Calligraphy. Derived from the greek terms “kallos” (beauty) and “graphein” (to write), is the art of beautiful handwriting, traditionally with a brush or dip pen with a nib and ink.
Its origins date back to the stylized hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt. The visually picturesque form of writing continued to develop into the Middle East and Asia, especially with religious backgrounds of Islam and Buddhism. And prior to the invention of the printing press, documents were scribed and decorated by hand, flourishing creative lettering styles in the West.
Today, calligraphy has been commonly seen as a dying art form due to the continually rapid development of technology and the slow exclusion of the art form from school curriculum. However, there are still artists who have strived to keep this historically prestigious art form very much alive, from advertising small business to working with big brand names.
Seb Lester is a British artist, trained in Graphic Design and specializes in logos and type illustrations. Throughout his career, he’s exhibited his love for calligraphy. During his time as a Senior Type Developer for Monotype, he had the pleasure of creating the official typeface, Neo Sans, for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
And then in 2014, Instagram featured his work on their official blog. This brought his work, and calligraphy, into the viral social spotlight as he gained substantial following to his already established fan base. Since then, he’s worked with various brand names such as Apple, Nike, NASA, and more.
Pokras Lampas is a Russian artist who gives calligraphy a modern twist. With roots in graffiti and inspired by the “Calligraffiti” movement, he combines his love for street art with calligraphy to develop his own “Calligrafuturism” style. His work has led him to become a Calligraffiti ambassador and create the world’s first largest calligraffiti on the rooftop of a building in the heart of Moscow in 2015. It’s large enough to be seen on the satellite view of Google Maps.
Continuing his rooftop take over, Fendi hired Lampas to create a piece on the rooftop of their headquarters, adding it to his portfolio as the largest calligraffiti in Italy. His career has also included clients such as Nike, Mercedes Benz, Absolut, Panasonic and more.
Shinah Chang, also known as Crooked Calligraphy, describes herself as a “whiskey-loving, curse-word slinging, Harvard trained former corporate attorney who left everything behind to find [her] passion.” Now specialized in branding and wedding materials, when she’s not providing a formal request for her clients, she combines her love for whiskey and colorful word choices into her personal work.
Chang has shown that conquering your fears and pursing your passion has it’s tremendous rewards. She’s had the pleasure of working with clients such as Disney, Nordstrom and David Yurman.
Like calligraphy, hand lettering (also nicknamed “faux calligraphy”) uses the same principles. However, hand lettering lends itself to be a more free flowing art form where letterform is drawn in a more illustrative visual rather than straightforwardly written. Illustrations and hand lettered elements have become an increasingly sought out asset for brands to appeal to their consumers.
Lauren Hom, known for her studio Hom Sweet Hom, is a Detroit based designer and letterer who turned her quirky ideas into passion projects that have lead to client work. Her first personal project, Daily Dishonesty, began as a blog for her to practice her lettering based on the white lies she would tell herself. This project kickstarted Hom’s freelance career. Since then, she’s published Daily Dishonesty as a book and launched a few more passion projects such as No Photos Please, Will Letter for Lunch, and Flour Crowns. She’s also created a class to extend her knowledge to aspiring letterers and overall creatives, basing her curriculum off of her experience and expertise as a guide to pursue their passions and get paid to do what they love.
She’s also worked with TIME Magazine, Google, Samuel Adams, McDonald’s, Ritz Carlton Magazine and more.
Jennet Liaw is a designer and illustrator based in New York City. Even during her time as an in-house graphic designer for Nike, Liaw puts an emphasis on putting herself into her work, and putting in those “unseen hours” that carry over into the next day. Her personality shines through as her style often combines illustrations with her lettering, which can be seen on her Instagram. Her works include the Kindness Wall for World Kindness Day in Time Square. This installation was in collaboration with kindness.org, where people were able to write positive messages on the wall. Out of the many positives to come from this installation, a proposal was also one of them.
She’s also worked with brand names such as Uber, Nike, Adobe, Luna Bar and more.
Stefan Kunz is a Swiss artist and traveler whose art style combines his lettering and photography to create his TYPOXPHOTO style. By doing so, he’s brought his work off of the traditional paper and into reality to create visually aesthetic pieces. Kunz has been an advocate for creating something everyday and has created composition grids and brush bundles as tools for other creatives to use for their own work.
His clients include Mr. Cup, Hillsong United, various coffee shops, and more.
As you can see, the calligraphy and hand lettering community is still going strong and determined to teach future generations in order to keep the traditions going. Its growing appeal to the public throughout recent years have been catching the eyes of advertisers in order to give brands that human touch.
Although technology is rapidly advancing, artists have adapted to finding ways to merge tradition with innovation, reinventing the way we look at calligraphy to keep it alive.
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