Tom Carnase Wannabe

BrooklynRob's picture

I have been a designer for several years with a great interest in typography, but my experience is almost entirely with using existing typefaces... i.e. I have no experience drawing my own letterforms. Over the last couple of years I've become more and more interested in the work of Herb Lubalin, Tom Carnase, and Tony Di Spigna. What I'm particularly interested in learning is hand lettering / custom-designing typographic compositions for the purposes of logo design and individual type treatments (like the images I'm posting below), rather than designing entire typefaces.
I've done a fair amount of research on this kind of custom lettering (i.e. I've found tons of examples, which are really inspiring), but I have no idea where to start to learn something like this. I'm quite comfortable in Adobe Illustrator, but I have no tools or knowledge about actual hand lettering with tools like pen and ink.
I have some resources I could devote to this, in terms of taking classes, buying books, equipment, etc. but I don't know how to go about it. Does anyone still teach this kind of thing? Should I start with calligraphy?
If anyone has any guidance or suggestions, I'd be very appreciative.
(Also, if you think this would be ridiculously difficult to learn, tell me.)


Arthus's picture

A good way to start is through learning the basic letterforms, so calligraphy is always helpful. It helps to understand how negative space (at least the space between the letters) relates to the letters themselves. But of course the work you list here is highly diverse, in letterform and the ability to use it. So yes, learning to perfect this takes a very long time.

An important key in all the examples that you list is understanding contrast. In that aspect calligraphy helps as well, since you learn to build contrasts naturally (because of the tool you use, the pen, creates this automatically)

Your question is so 'huge' that it's difficult to answer, but if you enjoy hand-lettering, an calligraphy course is always nice to do. Of course finding the right calligraphy course is also problematic, but I'm sure other people from around New York will have some pointers.

Nick Shinn's picture

Ask Tom Carnase.

Mark Simonson's picture

I'm not sure learning calligraphy will be of much help for doing lettering like these guys. All of this stuff is what is known as "built-up" lettering, in which the letters are drawn, not written as in calligraphy. The spencerian examples are like a certain kind of calligraphy, using a split nib pen, but I highly doubt that these were done that way, in spite of how they look.

There are as many ways of making built-up lettering as there are people doing it. Here are some books I would recommend to get you started:

Logo, Font, and Lettering Bible, by Leslie Cabarga.

Dangerous Curves, by Doyald Young.

Lettering for Advertising, by Mortimer Leach.

Lettering for Reproduction, by David Gates.

Cabarga's book is probably the most comprehensive, and covers using computers for lettering in great detail. Young's book addresses design more than technique, but does give you a good idea how he worked. The other two predate the digital age and would give you a good insight into the way the old guys did it. Mortimer Leach was Doyald Young's teacher.

hrant's picture

Notan is indeed critical, but calligraphy
is in fact mostly an obstacle to good notan.


BrooklynRob's picture

Thanks a lot for the good ideas. I appreciate it!

Nick Shinn's picture

Marian Bantjes does work that is similar in some respects, but she has developed her own, contemporary style.

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