hand lettering, typography, fonts, fonts, fonts – my current obsession. after watching an episode of abstract on netflix about graphic designer paula scher i was pretty much hooked on type, particularly the art of hand drawn letters. [side note: if you haven’t seen the abstract series and you’re in any way creative or want to be more creative, i highly recommend it!]
hand lettering is definitely very trendy right now and with good reason; it’s fun, accessible and provides a consistent framework in which to be extremely creative as most people are familiar with the basic alphabet letter forms.
my best lessons typically happen when i’m personally invested and interested in the topic i’m teaching so i decided to create an after school activity called (creatively): typography and hand lettering.
week one: intro to hand lettering and brush lettering practice
week two: all about fonts
week three: make type talk – planing compositions
week four: make type talk – part two – finish compositions
week five: ifontmaker intro
week six: finish and export fonts
i start out by introducing hand lettering and the basic rules. thin upstrokes, thick downstrokes. students are each given practice sheets to use and spend the day practicing the alphabet.
this foundational skill is essential to hand lettering so i like to be sure the kids are exposed to this basic skill. we don’t focus as much on accuracy of their strokes at this point, rather ensure they understand what the letters are supposed to look like and how to get the ‘brush letter’ look.
i also give a brief introduction to brush lettering tools.
i highly recommend crayola broad stroke markers for this. they’re so fantastic for beginners and easy to control.
i also like maped color’peps but it can be hard to keep the ink marks consistent.
i have a personal set of copic ciao markers that are fun to use but can be tricky for beginners.
the kids spend the day practicing lettering and experimenting with each of the makers.
as someone who is currently learning how this whole hand lettering thing works, replicating computer fonts has been one of the most effective practice exercises. i use urbanfonts.com because the live-preview feature makes it easy to see the different fonts in full, quickly.
this week, the kids come in and are each given an iPad, the urban fonts website, and instructed to pick a font (or multiple) and practice duplicating it. they are given the choice of drawing letters randomly or putting them together to make a composition.
the main focus this week is letter spacing and direction of letters. spacing refers to both smart use of the positive and negative space on the page and consistent spacing between letters. there are tons of resources on the internet to show examples of this.
direction refers to the direction of the individual letters. do they have a right tilt, no tilt, or left tilt? for practice purposes, we work with no tilt or straight lettering to start.
we use graph paper and rulers for this exercise because it makes the most sense in our situation but there are tons of free practice papers for download online.
this week, we combine the skills we practiced the first to weeks to create a composition. first each kid has to pick a quote, a word or a saying to work with. we discuss what it means to ‘make type talk’. for example how to draw the word ‘drip’ so design communicates the meaning of the word. they start with pencil and create a very light sketch of the basic design, focusing on spacing and direction.
afterwards they select their preferred markers to create their composition.
the focus of week three is combining the skills from week one and week two. this day is largely a practice day. i expect most kids to create some kind of draft by the end of week three so they can spend week four completing it.
this week, students completed their compositions from week three.
by now the students have kind of figured out a letter style they prefer (serif, sans serif, 3d, decorative – etc) so i ask them to pick one style to create their own font.
i introduce the iPad app : iFontMaker
i stumbled upon this app via a link on pinterest and it honestly is one of the coolest apps i’ve ever used as an art teacher. it allows you to hand draw fonts on the iPad, upload them to the internet and then download them to use on a computer.
first, i give the kids a few minutes to explore the app independently. it’s extremely user friendly so i give very little instruction but i do explain the basic requirements of a font set. (upper case, lower case, numbers, special characters)
after about 5-10minutes of exploration the kids get to work on creating their font. as they’re working, i walk around giving pointers and feedback. i expect the kids to get a little further than half way through the process this week.
time permitting, kids can also use paper to create an entire font set before putting it onto the iPad. this is beneficial for some kids and frustrating for others as it’s hard to duplicate letters on an iPad with the same precision as a pencil or other hand lettering tool.
complete font sets, upload, download, reflection, sharing.
this is the last week of the after school activity so naturally it’s a session for wrapping up. as students complete their fonts i encourage them to share with one another and teach them how to give constructive feedback.
do you teach hand lettering to kids? please share your experiences, suggestions and feedback in the comments section!