The Beauty of Hand-drawn Typography

The first hand-lettering artists were sign painters. They were hired to paint shop signs, posters, and paint information on shop windows to encourage customers to shop within the store. This art form required skill, craftsmanship and the only way to learn was to practice. Not much about it has changed over the years except that the finishing touches of hand-lettering are now done within an Adobe software product.

There has been a resurgence of hand-drawn typography and lettering in recent years. I feel like with the digital age and the use of computers to produce 99.9% of the communications around the globe we’ve started to lose that personal touch behind each message between people and within advertising. Seeing ad copy written in the same typefaces everywhere has made the message insincere and cold. Think about how amazing it feels to get a hand written letter these days especially when you recognize the writing, it connects you to the person in a way a typed email never could.

I love words, letters and the shapes that form each letter. I have always had an appreciation for hand drawn typography and lettering. Whether it is sketched, painted or drawn in chalk, there is such beauty and craftsmanship in hand-drawn type. The subtle imperfections and the textures where the ink or paint may not have been applied perfectly all give the text character and personality. It connects you with the artist who completed the work and you realize the skill and craftsmanship that it took to create it. 

Hand-lettering takes time, practice, dedication, and skill. It brings that missing connection back into communications and many companies are realizing how creating beautiful art by skilled artists reconnects your brand with people. People recognize and appreciate the time and work that went into the design of the interior spaces and advertising for products and are much more likely to interact with them.

Coffee shops and fast food chains are some of the companies to recently use hand-drawn lettering in their interior spaces and advertising. Some of my favourites are Starbucks, McDonald’s and Second Cup. Starbucks and McDonald’s each used chalk board style hand-drawn elements in recent campaigns and Second Cup used a very organic style in their interior spaces to educate the customers about where their coffee beans are from. All uses are beautiful.

Some of my Favourite Hand Lettering Experts to Follow

Mary Kate DcDevitt
Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 5.04.42 PMMary’s work has a vintage look to it but she often uses  updated modern colour palettes to make the art really pop. She also has a way of designing her pieces to make them so interesting to look at that you could seriously stare at most of them for hours. Although most of the work ends up in Illustrator the initial design is drawn by hand with pencil and paper.

Sean Wes
Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 5.09.21 PMSean Wes has a simple and elegant style. He often works strictly in black and white. Most of his art is done using micron pens, sharpies and paper. He probably does very little in Illustrator except make the artwork into a vector. I enjoy following his work because he also letters inspiring quotes that will motivate any creative.

Jessica Hische
Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 5.15.30 PMJessica’s work had a broad range of styles to it. She experiments with different lettering styles that always has an elegant feel to them. I love the bright colours she chooses and the complexity of her designs. Something may look simple at first glance but when you look closer there are multiple layers to each design.

Noel Shiveley
Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 5.55.51 PMI love Noel’s use of white lettering on photography. He is a photographer and designer so it makes perfect sense that he would combine both of his passions. I love the vintage quality to his designs. It feels like they could have been made ages ago.

 Image sources:
Mary Kate McDevitt, Sean Wes, Jessica Hische, and Noel Shiveley work images were taken from their respective web sites at the time of writing this article.
Starbucks interior space:
McDonald’s advertisement:




I am a creative addict that loves painting, drawing, illustrating, and hand drawn typography. I am graduating from the NSCC Graphic Design program in May 2014 and will dive head first into a creative career.

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