Hand Lettering For Your Photography Business

Photography courtesy of Oden & Janelle Photography

Photography courtesy of Oden & Janelle Photography

What is Hand Lettering? 

You may have seen an large increase in hand lettered images on Instagram or modern calligraphy on your Pinterest feed, but have you ever wondered why it’s different? I mean sure, you can look at a poster and think to yourself, “was that hand drawn?” Or you may see a competitor’s logo and wonder if they used a font that looks like hand writing or if they hired a hand lettering artist. Or you may wonder, “what in the world is a hand lettering artist?” My name is Ciarra, and I am a Calligrapher and Hand Lettering Artist based out of Petoskey Michigan, and I’d like to answer these questions for you. 

What is the difference between Typography and Lettering?

Put simply this:


Typography the arrangement of characters in a preexisting typeface or writing with prefabricated letters. Typography is utilized by virtually all graphic designers, and is used in both print and web formats. 

Hand Lettering:

Lettering is the illustration of letterforms. It is a specialty within Illustration and graphic design. Even within hand lettering, an Artist may have a niche such as Calligraphy or Brush Lettering. There are a variety of hand lettering specialties, but what they all have in common is that they start with old school analog materials like paper, pens and pencils, although some might have very fancy pens and pencils. Afterward, these hand drawn letterers can be digitized for a wide array of uses. Hand letterers may have a variety of tools and materials at their disposal to create a custom design to fit your needs. Each letter form is given much thought and designed to evoke the proper emotional response from the viewer. The artist can draw inspiration from a variety of sources to craft something new and unique. They are not confined to predesigned letter forms.

What about hand drawn fonts? 

A fellow lettering artist used a fantastic illustration. She compared handmade fonts to frozen pizza. I’m sure we’ve all had a frozen pizza before. And I have to say, I’ve had some that were pretty darn good! But it’s never going to be that hand tossed, brick oven pizza from the Sicilian restuarant down the street. It just isn’t. Handmade fonts are always going to have that canned feel. Sometimes the quality is poor, especially with script styles, and the connections between letters are a little off and detract from the overall design. Sometimes, they look great! But, do you want to use the same font for every style of event or product you produce? Or do you want your book cover to look just like your competitor’s? There may be times where fonts will suffice, but hand lettering will always surpass. 

Photography courtesy of Oden & Janelle Photography

Photography courtesy of Oden & Janelle Photography

Why Choose Hand-lettering for you Business or Project?

Timeless Appeal, Contemporary Edge

Hand lettering has been around for centuries. Just look at ancient scrolls or roman columns. You can now find hand lettering in everything from hand painted victorian signs to modern calligraphy quotes. Hand lettering has the appeal of feeling that person to person connection, just like a handmade gift makes you feel closer to the giver. You can feel the thought and effort that went into it. While typography is fantastic, and the options are endless, it can lack that personal connection. And new fonts are developed all the time that can crowd the market, becoming very popular and soon become outdated. While hand lettering is definitely a current trend, it has also been around thousands of years, and isn't going anywhere. With hand lettering you have the opportunity to combine timeless appeal and connection to your audience with modern trends and customizations. 

Stand Out In The Crowd

The human mind is an amazing thing. We have this uncanny ability to ignore the normal and focus our attention on novelty. This can be a good and bad thing. It can be especially challenging when you are a small business trying to stand out in a competitive market. People can scroll through websites and Instagram feeds and move on if you don't catch their attention in a short amount of time. Typefaces have a tendency to blend in with the crowd. We have become surrounded by digital media, ads on the side bars of websites and billboards as we drive, and it all tends to blend together. Our brains have learned to ignore it. Hand lettering stands out. Handmade designs make people take a second glance because it’s different. And the beauty is, that it will always be different because every single design is unique. So even if your work is next to another hand lettered piece, it will stand out on its own. Custom lettering features the little quirks and unique curves that naturally draw our eye, because it is unlike the font based designs our eyes are used to seeing every day. So if you need a one of a kind design to set you apart, hand lettering is the way to go. 

Unique Art, for Unique Clients

Since society has become so fast paced and focused on mass production, many people are taking a step back to the simple things, the real things. An example of this is the growing ‘hipster’ movement, which has influenced a huge surge in things like micro breweries and artisanal coffee. People appreciate realness, thoughtfulness, and craftsmanship. All of these things are involved with the art of hand lettering. For example, a bride may want a custom monogram designed for their invitation and wedding details. A skilled hand letterer will talk to the client, find out what their dream wedding consists of, what kinds of people they are, and what flowers, colors or textures they will be using. This will help them to design in a thoughtful, skilled manner, and to create just what the intended recipient desires. This way the monogram can have a hand drawn fern wreath because the floral design for their event features ferns, and they love the whimsical forest feel. And the lettering will not be heavily flourished because it is a more minimalistic and organic event. These are details you just cannot ask for from a typeface or pieced together design. When you work with a lettering artist on a project for your client, this is the kind of service that will create brand loyalty, and love. So forget the stress of choosing fonts and let a hand lettering artist design something just for you or your clients. 

What to look for in a hand lettering artist to partner with?

Hand lettering artists come from all different backgrounds and have many specialties. When it comes to the wedding field calligraphers definitely come to mind. Calligraphy has long been a staple of weddings and events. In modern times, calligraphy has taken great strides when it comes to keeping up with current trends and technologies. If you are looking for a calligrapher to create custom designs for you or your clients, be sure that their designs are current. While classic italic hand is a beautiful art, younger clients will likely be more intrigued by modern scripts. Some artists offer a selection of their own fonts to choose from. This is good if you want a rather standard design, but if you really want to stand out, it may prove a challenge as the calligrapher could easily offer the exact same design to their next client. If you can find a calligrapher who will consult with you to see what your design needs really are, and create a unique design for you, that is the best. You can look at their online portfolio to see examples, but they have to flexibility to take your information and create a few designs for you to choose from. Then they can make refinements until it is exactly right and works for your business in the way you need your typography elements to work, namely, to make you stand out and attract the right kind of clients for you.

As I said in the introduction, my name is Ciarra Rouwhorst. I am a hand lettering artist specializing in modern calligraphy and illustration based out of Petoskey, in beautiful Northern Michigan. I hope this article was able answer some of your lettering quandaries, but if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you! 

If you would like to collaborate on a project feel to contact me by filling out the form on the Hire Me Page