I get quite a few emails from students, young designers, and curious creatives who want to know more about my story, my process, and my tools. Since I get a lot of the same questions and there simply aren't enough hours in the day for me to respond to everyone individually, I decided to sit down and answer all of them in one place. So, here's a little peek at what goes on inside my head and inside my studio! Feel free to use this information for blog posts, essays, and articles. If you read through all of this and still have specific, burning questions, feel free to reach out.
I grew up in a small beachy town in Southern California and lived there for 18 years before heading to the School of Visual Arts for college, where I majored in advertising. I always loved to draw and paint, but I was raised by very practical parents. Advertising seemed like the perfect intersection of creativity and job security. At the beginning of my senior year, I took an interest in hand lettering and started the blog Daily Dishonesty for fun. One year later, the blog had made its rounds through the internet, amassed a following of 50K and landed me a publishing deal with ABRAMS in May 2013. That same month, I graduated college and landed a job as an art director at BBDO New York. Over the next 9 months, I worked full-time during the day and did freelance illustration and lettering by night. Eventually, I built up enough freelance momentum to leave my office job and turn lettering into my full-time gig. I signed with &Reach in April 2014. I've been working as a full-time freelance illustrator ever since, launching plenty of weird personal projects along the way like Ex Boyfriend Tears, Will Letter for Lunch, 26 Letters 26,000 Miles, and, most recently, No Photos Plz.
I used to doodle song lyrics all over my middle school notebooks, so I guess you could say I've been lettering for longer than I've known. I started getting really into it after I took an Intro to Typography class in college. After that class, I didn't take any more courses but kept practicing on my own for fun. After I started Daily Dishonesty, the lettering world opened up and swallowed me whole.
I always start with pencils and black ink pens on paper. I use pretty crappy pencils (the little ones from IKEA are my favorite because they're free), and my favorite markers are fine and regular point Sharpie pens. My go-to sketchbook is a dotted grid Confidant from Baron Fig. Because I'm always traveling, I scan all of my drawings with a portable Neat receipt scanner. It's super lightweight and scans at 300 DPI. And finally, I bring all of my scanned lettering into Adobe Photoshop CC on my MacBook Pro and fix it up with my small Wacom tablet.
For lettering: Honestly, my type inspiration is pretty basic (as in non-fat, sugar-free Pumpkin Spice Latte with extra whip lolz). I draw a lot of aesthetic inspiration from vintage things. I love browsing through flea markets to find old matchbooks, tins, signs, and labels. I travel a lot and definitely draw inspiration from hand-painted signage, colorful buildings, and local patterns and textures. Oh and nature. Flowers, water, and leaves captivate me. And hair.
For creative ideas: I tend to use my own life and experiences as the base for my creative projects. I think that inspiration is hidden right under our noses in the form of relationships, jokes, daily rituals, hobbies, habits, conversations and observations. We just need to learn how to pay attention. For more insights on my creative process, watch this talk.
Put that beer down. Just kidding, go ahead and drink your beer while your liver is still kind to you. My advice to students is this: BE SNEAKY AND WORK HARD WHILE EVERYONE ELSE IS OUT BOOZING IT UP. You should enjoy yourself in college, but think about your long-term goals often. Why are you going to school and what do you want to accomplish in your career? Never forget your intentions because they will be the driving force behind your work ethic. At the beginning of my sophomore year in college, I was working as a sales girl at a soap store, and one day I came home from work and was like, “Wait, I moved 3,000 miles away to go to art school. Shouldn’t everything I’m doing be artistic? I can draw and know some Photoshop. I’ll figure it out.” The next day, I quit my sales job and turned all of my focus to finding freelance design gigs.
We live in a fast-paced world filled with infinite distractions, and it’s easy to lose focus. Seriously, that instant-play-the-next-episode function they implemented on Netflix is my arch nemesis. Anyways, I think it’s important to check in with yourself and make sure you’re on the right track to accomplishing your dreams every now and then. I like to keep an on-going note in my iPhone of all the things I want to do. I look at it once a week to remind myself that all of my actions should be steps (even if they’re just baby steps) towards these things.
If you're looking to leave your office job, you'll need to find freelance work to support yourself. I always recommend starting some kind of personal/side project to help get your work out there and in front of people who could potentially hire you. Working at a job you don't love isn't fun, but not being able to pay your bills isn't fun either, so I'd recoSide projects have been instrumental to my career path.
I would suggest transitioning slowly, since having the financial security of a full-time job allows you to work on your freelance passion (illustration, photography, and writing) with pure creativity. Since you don’t have the stress of having to support yourself completely with this work, you can be more selective about the projects you take on. Once you have a handful of extra special portfolio pieces, it’ll be much easier to transition into doing what you love full-time as a freelancer!
As soon as I put in my two weeks at the agency, I started reaching out to illustration agents. I wanted to jump headfirst into my lettering career, and I felt like having representation would make me feel more credible as an illustrator, since I had a bit of experience but not a ton doing client work. So naturally, I looked to my design idols for guidance. What I did was stalk all of my favorite illustrators’ websites, click on their contact links and see who was representing them. If they were representing my favorite artists, surely they were doing something right. I compiled a list and sent out emails with samples of my work and a blurb about myself to all of these agencies. I heard back from a handful of them, and eventually signed with &Reach who represent amazing letterers like Darren Booth, Danielle Evans and Dan Cassaro. To learn more about the process (including the email template I used to pitch myself), read this blog post I wrote about it.
I'm 5'3", so I look up to most everyone.
In no particular order: Jon Contino, Jessica Hische, Tina Roth Eisenberg, Dana Tanamachi, Gemma O’Brien, Molly Jacques, Kelly Shami, Zipeng Zhu, Mary Kate McDevitt, Gemma Correll, Olimpia Zagnoli, Anna Bond, Jeff Rogers, Kelly Thorn, Lotta Nieminen, Jill De Haan, Cindy Suen, Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn, Becca Clason, Jennifer and Amy Hood, Ping Zhu, Tuesday Bassen, Danielle Evans, Jen Mussari, Charmaine Olivia, Carson Ellis, Teagan White, Luke Choice,