By George Rose
Pairing type and illustration is as old as… well probably writing itself. However, recently the combination of lettering and illustration as art has made a big comeback in advertising and mainstream media. The following tips are by no means hard and fast rules you should live by, but I find them to be useful to keep in mind when creating new works.
If you are having a hard time finding direction for your work then my advice would be to start at the start, and by that I really mean the END. Never start at the start, that’s boring, just start somewhere.
If you are stuck, ask questions about the end artwork you wish to create in order to help you narrow down how to make your work. Questions like:
What do I want the work to achieve?
Say I want to make people smile. To achieve this I will use bright colours, happy iconography, funny sayings, reference cute pop culture.
What form will it take/ what will it look like?
If I want it to be a paste-up, I know I will print it in black and white and I will add colour by hand. I know that the printer prints on an A0 roll (33.1″ x 46.8″) so if it’s to be large I will paste it up in two panels, etc.
What is it for??
Is it for fun? is it to showcase your skills? Is it a love letter to someone? Is it a gift? Is it new work?
I want to make a gift for someone and I know they really like deep octopus. I will draw an octopus.
Where will it be placed/shown? Will it be in a gallery, a magazine, an art print, on a wall?
I will be doing an art print for a show. I want to use a Risograph or Silk screen print because I want to use a two colour process and use a floor spot colours, and I know I can achieve this on a Riso printer or with silk screen and not in digital.
Three handy things to remember when pairing type and illustration within your artwork:
1. Understand semiotics and how different shapes can affect the tone of your letters. Just as tone of voice is important when speaking in conversation, the tone of your letters is equally important in your artwork. Use design tools to shape the personality of your lettering.
Straight perpendicular lines create the feeling of precision and structure where loose brush strokes imply a casual feel.
2. Consider how you want your type and illustration to interact:
Over: Do I want my time to sit over the illustration?
Under: Do I want my type to sit under the illustration?
Around: Do I want the illustration to wrap around the type?
In: Do I want the illustration to sit contained within the type?
3. Keep consistent within your letter forms.
Keep consistent stroke angles or keep repeating shapes. Remember the human eye really loves patterns and repetition, we are quite drawn to things we can recognise, so consistency will make your type feel cohesive.
I think the main thing to remember when making artwork is to not be too precious about what you create. Experimentation is the best way to learn, if you make mistakes or don’t like what you do, don’t be disparaged. Have a look at what you’ve done and vocalise what it is about it that you don’t like and how you could do it better next time.