“I’m less concerned with some shaky kerning than I am with the fact that there’s a hundred or more designers out there just trying to out-Trochut Alex Trochut,” says Craig Ward, when asked about the style’s danger zones. “Even he would concede that his work doesn’t apply to everything and – more – that’s just one small facet of his style.”
Do you need to master font-design to dabble in type-based art? Not necessarily. Alex Trochut readily admits his own font, Neo Deco, features little in the way of kerning. Similarly, Radim Malinic is not a typeface designer. Others, such as London’s Seb Lester or Brooklyn’s Jessica Hische, almost always create their own lettering – but then, they’re both experienced typographers.
It’s more important to take the time to understand how type works, both in terms of white space and letter proportion. Check out a few books, such as Wilson Harvey’s 1000 Type Treatments, or the upcoming Type: v. 2: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles by Alston Purvis and Cees de Jong.
Seb Lester has moved from lettering design into type-based art, creating pieces including a series of limited edition prints (top), and an editorial design for Wired.
Popular tastes change over time: flares get replaced by skinny jeans, which get replaced by flares again. Clients may decide that typographic illustration is no longer ‘in’ over the next few years. However, working with letters will always remain creatively satisfying and interesting.
As Seb Lester remarks: “There’s a whole wealth of untapped typographic styles that you can draw from – and a rich legacy of over 2,000 years of Latin lettering styles for inspiration.”