Why did I start drawing letters?
I've been thinking it could be interesting to share my story and why I started shifting my focus in "traditional" graphic design to lettering and illustration and how I made that work for me.
Back in 2012 I was straight out of design school with diploma under my arm and with zero experience. When I finished my studies I was blessed with an opportunity to be an intern at Quiksilver's (clothing brand) European headquarters in the south of France. This was my first job and I was more afraid than i've ever been. I packed all my things and moved to a small but amazing studio close to the beach. During my 6-month internship I was able to work on a wide range of projects - from conceptualising and creating advertising campaigns, pop-up shops and photoshoots; to the creation of catalogues and other graphic work. I was lucky enough to be surrounded with people that gave me the chance to make mistakes and learn from them.
When the internship finished I was ready to move back home and try my luck but at the last minute an opportunity showed up: I was given a chance to work full-time as a graphic designer at DC Shoes. They all belong to the same company and building so it was a no brainer. I was a bit nervous because I've never designed a t-shirt in my life but I was confident enough in my abilities to accept the proposal. I'm not afraid to say that my first designs were really basic and bland but with time I started being less afraid to experiment and try new concepts
At this time 99% of my work was made only using the computer. I always felt I wasn't that good of a drawer so the pen and paper always intimidated me. I gathered inspiration from all the other cool skate brands and noticed most of the designs had a natural look to them. I spent hours trying to replicate that feeling on the computer but I was never happy with the result. Until one day it clicked: what happens if you draw the letters and scan them? I went to the local art store and picked up new pens to try it out. At first I sucked. Bad. You just cannot expect to be really good at something at the first try. Even though I had learned some typography basics in college I struggled a lot with the shapes and weight. It was frustrating at first - my letters didn't feel right and the compositions weren't balanced. I knew that if I wanted to achieve the results I wanted I would have to keep practicing.
This was also when I discovered that lettering on Instagram was becoming a thing. I was hugely inspired by the work of Seanwes and Jon Contino and tried to learn from their pieces. It help me a lot to see that there was a community being built around the people who had this same love for lettering. Eventually I became comfortable enough to share my pieces on Instagram and got a lot of good feedback that encouraged me to keep going. I also started using lettering in my work when I got the chance. This was a great way to put everything I've been practicing to the test. Suddenly I'd found my voice and my work started to feel more like me.
My Instagram page started growing as I would post more lettering pieces and I started being hired by companies to make this kind of work for them. It was life changing. How was I being contacted to work on something that I love doing and would do for free but I get payed for it? At this time I was dividing my time between my full-time job and these freelance gigs and it was starting to be a bit too much for me. I'm really grateful for what I've learned during my year at that job: it helped me get out the comfort zone and try new things and most importantly it helped me find my voice. It was a tough choice but I was loving the kind of work I was creating as a freelancer so I decided to come back home and focus myself entirely on it.
4 years later and I still don't regret that decision. Jumping into the freelance life brought me opportunities that I could never dream would happen and projects that I never thought I could do. I got to work for television; make illustrations for books and magazines; create animations and so much more. I won't deny: freelancing isn't for everyone and it can be tough at times. I've gone months without work and it's during those times that you start to rethink your choices and your worth. The trick is to never stop. As long as your creative juices are flowing and you keep creating and sharing work, you're going to be alright. Freelancing also brought me freedom to work on the kind of projects that I like and also to focus on other things that I love as well such as music.
If you're taking anything from my experience remember that this story would be very different if I stayed in my comfort zone. Trying new things made me discover my voice and find out what I love doing the most. I still have so much more to learn and I can't wait to try see what's next!