dad, I'd see these, like, super-slick old Indians and 11:21 stuff, and this was just really, really exciting for me. 11:24 And then it turns into this! 11:28 [LAUGH] Which is just mind-boggling to me, so and yet, 11:30 in another state of collaboration Taras was in the garage building the bike. 11:33 He had like three weeks to do this, which is nuts. 11:40 To find it and to build it. 11:42 In the garage while I'm painting, and I think the paint is wet in this photo. 11:45 [LAUGH] Because his friend Ryan is this insane photographer. 11:48 Ryan Hant he shoots a lot of photos for Bike EXIF. 11:53 And he had his, he set up his lights in the middle of the night 11:57 as soon as Taras gets that tank on there he shoots this shot. 12:00 And it goes on a truck next day, and it goes uptown and 12:04 now it's in a store in in like the upper east side. 12:07 And then there's this one also, which is same thing. 12:12 Paint's probably still wet. 12:16 [LAUGH] We shipped it off to Los Angeles, so 12:17 this is in the Belstaff store in Los Angeles. 12:19 And we're working on another one which I'm not sure where that bike's gonna go. 12:21 But the, so this is an ongoing project and this is like a dream come true for me. 12:25 And I'm a freelancer, it's awesome. 12:30 I get to collaborate with these people. 12:32 I get to collaborate with whoever I like. 12:34 And I get to say no to advertising companies that I don't like, or 12:35 I don't agree with. 12:39 Or I can, say yes to these small clients that I really love, 12:40 because I have the freedom to manage my own situation. 12:45 I also have the freedom to wear whatever I want when I, when I'm working. 12:49 But like, let's be real like, 12:53 that freelance life can really easily turn into that lonely life. 12:55 Because work from home, I've seen it a lot, 13:00 can really quickly become never leaves home. 13:03 And then, like, you never put on pants. 13:07 [LAUGH] And, [LAUGH] and 13:09 I really just feel like there's just too much benefit to a community. 13:12 Especially when you're a freelancer if you're working from home and 13:16 if you're working kinda out there alone. 13:19 You're putting yourself out there. 13:21 We gotta, like, stick together, man. 13:24 And I really think that we can battle this by going to stuff like this. 13:27 And I'm super excited for Creative Self, and other start up conferences like this. 13:32 Because we really wanna know each other, and that's really what matters. 13:37 And we're better together. 13:40 So yeah, I would say, 13:42 some of the best connections I've ever made have been at conferences like this. 13:44 And I am always stumped, once in awhile I hear someone who's like hating on 13:48 conferences, and I'm like, well, that's okay. 13:52 You probably just don't get along with people. 13:54 [LAUGH] And so all of this like feel-good friendliness that I've 13:56 collected over the past few years of freelancing has led me to this. 14:01 And Ghostly Ferns is this really incredible company that Meg, 14:06 who's over here, actually, started as her own practice. 14:10 And then Laura's apart of Ghostly Ferns, too, yeah. 14:13 >> [APPLAUSE] >> [LAUGH] I hope you all got to dance 14:15 with them at some point over this trip, cuz it is top notch. 14:20 And so Ghostly Ferns is kinda weird though I'm gonna explain it. 14:24 Basically we're not an agency, but we kinda operate like an agency, 14:28 we're not a collective but we kinda operate as a collective. 14:32 We all are freelancers who specialize in specific things, and 14:35 I specialize in a very specific thing. 14:39 But if I were to make a website, I need Meg to design it. 14:41 And if I were to make, work for a startup, I would need Laura to create some 14:44 beautiful spot illustrations to really enhance the brand. 14:47 And then we have a developer who actually makes the websites work. 14:50 And now another designer and a product designer as well. 14:54 And we, a company like Conde Nast could hire 14:57 Ghostly Ferns and hire all of us to work on one project. 15:02 Or, my own, my own clients come in just through my own website and 15:06 continue to hire me. 15:11 So, I'm responsible for my own situation. 15:13 I am still super independent, but 15:16 I have the support group and the work if I need it from Ghostly Ferns. 15:18 And, and if you're a freelancer and also a specialist, I would 15:24 highly suggest that you look into banding together with some other freelancers. 15:27 If you're a designer and there's a developer you love to work with 15:32 like keep that connection going because it's really important. 15:35 With our powers combined we can make some really awesome stuff because of our 15:38 specialties and this is one of my favorite shows. 15:43 It's just, it's completely ridiculous. 15:46 I feel like it's responsible for a lot of how I am today, also. 15:49 So overall, it's like, like all the benefits that I've had 15:53 from working as a freelancer and banning together with these people. 15:58 Because throughout all this as I'm meeting folks I'm just trying to be genuine. 16:02 And like, I'm sure you guys are all super cool, but sometimes you meet someone and 16:07 you're like, oh that networky like, you can just smell it from a mile away. 16:12 That like, desperate need to be like, have my business card, have my contact, 16:17 follow me on Triple and bla. 16:21 And it's like, okay, I'll get there let's be friends first. 16:22 [LAUGH] And there are just so many benefits. 16:26 So, if, I don't have advice overall, but 16:29 if there's anything you take away from this it's this. 16:31 Because it's better with friends. 16:34 So, overall, things are good for me right now. 16:37 I'm a lettering artist. 16:40 Lettering is super hot right now. 16:41 It's really hip. 16:43 I think that we can all definitely, definitely agree on that. 16:45 But I also have some things I've been thinking about lettering as an industry, 16:50 because we're growing like crazy. 16:54 We're at an exponential point. 16:56 And I would definitely say that we're kinda at a golden era. 16:58 Like, we're at a good point where I wanna use the word renaissance. 17:00 But I know it's really dramatic. 17:04 [LAUGH] So we gotta be conscious about the decisions that we make as an industry and 17:06 I think it's really important to, to work together. 17:11 In order to, to raise the industry as whole because if so 17:14 much of industry is based on trend. 17:18 And so much of our popularity is based on things just looking cool right now. 17:21 That could very easily change. 17:26 We need to make efforts right now to make lettering sustainable 17:28 in case it goes away. 17:32 And so I'm just gonna real quick go over, like super quick go over the history 17:35 of some key things that I think have affected contempor, 17:39 well, I'm gonna use the term contemporary lettering. 17:42 Which is lettering as we know it right now, you know, like, 17:45 Responsible by Jessica Hische and all them. 17:49 Which is super cool and it's great and it's the reason that I have a living and 17:51 can, like, live in one of the most expensive cities in Brooklyn. 17:56 Is because of contemporary lettering today. 17:59 But, but we can't remember, we can't forget that this isn't new. 18:03 Like, it's really hot right now, and it's really, it feels so 18:07 fresh, which is wonderful, but this isn't new. 18:09 Letter, hand-lettering has been around literally since we could 18:12 realize that we could communicate with words. 18:15 Like, and so, I'm just gonna skip over cave paintings, and 18:18 like, Illuminated manuscripts and all of the history of printmaking and 18:22 how that completely changed communication. 18:26 And we're gonna get to like to the 60s and 70s, which to me, was kinda 18:29 the golden moment of lettering that we're trying to hearken back to right now. 18:33 And so we've got Herb Lubalin. 18:38 Awesome, incredible designer, incredible design studio. 18:41 And the interesting thing about him is that he had a lot of guys working for him. 18:45 And a lot of the lettering that Herb Lubalin is known for, he didn't do. 18:48 He had lettering artists on staff, all the time, and so 18:54 we got guys like Tom Carnase on the left, and Tony DiSpigna on the right. 18:58 And they've just got such a, 19:03 such a energy that I think this was made in like the 60s and 70s. 19:05 You can recognize in some of the work that we're seeing today. 19:09 Really cool. 19:12 This is kinda a random little thing, 19:14 but this is a post modern painting by John Baldissari. 19:15 And he hired a carpenter to create the frame and 19:18 then a sign-painter to paint the lettering on here. 19:21 Because to Baldessari, 19:25 lettering was the most neutral way to express art thinking in, like as a whole. 19:27 And I think that this painting is really important but I could talk like for 19:33 two hours just about this painting. 19:36 And then all as well all know I like sign painting, sign painting is a craft and 19:38 its super cool. 19:42 And the all these guys wanted to just kinda make something as efficiently and 19:43 as well and as beautifully as possible. 19:48 But really it's an industry, like, a craft-based industry and 19:50 it always has been. 19:53 And then so when the vinyl cutter comes around, people Who wanna do things 19:54 efficiently and wanna do things as fast and as well as they can just kinda 19:58 switched over to making vinyl instead of painting things by hand. 20:02 And that's totally fine. 20:06 But it also changed the landscape of where custom lettering lived in our, 20:08 in our daily lives because we weren't going to the grocery store and 20:13 seeing hand painted lettering anymore. 20:16 Just everywhere. 20:18 And this drastically changed in like the 70s and 80s just 20:20 lettering kind of became not a part of our landscape or, of our environment. 20:25 And of course, like, like, punks are always gonna do it their own way, 20:32 and that's what I love about them. 20:36 And so Jamie Reid here, this is a super important design piece, 20:39 even though we think of it as maybe just a album cover for the Sex Pistols. 20:42 I really feel like this movement and this piece is kind of 20:47 representative of the whole of, of punk art that started in the 70s and 20:51 has kind of influenced zine culture and 20:56 like, low brow art and is still, and which is now super popular today. 21:00 And so we can't forget, can't forget the Punks. 21:04 And they've always ho, held onto a handmade aesthetic, even when vinyl goes 21:07 away, and even when lettering becomes not popular again, in the 90s. 21:11 >> [LAUGH]. 21:17 [SOUND]. 21:18 So, the 90s happens, and typography is just like, oh my God, we love collaging. 21:20 >> [LAUGH]. 21:27 >> We get David Carson, and I don't want to be like, 21:29 oh this guy's such a bum, but like, he impacted design so largely. 21:33 Him, and all of his many, many, many impostors. 21:40 So, everyone wanted to make art like this in the 90s, especially graphic designers. 21:44 I mean, this is the cover of How Magazine, man! 21:49 And, like, he was so aggressively against legibility that, 21:51 like- >> [LAUGH] 21:56 >> No, for real, though! 21:56 He like, actually does not like legibility, and he'll just add numbers in, 21:58 like, on a poster. 22:02 Just because, and you're like, 22:04 I don't even know what time this thing is happening. 22:05 >> [LAUGH] >> And, and 22:07 yet, everything in the '90s looked like this. 22:09 Album covers, posters, book covers, and this pervasive, like, 22:12 lack of context and thought in work, this, it's like, it's like a lazy Dada art. 22:17 And because he really just didn't think about any of the things 22:25 that he was using and he used type as a decoration which I'm like so against. 22:30 Decorative type is beautiful, don't get me wrong, but 22:35 he's literally just like strewing it around. 22:37 And he's stubborn, right? 22:42 So this work is stubborn to me. 22:44 It does not wanna be read, it does not wanna, like, live in tangible context. 22:46 And and he's still super stubborn. 22:51 Does anyone wanna guess what year this poster on the right was made? 22:53 It was made last month. 22:57 [LAUGH] and yet it looks just like the 90's. 22:59 It, it just looks so much like the 90's. 23:03 I can't. 23:05 And yet, on a positive note we've got someone, like Louise Fili. 23:06 She made it through the 90's unscathed. 23:13 And I really feel like, you know, 23:15 she got her start with Herb Lubalin which is really cool and 23:17 then she became our director of Pantheon Books which is like a huge honor. 23:20 And she I feel like rep, I'm using her as a, as a, like a, like a golden goose, 23:25 like as a representative of a designer that has been adaptable. 23:31 And she has made it through the 90's, 23:36 she started in like the 70's, made it through the 80's, and now, 23:38 she's created work, she's created a studio that is so influential today. 23:43 She's like, her studio has nurtured the lettering artist that really, 23:47 really impacted where contemporary lettering today. 23:52 And I think that that's a really interesting design studio to think about. 23:56 So I had this moment recently, and I got this milk carton. 24:00 And I was just staring, I was like totally not paying attention, and 24:04 I noticed this milk carton in my kitchen and it's beautiful and 24:08 it represents a like, pervasiveness of lettering today. 24:12 If we're gonna like I'm just gonna real quick jump through from the 90s to now. 24:18 Lettering has just exploded and there's a lot of things that happen within there. 24:24 But lettering is everywhere today. 24:28 It's on credit card commercials. 24:30 I don't know why. 24:33 Like, if you're gonna think of anything that's super technical and 24:33 once you use fonts, it's like a bank or a credit card company. 24:36 And they're hiring like Dan Cassaro to do really gorgeous stuff. 24:40 I think that's really good and it means something to our industry. 24:44 That big brands like this want to hire people like me, like grungy art kid, 24:47 to make some awesome stuff for them that feels human and feels handmade. 24:52 This guy, actually, al Alan, Alan Ariail, he's an old-school lettering artist. 24:58 His website's in flash, and it has music. 25:03 And he [LAUGH] no, for real. 25:06 He, he just kind of like adapted to the climate of lettering as it 25:10 changed throughout all these years and he managed to now make a very beautiful 25:16 piece that totally operates within the context of lettering as we know it today. 25:21 And yet he's always been doing it. 25:25 He's been doing stuff for like Wheat Thins and it just, kind of. 25:26 Maybe in that time period where lettering wasn't as popular, and 25:29 he may have been like the only guy doing it. 25:32 It just kind of disappeared on like a tissue box or a cereal box. 25:35 And now, it's being brought to the surface and 25:39 the lettering is the most interesting piece on this box. 25:43 And a milk carton to me is like the most mundane thing that, 25:48 if you can make beautiful is really interesting. 25:52 And so I feel like this is really representative of how 25:54 ubiquitous lettering is today. 25:57 And so like, real quick, we got a history. 25:59 We got like punk posters, and graffiti, and street art. 26:02 Street art goes to galleries, gig posters throughout this, Hand Job is a big deal. 26:04 Urban Outfitters, Napoleon Dynamite, comics and zines and then the internet. 26:08 The internet changes everything and it's like we already had an influx of DIY and 26:12 handmade with these companies starting up. 26:16 But the internet let us share art and it brought art into the lives of everyday 26:19 people which I really respect Instagram for doing probably not intentionally. 26:24 Or Pinterest, really any of these. 26:29 It's like, a teenager could be on Tumblr and 26:32 could see someone's work, like mine, or like someone else's and 26:34 I think that's really cool cuz otherwise I was just showing it to you guys. 26:37 I was just showing it to designers, and 26:40 so now lettering is like seeped into the personal lives of everyone else as well as 26:42 as well as the prof, professional lives. 26:47 And we can thank, I think, a little bit Jon Contino, Jessica Hische, [UNKNOWN], 26:50 Erik Marinovich for teaching us how to use the internet and 26:54 how to really push lettering through the internet to where we are today. 26:58 And, obviously, they're not the only ones whose been doing this, 27:02 but I feel like I really learned a lot from these guys on how to show my work 27:05 In a way that makes sense to design as a whole. 27:09 But real talk. 27:13 Like, man, lettering is a trend, and if we don't, if we don't hold onto this and 27:14 try and find ways to make it sustainable, when the trends change, 27:21 and if we start making grungy collages again, I'm gonna be out of a job. 27:25 >> And I mean I'm not gonna be out of a job like I'm very, very solvent and 27:29 I'm gonna do this, no one's gonna convince me otherwise but like, for 27:33 a young designer who wants to be a lettering artist and asks me for 27:37 advice and they're gonna graduate next year. 27:40 I have a hard time telling them to get into lettering because 27:42 It's a little bit shaky right now. 27:45 We've gotta make efforts to like make it stick around actively. 27:47 And so there are some things I've been thinking about, 27:51 there's some things I've been noticing. 27:53 There's some problems that we have, that we, if we work past, 27:55 I really think that we can do this. 27:58 And I'm super optimistic about the future of lettering. 27:59 But yeah visual trends change, and if they do there's like this whole breed of 28:03 beautiful work that might go down with the like, super artisanal ship. 28:07 And I don't want to see that happen. 28:11 This is [LAUGH] a parody of one of the, I'm gonna call them lettering tropes. 28:13 A lettering trope that I see a lot is like this like inlaid piece 28:19 of lettering with some like artisanal it's like a wood grain and 28:23 there's tools all around because they obviously use all these tools. 28:28 And, one of my favorite things is like the pencil shavings, 28:32 like someone drew a piece of lettering and then, then sharpened their pencil and 28:35 put it down and took a picture of it. 28:39 Like, if you just think about what a tool means, what a pencil means to 28:41 the context of the lettering, that is not something you would do. 28:45 [LAUGH] Like, you don't sharpen the pencil after you use it and then put it down. 28:49 Like, that's, 28:54 that's just, we gotta think more about why these trends don't make sense. 28:54 Also, like, this is what I call the aggressive micron It's [LAUGH]. 29:00 >> [LAUGH]. 29:05 >> It's like, it's like using the, the pen to justify the means, 29:06 and I don't necessarily agree with that as, as meaningful context. 29:11 I'm not gonna say that you shouldn't do this because truly, 29:16 if you're taking a quick Instagram shot of your studio, 29:20 and there's some lettering that you're proud of and 29:22 your pens happen to be there like, that's cool context, people want to see that. 29:24 It shows your process a little bit. 29:29 But, there's like this forced, super aggressive, 29:32 like it's pointing at the thing and like your hand is holding 29:36 pointing out a finished piece of lettering like as if you're drawing it. 29:40 Or [LAUGH] I mean, I've done these things, you know. 29:43 Like, you gotta take some of the trends. 29:46 You gotta operate within them a little bit in order to figure out what you like and 29:47 what you're good at, but as soon as you start thinking about these trends, 29:51 I've been thinking about these and they don't make sense anymore. 29:54 I'm like. 29:57 Using a micron as a baselun, baseline for the lettering that's finished. 29:57 Is the pen then competing for attention with the lettering? 30:03 Like, it's almost like people, people just wanna see the pen now. 30:07 Like, just Instagram the pen. 30:12 But that's not, that's really, 30:13 really degrading almost to the beautiful lettering that people are showing. 30:15 And so I really feel like so much of the gorgeous work I'm seeing is, is, kind of, 30:19 being lost with, like, this aggressive action towards it, 30:23 just to, kind of, justify the fact that, yeah, I drew this. 30:28 And then I'm sure you're all familiar with this trope. 30:32 Don't, so disclaimer, 30:35 one of my favorite, favorite ever compositions or 30:40 like, styles or context for lettering is with photography. 30:46 And I feel like some of the most beautiful things I've done have been over photo, 30:52 photographs and the most beautiful lettering that I've ever seen 30:55 have been using photographs as well. 30:58 But my problem with this trope is that, that I'm seeing so 31:01 much work that does not consider what the photographs actually are and 31:05 how it relates to the context of the lettering. 31:09 And it almost sometimes feels like the lettering doesn't even matter. 31:11 It's like, oh I just saw this quote, I won't even think about who wrote it. 31:14 Whatever, and it just looks good. 31:18 And, I mean, that's ok too, you got to practice somehow, right? 31:21 But I just really think that, overall, this trope, kind of, 31:24 doesn't bring much value to the, 31:28 the words that are with it because, I mean, I've seen pieces that say like, 31:31 like beautiful Brooklyn, New York City, and they'll have trees behind it. 31:35 I'm, like, have you been to Brooklyn? 31:39 Like, come on, man. 31:42 It's not, it's not, there's no trees there. 31:42 >> [LAUGH] >> [LAUGH] 31:44 Also interesting about this trope it's been done before. 31:47 Ed Roscha did this in the 80s he's been doing this forever and 31:51 he's even made square paintings that totally look like Instagrams in the 80s. 31:54 And I, seriously, if you, 31:59 if you operate within these tropes I am not calling you out. 32:01 I'm definitely not. 32:05 You have to, like, find what really works for you, but 32:06 I think that we should know that this exists. 32:08 And I think that if you're operating within these, with these styles, then, 32:12 then we should be doing research and we should know about this, right? 32:16 So, overall, my plea is just, like, man, we don't need these cheesy tropes. 32:20 >> We're better than this. 32:25 We're more creative than this. 32:26 Lettering is cooler than that. 32:28 Lettering can live in much better context than just over some trees. 32:29 And so I really urge us to, kind of, like, get away from the trends that are defining 32:33 us, because they can very easily change, and they're already played out. 32:37 Another issue, real quick, 32:43 is that the value of lettering is determined by other industries. 32:44 So, graphic designers determine the value of lettering, And, 32:47 the fact that graphic designers all really like lettering right now, is awesome! 32:50 But, as soon as you guys turn around and don't like lettering anymore, 32:54 like, that's bad for the industry. 32:57 We need to operate individually of graphic design, 32:59 but underneath the canvas of graphic design. 33:02 And then also, a lot of us are freelancers. 33:06 A lot of us really don't talk to each other. 33:09 These are things that, every time I get with a with another 33:12 lettering artist who I only chat with on the internet once in a while, it's just, 33:16 like, pours out of us and 33:19 we can't stop talking about these goofy things that are happening on Pinterest. 33:20 And, you know, talking about all this interesting, 33:24 interesting things that we're seeing happening on the internet. 33:28 And the fact that we're isolated from each other 33:31 actually brings the value of lettering down because 33:33 we might not know how to price things if we're not talking to each other. 33:36 But obviously I'm not gonna, just gonna rap on my beloved industry without, like, 33:40 providing some solutions. 33:44 And, honestly, this is just big picture thinking. 33:46 Like, this is, these are some things that I think we could really apply today. 33:49 So if trends are bad for the industry how do we, kind of, get around that. 33:54 And I'm thinking that we need to diversify in the most grand sense of the word. 34:00 And not only diversify what we're making, by making and 34:06 experimenting and having fun and doing different stuff, 34:10 drawing different things, but then also, like, literally liking different stuff. 34:14 If you're scrolling through Instagram, or whatever, 34:19 your means of consumption of work is, and it all looks the same, that's fine. 34:21 But you're missing out on some really cool stuff. 34:27 Like, I wanna know what's happening in South Africa? 34:30 Like, what does lettering look like in Mexico? 34:34 And, so, like, go out and find them. 34:36 There are ins, there are Instagram accounts, by the way, that are really, 34:38 really interesting. 34:41 There's, like, Iranian goat herders that sell goats on Instagram. 34:42 That's really cool to me. 34:47 And that has nothing to do with lettering, but it's still interesting. 34:48 And if that's in my feed, it's gonna affect what I do, like, naturally. 34:52 And and so I really think that on top of liking different stuff, we need to, 34:58 kind of, boost artists that are doing weird things and, like, kind of 35:02 Experimenting and might not have the kind of rap sheet that our famous letters do. 35:06 And so industry standards could really help us, too. 35:14 If we can get together and talk about what it means to price for certain clients, 35:18 it's really great. 35:22 There's some really helpful blog posts out there about pricing, but I also wonder, 35:23 like, what if someone wrote a manual about pricing just for lettering. 35:27 Like, what does, what does lettering done on a computer cost verse what does 35:31 lettering done by hand cost? 35:35 Is that different? 35:36 I don't know. But I want to talk about these things and 35:37 I want to think about these things as an industry, because graphic design, 35:40 illustration, fine art, even, has a long history of kind of 35:43 working these things out and making them make sense. 35:47 And lettering with all of the, like, like, vinyl cutting it out and 35:50 the nineties cutting it out, we've got some, like, we're kind of rag tag. 35:54 We're all over the place. 35:58 We need to, to get together, kinda, start to agree on things and 35:59 that leads me to job titles. 36:03 And I know, like, like I'm, I'm like I said, 36:08 I'm from the DIY punk scene and I went to art school. 36:11 Titles really, really should not matter to me. 36:15 [LAUGH] But I really think that it can be very important and it can be very 36:18 empowering for younger designers who might not know where they're going. 36:23 If they know that they can at least call themselves a lettering artist because they 36:26 love to draw letters, like, that at least let's them Google lettering artist and, 36:31 like, get to the next step and get to the next point. 36:35 And I've had this conversation so much, it's like, what do you do? 36:38 I'm an illustrator. 36:42 Oh, that's cool. 36:43 Like, children's books? 36:44 Mm, no. 36:45 I guess I'm more of a designer. 36:46 And it's like, oh, cool. 36:48 So, like, brochures and stuff? 36:49 Not really. 36:51 I use letters mostly. 36:52 It's like, fonts? 36:54 I'm like, okay, and that gets me practical with correction guy with the lettering. 36:55 And, like, I'm not really gonna, gonna bore someone half to death by, like, 36:59 talking about the difference between lettering and typography, if they're just, 37:03 kind of, interested in what I do and describe it definitely. 37:06 But that brings me to the word letterer, okay. 37:10 Letterer is a word that does not belong to lettering artists. 37:14 Letterer is a word that belongs to comic artists, actually. 37:19 And I think that if we just, just do a little bit of research into the words that 37:22 we call ourselves, I think that we'd come to an industry standard that would really 37:26 benefit and boost the industry. 37:30 So letterer, 37:32 a letterer is literally someone who writes comic sans all day. 37:36 Yeah. 37:43 It makes you a little bit less enchanted with that term, right? 37:44 [LAUGH] So, I, I didn't know what to call myself when I had 37:46 that conversation with people and when I first started to really specialize. 37:51 And so I did some research. 37:55 And I was like, this doesn't seem right to call myself a letterer, 37:56 but I didn't really know why. 37:59 So I did some more research in doing this talk and I asked John Contino and he was, 38:00 like, you really, like, set me up for trouble asking me that question right? 38:04 And he was, like, he hates that word also because he has a background that relates 38:08 to comics and he know that that doesn't belong to us. 38:13 Jessica Hische even was, like, I'm, 38:16 I'm actually calling myself a lettering artist more now. 38:18 But she liked the sound of the word letterer. 38:21 Disclaimer, you should identify as whatever you identify as. 38:24 Like, I'm not gonna tell you to change your Twitter bio, or whatever. 38:28 But I do wanna urge you to think about the words that we use because 38:32 words mean things, and words are, literally, our industry. 38:36 And so we need to get together. 38:41 And we can't agree on a term to call ourselves if we aren't 38:42 talking to each other. 38:45 And there are so many benefits to, to getting together. 38:46 Not only as an industry, but then also as an individual. 38:50 Cuz no freelancer is an island entire of itself. 38:54 It feels like that sometimes, though. 38:58 [LAUGH] I work in a co-working space, and I have completely obliterated 39:00 any sort of loneliness that has bothered me in any situation. 39:03 I worked from home when I lived in San Francisco, and it was miserable. 39:07 I was, I was so miserable. 39:10 And I was not getting the creative vibes from other people, 39:11 even from creative people who do super different stuff from, from what I do. 39:15 So I operate in a world where people are doing different specialties to me. 39:19 And, also I think that we need to have realistic perspectives of success. 39:25 This is, like, kind of a big idea, and it's, and it's, kind of, 39:29 hard to, to really bring it together. 39:33 But what I mean is that, we should know what success means to us individually. 39:35 I, I need to reevaluate what it means for me to be successful as a lettering artist. 39:41 And I really think that we can all benefit from, kind of, 39:46 evaluating this success together. 39:50 On the other hand, maybe we need to check our idols a little bit, too. 39:52 And I don't mean that we should be killing our idols, or 39:57 tearing them down in any way, I'm just saying that 40:00 the people that we really admire online are real people, and when you meet them, 40:03 they're just real dudes, like dudes and ladies doing their own things. 40:07 And I don't think that we necessarily need that over-romanticism that 40:10 the Internet really lets us get into. 40:15 And that's totally fine. 40:18 Like, like you are all wonderful people and I'm very excited to meet all of you, 40:19 and you're all my idols. 40:23 But like, I, I need to remember that my 40:25 self worth is not based on the accomplishments of you guys. 40:28 And likewise because life is more than how it looks on Instagram. 40:32 It's for real. 40:37 [LAUGH] It's just like, wa, 40:38 social media and there's so many stories right now about how social media is 40:43 affecting how we actually feel and we need to remember that it's all 40:47 a curated perspective of what someone wants to show us. 40:51 And when you're actually face to face with the person, you might see some little cool 40:57 mistakes and nice slip-ups that make them really human. 41:00 And it's really easy to idolize and romanticize the perspective of someone 41:03 if you're only seeing their very, very best and beautiful self. 41:08 And, I really think that we can benefit, from, from getting real, 41:12 so we're all real meaty people operating within a craft based industry and 41:18 I think that the reality of that can benefit us very, very much. 41:23 There's my cat. 41:28 [LAUGH] 41:29 Thanks [LAUGH] 41:32 [APPLAUSE] 41:39 >> Oh, it's so choppy. 41:44 [LAUGH] He's really cute. 41:45 So I have like two and a half minutes. 41:47 Thank you so much for kind of riding through this wackiness with me. 41:50 I've, I've been thinking so much about this and 41:54 I'd really love to hear if you have any perspectives as well. 41:57 So I think I have time for maybe like, one or two questions. 42:00 Hi! 42:05 >> [INAUDIBLE] >> [INAUDIBLE] 42:06 >> Well, so 42:10 he asked me what success is to me, and honestly, I'm, I don't know right now. 42:11 And I'm really trying to think about these things, and reevaluate what it is to me, 42:16 and I think that I can benefit from hearing what success is to you guys. 42:20 I know what feels good to me. 42:26 I know I like seeing my work in the context of like, that Lincoln commercial. 42:27 I know that I really like that, but, I, if I'm gonna aim higher and 42:32 really try and push the context of lettering 42:36 I need to really kind of get some specific ideas of what success is. 42:39 So, I think you can maybe expect to see some, 42:43 some interesting thoughts coming from me once I figure that out. 42:46 [LAUGH] Hi. 42:50 >> [INAUDIBLE] 42:53 >> Yeah. 43:08 The question was, the progress that I've seen in my, technically, in my lettering, 43:09 has it been because of workshops that I've gone to or has it been self taught? 43:13 I was very lucky to go to a super conceptual art school, 43:19 really thought about where design lives in the world. 43:24 And I was actually in the fine arts department so 43:28 I have a lot of fine art thinking in my life. 43:30 And so there were some classes. 43:33 I snuck into a class that I wasn't supposed to take. 43:35 It was called Hand Lettering and I did not have the prerequisites for it but 43:39 somehow I got into this class and 43:43 I just didn't tell anyone that I was not supposed to be there. 43:45 And the teacher is this guy named Joel Holland. 43:49 He's awesome and he lives in Brooklyn so, like, we're neighbors. 43:52 He impacted me so much because up until that point I was making weird fine art. 43:55 It was like super, super random, super punk, like really grungy. 43:59 And I saw the work he was doing and 44:03 I was like, he can afford to live drawing just letters. 44:06 And that's all I wanna do. 44:10 I might not have to do all of the other bizarre illustration stuff to do it so 44:12 I had some really effective classes when I was in college but 44:17 then when I graduated with this super conceptual like degree. 44:21 I didn't have a lot of technical skills, and so a lot of is self taught. 44:26 I taught myself the basics of typography like from scratch. 44:30 Yeah, books, YouTube is really awesome. 44:33 There's so many great calligraphy tutorials on YouTube. 44:37 And if you have that natural drive, you'll find these for sure. 44:40 Hey. 44:43 >> So, [INAUDIBLE] 44:45 stop that, like [INAUDIBLE] 44:49 this, this person [INAUDIBLE] 44:55 like, you know, 45:01 it feels weird to kind of be 45:05 in a community [INAUDIBLE] >> Mm-hm. 45:10 [BLANK_AUDIO] 45:16 Oh, that's such a good question. 45:20 So his question was, how do you, if you're working alone and 45:21 you're a creative person and no one around you is really doing what you're interested 45:25 in, how do you associate yourself with a community or build a community? 45:28 Even if you don't necessarily like the work of what's happening around you? 45:32 And, so I'm working on this right now. 45:37 I I really love the work that I love and so 45:40 I also really like to latch onto the people who make the work that I love and 45:43 I'm trying to find the beauty in things that aren't necessarily beautiful to me, 45:48 because they're beautiful to the people that make them. 45:55 And so my my goal is to figure out why the people that are making these things 45:59 make them because I have this weird natural compulsion to make letter forms. 46:04 But like someone else totally doesn't like there are people, 46:09 some people just totally don't even care and totally don't even look at it but yet 46:12 if they can respect what I can do then I can respect what they do. 46:17 And if you're living in a, a city or 46:20 a place where there aren't many creative people around the internet is so 46:23 incredible for it, and following and talking to people. 46:28 Twitter is like my lifeline during the day, when I'm working, 46:32 to other illustrators and lettering artists who are doing what I do. 46:36 So interacting online will help you interact in the physical world as well, 46:40 because when you go to things like this. 46:46 And you meet people that you've talked to online, 46:49 you'll have like a personal connect that will, 46:52 will filter through the Twitter conversations that you have after that. 46:54 So I definitely have friends that I only see maybe once a year at things like 46:58 this and yet, 47:03 I feel like that personality affects me because I talk to them constantly online 47:04 yeah I really think that conferences like this are super valuable to that. 47:10 Great I think I have time for one more all right. 47:15 Anyone hey. 47:18 [INAUDIBLE] 47:20 >> Cool, yeah. Totally. 47:31 So, he asked, when I said that I kind of pick and 47:32 choose agencies that I work for, what are the qualities that I look for? 47:36 And, ultimately I'm really, like, crafts driven and 47:41 I really respect people who love crafts. 47:43 And you can just tell. 47:46 Like, in the advertising world, 47:47 it can be difficult sometimes to make something really beautiful. 47:49 The art directors really want to make something beautiful and 47:53 everyone on the team wants to make something beautiful, but it's advertising. 47:56 There's a lot of research that goes into it. 47:59 And so, for me, I look for people who have successfully convinced their clients to 48:01 make something truly unique and really gorgeous. 48:06 And like if I've seen the work before that's really cool too. 48:09 And most of the times when agencies come to me it's like a dream come true, 48:13 because they've probably done something really awesome. 48:16 But if they're and this is just me personally. 48:19 Like if they're selling cigarettes I'm probably not gonna be like yeah, 48:23 I'm gonna work with them. 48:26 You know, and that's just a personal thing for me. 48:27 You have to figure out, 48:31 like, it's totally, I'm certain that some people would be like, 48:32 I'm not gonna work with Etsy, even though they're like my dream client. 48:35 So, it's different for everyone, really. 48:37 Yeah, all right cool. 48:40 Well, thank you so much for sticking with me for this. 48:42 [APPLAUSE] 48:44
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