The Democratization of Lettering

It’s quite easy to question the status of lettering. Is it a trend? Will it last? Is the field of lettering becoming too saturated? For myself, none of these are a concern. I just love seeing people getting into lettering because it means they’re getting into two things: drawing and communication. Not everyone is going to find success with lettering, but at least they’re diving into two things that are integral to our future.

I view lettering as a catalyst for people to recognize and tap into their creative potential. Although people may find themselves interested in art and appreciate the work of fine-artists, rarely are the so-called “non-creatives” ever inspired enough to think, “I want to do this and I think I can probably learn how,” and instead think, “this seems really hard; I should shy away from this.”

Art is a very intimidating field to get into for those who weren’t engaged in it from a young age. Lettering on the other hand, makes art accessible and more enticing to explore. Rather than thinking, “This seems really hard, I should shy away from this,” they’re more apt to think, “I want to do this and I think I can probably learn how.”

Although lettering isn’t necessarily easy, it’s certainly one of the easiest forms of art to jump into and it’s a hell of a lot more approachable than, let’s say, oil painting. With essentially no up-front costs, anyone can give it a shot because the barrier for entry is seemingly non-existent. Unlike other fields such as graphic design, film or photography which all take some sort of up-front investment, lettering just requires some sort of mark making tool—typically pen/pencil on paper.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who come alive.” —Howard Thurman

A lot of people fear that the field of lettering is becoming too saturated, however, I continually encourage and urge others to give it a shot. I’m less concerned with the direction of my career and whether it will last, and am more concerned with helping others explore their interests. The more that people can express themselves and their ideas in a way that excites them, the more positivity we’ll feel in the world. This is what excites me about the world of lettering, it gives people the ability to deliver messages with incredible meaning in such a simple way. Lettering is so compelling; it’s allowing people to connect with works of art in such a way that we haven’t experienced in a long time.

Furthermore, the words themselves are open for interpretation. Lettering has always been democratized in the sense that individuals have always had the option to uniquely identify with and interpret the words, sayings, and quotes all differently. The stories we tell and the messages we convey are almost always applicable to someone else’s life—they’re either going to learn something or be able to relate to what we have to say.

This is why when it comes to the art of lettering, I don’t take it nearly as serious. This isn’t to say, I don’t take the craft of lettering seriously, but rather I’ve become less concerned with how many other lettering artists are out there and whether or not someone is good at it. I’ve found that your skill level matters much less than the story and message you have to tell. There are plenty of amazing lettering artists, but sadly they have nothing to say.

What do you have to say? What are you struggling with? What have you overcome? What do you want to change? How do you feel? Regardless of your creative ability, I encourage you to pick up a pencil, write down some words, and share them. The democratization of lettering is a beautiful thing. Anyone can do it—you can do it. You won’t understand the power of your words until you share them with someone else. You are important, you are interesting, and you do have something to say.