Elizabeth Street

What's the Point of Hand Lettering?

Lettering + DesignLiz TubmanComment

I've been hand lettering for about a year and I'm falling more and more in love with it all the time.  But what is it about drawing out words by hand?  What's the point of drawing letters in a world where you can download free fonts all over the place and letters of any shape, size and style are literally at your fingertips?


Hand lettering is a unique combination of design + art:

Drawing letters by hand means that you have complete control over how each letter looks and interacts with other letters.  You're trying to create something that's aesthetically pleasing, readable and at the same time reflects the meaning and power of the word or phrase you're lettering.  This doesn't happen successfully without foundational knowledge of design and the skill to create each individual letter forms.

Hand lettering provides one-of-a-kind solutions for design problems:

With the amount of control and power a lettering artist has over their work, each project is a specific, one time solution for a design problem.  For example, a hand lettered logo created for a new business is a specific solution for that business and its customers.  The letterforms created for that project won't solve any other design problem.  In comparison, a font (while still originally created by a designer) isn't created for a specific project, it's seen in many different projects.  Hand lettering is the most unique and specific design solution you can get.

Hand lettering is still rooted in tradition:

What I love the most about hand lettering, however, is the fact that no matter where the work ends up, it all starts the same way: with nothing but a pencil and paper.  The process and tools used to bring that work to an audience has certainly changed, but the work begins as it has for ages.  In our computerized 21st century world, that's comforting and familiar.  Hand letterers are still creating with their hands and lots of hard work.