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#LetterLove {Series}: 7 Places to Find Lettering Inspiration

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It’s time for Part 3 of the #LetterLove Series, and this week is all about the fun stuff – where to find inspiration for all those things you want to letter!

If you haven’t checked out Parts 1 (A Cheat Sheet to the History of Lettering) and 2 (My Top 10 Tips for Aspiring Letterers), I definitely recommend starting with those!

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Hand lettering seems to be everywhere these days, from sassy t-shirts to food packaging and everything in between. *Remember: hand lettering = the drawing of letters! While this can get pretty overwhelming (information overload, anyone?!), the flip side is that the world around you is chock full of inspiration to help you along your own lettering adventure.

Below, I’ve rounded up five of my favorite places to look to for inspiration for lettering:

Social Media

1. Instagram

Instagram is like the peanut butter to my jelly, the cream to my coffee, the avocado to my toast. I freaking LOVE Instagram for a whole slew of reasons (like crazy holidays), but one of my favorites is the crazy amount of inspiration at my fingertips. Instagram is how I got started with hand lettering, and even how I realized what I was doing WAS hand lettering, and holds a very special place in my heart. The community of men and women around the world putting out amazing work everyday is pretty spectacular.

Finding accounts you love is a breeze, and I’m always stumbling across new people to follow. Between hashtags, the Explore section, and that handy little “you might also like” drop down menu that pops up after you follow someone, there’s no limit on the inspiration in those little squares.

2. Pinterest

Instagram may be my main squeeze, but Pinterest is like my BFF. Essentially a visual search engine and inspiration board, it’s no surprise that Pinterest is a great source for lettering inspo. I use Instagram for organically finding inspiration as it comes up, but on Pinterest I have several boards that I look to specially for inspo when I’m stuck or feeling in a funk (Psst…you can find all those here!)

Design Sites

3. Typewolf

Ok, technically this one is typography (*the arranging of type) and not hand lettering, but in the case of inspiration it’s tomatoh/tomahto. Their Font Recommendations and Lists is my favorite when I’m looking for something outside of the Pinterest box or my usual calligraphic looks. Plus, their Site of the Day on Websites in the Wild gives you some great inspo for combining fonts!

4. Fonts in Use

Like Typewolf, Fonts in Use is typography based, not specifically lettering, but still a great source of inspo for your hand lettering needs. A public archive of typography, Fonts in Use captures a ton of real world examples you can draw on, from posters and ads to literature and web design.

5. Dribble

A website full of screenshots of designers’ works, Dribble is meant for creatives to show off their portfolios and network, but it also has some great inspiration. It’s a little Instagrammy with it’s rectangular boxes and like and comment features, and a little Pinteresty with the endless scroll of designs, but definitely a great resource for when you want to mix it up.

In the "Real World"

6. All around you!

You’ve got to put on your lettering glasses and see what strikes you fancy out and about in the real world. Since hand lettering and calligraphy have become so popular recently, there’s no shortage of things to inspire you. From products to packaging and everything in between, the world is your oyster.

7. Books

I have a number of lettering and calligraphy books that I turn to when I can’t quite get the creative juices flowing. One of my favorites to flip through is In Progress by Jessica Hische. It’s a big hardcover that feels more textbook than novel, but the pages are filled with Hische’s favorite designs and a look at her process.

A word on inspiration:

The tricky part of inspiration, especially with an art like lettering, is to be inspired by a work without copying it outright. In one of my favorite books, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, author Austin Kleon explains: “What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.” As someone who spends a lot of time focusing on the detail and form of my work, I can almost always trace exactly where different parts of each letter came from. I never had the grand idea to make a big loop in my O’s when I’m drawing in cursive – it was a style I saw everywhere and eventually adapted in my own work, and in one way or another the same can be said for all of my designs. That, to me, is being inspired by something.

Copying someone else’s work and passing it off as your own, however, is a whole different ballgame. I actually fully endorse copying in hand lettering, but before you get the pitchforks, hear me out: copying a design you like or that challenges you in order to better your own skills is a great practice. Copying to claim as your own is plagiarism, which wasn’t cool when my fifth grade teacher told me I can’t copy and paste from Wikipedia in an essay, and it’s not cool now.

Sometimes, though, the lines between inspiration and copying become so blurry that we don’t even realize we’re plagiarizing. A design or lettering style you saw on Pinterest a month ago may come out in your newest work. It’ll look a little familiar, but you’ll probably think, “Well duh it looks familiar, it came from my brain!” It’s almost impossible to catch these moments, so I often find myself staying as far from other’s works as I can when I know it’s time to create a new product or commercial project.

In short, look for inspiration, but be conscious of how you use it.

Inspiration for lettering is everywhere once you know where to look, and I hope this list gives you a good starting point for taking the next step in your lettering adventure! Stay tuned for next week in the #LetterLove series, where I'm diving into my favorite tools of the trade and the things I can't letter without...

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