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Creative Story Telling Through Hand Lettering And Illustration

by Henny Kel Tweet - in Webinar

Last updated on November 23rd, 2022

Storytelling is comparatively a new tactic that marketers choose to take up to engage and connect with their target audience. Almost all of the means used for brand promotion tell a brand story to convey some message to the target customers. Hand lettering and illustration is not an exception either. But you must consider some crucial aspects of letters and illustrations to convey a story.

Lettering is the art of letter drawing in such a way that it becomes an artwork. With each letter drawn originally, the entire composition becomes unique. It is a spontaneous artwork that you should carefully develop. For this quality, hand lettering is now being widely used in branding. You can create a unique and recognizable brand identity using hand lettering as you can involve small details of every letter and line.

Similarly, the illustration is also a powerful tool to convey a brand message and build brand steadily. You can create a mood of hope, irony, and humor, etc. with illustrations to clarify a brand’s promise. Companies like Etsy, Slack, MailChimp, Casper, and Headspace use illustrations to tell their stories.

However, most beginners struggle to get hand lettering and illustration design done in the right way. They lack experience and need some guidance. Considering that, Designhill recently organized an AMA with Sonia Yim — an ace hand lettering and illustration expert.

Sonia Yim is a creative designer having specialization in telling memorable brand stories through lettering and illustrations. She enjoys creating art that is quirky, witty, and vibrant in colors — the kind of art that spreads positivity and makes people smile. She has worked with Facebook and Adobe.

Check Out The Video Of The AMA

Here Is How Sonia Responded To The Questions Asked In The AMA

Q1. How Did You Start Your Lettering And Illustration Journey?

I didn’t go to design school or art school or anywhere to learn this art. I started to learn Adobe Illustrator by watching YouTube videos. I also practiced my illustrator skills by participating in some design contests to create a logo design and branding, etc. In the process later, I got into specializing in lettering and illustration.

Q2. What Challenges Newcomers Face In This Industry, And How Can They Overcome Them?

The biggest challenge I had when I was starting, I did not have the level of skills. While other artists had very high skills, mine were nothing as compared to them. So I think that such a significant gap in skills can be the biggest challenge. You should also know where your career needs to head in the future.

I would advise you to set small and achievable goals at a time. If you set high goals in your early days, you may get discouraged if they are challenging to accomplish. Also, break the small goals further in small doable chunks.

Q3. Why And How Is Storytelling Important?

When I started doing lettering or hand art designs, I noticed that plenty of professionals were active in this field. So, to look different, I started emphasizing on storytelling using the combination of lettering and illustration. This also helped me beat the competition in the already saturated lettering art and design industry.

I thought that by being a little bit different, I could stand out without having high technical skills. So, I will say that storytelling is essential to look different from the competitors’ letterers and illustrators. But it is also crucial to connect with the target audience.

To create a compelling story, do some research regarding the topic or theme. I typically start with an idea. I consider two things in mind at this stage. First, I decide on the lettering or idea that I wish to convey to the audience. Then, I determine what kind of emotion the audience should feel when seeing my artwork. For example, first, I generally use positive and encouraging quotes. Next, I come out with an idea to best express the emotion.

For example, I twisted the word Halloween to ‘Hello Weird’ and used it as a quote for the Halloween celebration. Then, I came up with an idea to illustrate the quote. The idea was to create something weird by illustrating a ghost coming out of the pumpkin head. I added the third aspect of the gift to the illustration to connect it with the audience even more.

In addition to that, I kept the typography hollow and used a different lettering style. So, I told this story from the viewer’s perspective. But my style of lettering and illustration is clean and simple without being too technical in terms of skills. So, I do lettering and illustration differently to tell a story.

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Q4. How To Let The Creativity Out Every Time?

Well, it’s not possible to be consistently creative. I do think that if you’re stuck, just take a short break. Creativity does come from doing artwork and creating, but many a time, it comes from doing something else. For example, I’ll be watching a movie or reading a book, and then some ideas may strike. So, you should not be stressed out by the thought that you are hit.

In my case, I have the opposite problem, where I have too many ideas. I just don’t have enough time to execute those ideas. But yes, there are times where I don’t get good ideas. I would think of a quote, but I don’t know what illustration to do, or I’m stuck with the thought that I will drop it. But I never had a case where the idea will not come back. It’s really a matter of time. I would just take a walk at the park or look at a book or something else, and suddenly ideas strike.

Another thing that I need to point out here is that many people suggest that you should avoid the use of the Internet or Pinterest too often. They think that somebody’s work will influence you to imitate and copy an idea. But I think looking at someone else’s work also helps in getting the inspiration.

Therefore, I love to go to Dribble or Pinterest and see various artworks. Sometimes those ideas combine in my head, and I get new ones. To me, other platforms are just one of the ways to find inspiration and creative ideas.

Q5. How Can Artists Find Inspiration?

First, keep in mind that you should tell your story to express yourself. So, just be yourself. I think inspiration comes from within you a lot of times. This means that I am inspired by what I do, my emotions, and what I am going through.

But there is nothing wrong with looking at others’ work, and I get inspiration from them all the time. My favorite place to go is Dribble and Instagram. I would scroll through some of the artwork or somebody that I look up to.

Q6. Can You Suggest Any Books Or Websites To Learn Lettering?

I started lettering not too long ago, maybe a year and a half or so. When I started, I didn’t know much about what I was getting into. I didn’t look at books or anything else. I just observed other people how they created lettering art and illustrations. So, I can’t recommend a book for typography or lettering. But I do have books such as a series of books from Austin Cleon for all creatives.

Q7. Do You Use A Tab Or Just Trace Your Pencil Drawings With The Mouse?

I use iPad Pro and Procreate. For hand lettering design and illustration, I use a software app called Procreate on my iPad Pro. If you are a graphic designer, you can use it as I use Adobe Illustrator. I don’t draw with a mouse, and I no longer draw with a pencil either. If I do a sketch, it will be on my iPad Pro. I’ll sketch it and then bring it over to Adobe Illustrator.

So when you’re beginning, start with what you have! Then, do what you want to do as per your goal. That will determine what tools you need. If you’re going to be illustrator based, you will most likely do digital roster work. In that case, either you need Photoshop, or you might want to use Procreate, etc. If you want to do branding and logo designs, you need to learn Adobe Illustrator.

Q8. How To Develop Your Style?

I thought I didn’t have a style. I thought my style was very inconsistent because I would draw ladies in my drawing, and all of the ladies look different. But a lot of people have told me that my style is very consistent. So, just ask somebody else as a lot of times you don’t know that you have a style while other people see you a little bit differently.

Another thing is that when you say consistency, it’s not just about how lettering and illustration are drawn. It’s the way you draw. For example, when I draw ladies in my lettering and illustration, they all look different. But the common theme here is that I draw a lady in my drawing. So that’s a kind of my style. Yes, they’re drawn differently. But that is part of my style. So I would say look into your work and see what you’re doing, or you’re drawn to do.

For example, when I try to color, I’m always drawn to bold, bright colors that are part of my style. It’s not something that I’m trying to do every single time, but I’m just drawn to it. Therefore, I would say, observe your work, look at 5 to 10 pieces of your work, and see what you’re consistently doing. That is part of your style!

Q9. Is It Possible To Tell A Story Without Using Typography In Illustration?

I think you can tell a better story with the words and illustrations. It depends on your goal. If your goal is just to convey an emotion or provoke a certain kind of emotion from the audience, then that’s fine. For me, I want to tell a specific story that comes from a quote and illustration.

But yes, you could tell a story even just with typography and without illustration. This is because typography has a different style. To some, it looks aggressive while to others; it may look soft. So you can tell a story through typographic artwork or illustration.

Q10. Do You Suggest Taking Up Professional Courses Or Free Online Tutorials To Learn The Skills?

That depends on your goals. When I started, I did not pay for any professional courses. For example, go to Skillshare to learn Adobe Illustrator, you will get structured courses there. But if you go to YouTube, you will not find a proactive structured course to learn something. So there’s a little bit more effort on your side to learn. I learned Adobe Illustrator from YouTube, and you can also do so. So it depends on how much effort and proactive you’re going to be on your side.

Number two, there’s a time constraint because being able to do research and all that it takes time. So how much time do you have? And number three, what are your goals? For example, if you wish to learn website designing while delivering your graphic design services, then you should go for a structured course that makes you qualified for the job.

Q11. How Do You Decide Color Combinations That Go Best Together?

Color is a message and emotion for me. For example, one of the quotes I did was comparison will kill you. It is a kind of dark quote. For this, my color choices were to match that quote, and that is also a part of the storytelling.

So I would probably choose a very dark color. If I’m doing something motivating and popping, then my color choices are going to be bright that are popping energy. I recommend that as a beginner, you should not go overboard with colors. But there’s no right or wrong way of using color as long as it looks good.

These are the useful tips that Sonia Yim provided to the hand lettering and illustrator beginners. Pay heed to her advice and follow it for steady career growth. Designhill is a creative marketplace where plenty of work in the form of design contests and one-to-one projects is accessible to hand-letterers and illustrators. You can use these contests as a way to practice your art and build a profile.

Wrapping Up

Hand lettering and illustration are essential brand-building tools. But as per Sonia Yim, storytelling through lettering and illustration is necessary to look different and to create a niche for yourself, especially when you’re a beginner. She advised them not to worry much about building a style as you will gradually develop it. Also, pay attention to using the right color combination. If you cannot afford a professional course, you can still learn this art by yourself through free tutorial videos.

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I am a graphic, web designer and blogger with over 6 years experience. I am very passionate about anything related to design and spends copious amounts of time hidden behind a book or a screen and reading about design. Twitter



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