Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Headstrong is a project I worked on for an art director in Belgium. A good example to show the amount of preliminary sketching involved when creating a lettering piece from scratch.

Having done some 40+ sketches I let the client choose which version to proceed with. The version selected required additional development.

After setting up the initial character lines I decided to proceed with additional sketches. Initially there were too many irregular overlapping lines with no consistent baseline or X-height. I did some quick studies with a Condor pen and choose the version on the bottom to scan and use as a revised template in Illustrator.

With the new template image everything fell into place with weights, B/W contrast and visual clarity. Big difference from the initial attempt.

This was one of those rare projects in my lettering career in which a client loved the progress sketches including the final lettering, had full knowledge of pricing and payment responsibility but decided to not pay for any of the work I produced for unknown reasons. Regardless, this one is a very cool lettering piece to show which I believe will lead to something positive with more opportunities for interesting lettering projects in the future.


  1. This is a good example of doing your best no matter the reward. Most people would let this get them down. Another reason why you're the best. I have a lot of respect for you staying HeadStrong and going the distance. Inspiring work!

  2. Beautiful lettering! Your blog is really inspiring!

    I noticed that throughout the sketches phase, there's a similar gestural and script-like theme in all the examples. Is this a direction that you settled on with other sketches? Or did you start the project with that sort of sensibility in mind? Again, love your work!

  3. Thanks for the kudos Ed. I tend to look at the big scheme of things and this is just another interesting project in a long career of lettering. All the experiences add up to something good sooner or later.

    I currently have a couple of large scale logo projects in the works that I will post later this year. Both required a large amount of drawing and variations. More cool stuff to show.

  4. Hi Jori,
    The lettering was a specific style picked by the client and the sketches allowed me the opportunity to see how far to push the legibility. Of all the sketches I considered the 3 on the bottom the most interesting.

    Most of the sketches in the first series were drawn on a separate 11" X 17" sheet of layout paper using a PITT brush marker. Some sketches were drawn with walnut ink and a Condor fountain pen. When the walnut ink dried in a light shade I drew over the letters with the PITT brush marker. Each sheet was then scanned, imported into Photoshop and posterized for the presentation image.

  5. Thank you so much for the detailed response! I love hand-lettering, but it's still a little mysterious to me. It's great to get a glimpse into your process!

  6. This post is a very cool glimpse of what a professional calligrapher/graphic designer goes through to get to the final stages of a presentation... thank you so much for sharing this with all of us! How distressing it would be to do all that work and know the client loved the work, but didn't go any further with it. You never know, though... they may change their mind and still go forward with the project. And I suspect that because you are so professional and took the disappointment in stride, that's a real possibility. Class act and beautiful lettering.

  7. Kathy,
    I was contacted this morning with an explanation what had recently happened to the client. A situation beyond anyones control. My concern at present is for the clients health and a quick recovery.

  8. Great post Alan. I love viewing all your roughs - such great lettering. Wishing the best for you and your client.

  9. Love your work. Also, glad to see a Condor nib. :D