Lettering is Art

Stepfanie Lam Junior, Microbiology major

Lam_typography article_image

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in how artwork, particularly logos, is being portrayed. A more minimalistic feel has taken over many trendy eateries, with chalked lettering replacing pictures and printed signs. On the other end of the spectrum, many well-known names such as Microsoft and Chipotle have campaigns that utilize imperfect, sometimes boisterous and non-uniform lettering. Perhaps it is because it brings us back the past, when letter writing true thoughts or words of encouragement was more prevalent. That in itself is an art form, and while digital notes are replaceable, handwritten notes are not. As mentioned by Nichols Yeager, the president of the Society of Scribes, “In an increasingly impersonal world, people don’t have time for each other. Hand lettering is a true expression of caring.” Receiving a letter is the second best thing to a personal visit from your friend because an individual’s personality and way of expression shines through the loops and curls of each chosen word. Sophomore Biology major Zaimary Meneses agrees. “I think [lettering] adds onto an aspect of art. Hand lettering makes the meaning more obvious.” However, some have questioned whether hand lettering should be considered an art form or rather an indication of our gradual but consistent shift away from the humanities and more towards technology.

What is Typography?

Essentially, it is the study of how letterforms interact on a surface and generated by a computer. It seeks to make the written language more appealing to viewers. Typography refers to large blocks of text, whereas hand lettering pertains to logos or short segments of text. “Lettering” is the art of drawing letters, usually hand-drawn with pens, graphite, brushes, or even Adobe Illustrator. Both techniques have existed for thousands of years. Examples of ancient hand lettering and calligraphy range from roman inscriptions to Chinese calligraphy. Many often confuse the two terms, but the general consensus seems to be that typography lacks the humanistic side that lettering offers. As mentioned in the New York Times, “…it is the little imperfections or variations that is the essence…it is what gives each letter beauty and life force.” And according to junior Microbiology major, Dana Roberson, “I personally love hand lettering and I don’t think it’s replacing art at all. Instead, I think it’s an emerging form of art that allows people to express themselves in different ways. It’s beneficial because each person’s creativity is unique to them, so someone who does hand lettering might be able to express themselves more clearly that way rather than through another media such as painting.”

If you would like to try hand lettering yourself, UF students have the opportunity to learn not only hand lettering, but also almost any other computer-related skill. UF Lynda is a website filled with over 2,680 video tutorials of anything any UF student could possibly want to learn. The videos range from digital photography to hand lettering to even programming languages. All you have to do is go to http://www.it.ufl.edu/training/ and click on the icon on the right that says “Lynda.”

Hand lettering is an art. This art form has evolved as a sort of silent rebellion against computer generated text which is often viewed as cold and impersonal. “I don’t think it replaces art—it’s more accurate to say that hand lettering would be a form of art that’s been created in parallel to the modernization of society” (Katherine Min, senior English major). Lettering accentuates and adds personality to an artist’s piece. Dramatic and subtle changes in a piece of artwork can be signaled by a single large bold word or a small italic sentence. It adds a hint of the artist’s personal touch to the overall aesthetic of the piece of art. Typography generates the structure while lettering adds the emotion.

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