Principles of Design: How to Improve Lettering Layouts

This year, I am participating in a year-long study of The Principles of Design for Lettering Art taught by Cora Pearl, who is a full time calligrapher and teacher of lettering arts. The study consists of nine face-to-face meetings and supplemented with online posts throughout the year.

In this class, we will study the principles of design as they relate specifically to calligraphy and hand lettering. We will study Contrast, Heirarchy, Emphasis, Repetition, Pattern, Movement, Balance, and Unity. The emphasis of this course will be on learning to think more in terms of design than on finished work, through the completion of finished pieces is part of the course. In addition to studying the principles of design we will also address, What is design?, Understanding your Creative Archetype, Developing a Personal Design Process, The Psychology of Creativity, and Getting in the Creative Flow.

from 2020 Cora Pearl Year-Long Principles of Design flyer

Goals of this Class

  • Gain a greater understanding of design
  • Be able to speak clearly about what is working or not working in a piece
  • Build a design toolkit to enable more creative options when working
  • Value the process of creation
  • Develop more self-trust and self-kindness as an artist
  • Be part of a community of creative exploration

My Personal Application

Briefly describe your calligraphy/hand lettering experience:

I am a lifelong doodler and a lover of letters. I took a brush lettering class from Jeanne in spring of 2016. I am mainly self-taught from books and videos and an occasional workshop. I am a graphic artist and most of my work involves lettering or typography. I have created a variety of lettering and doodling pieces and published a coloring book last year.

What originally made you interested in this art form?

I have always been fascinated by letters. I loved learning manuscript and cursive in elementary school. I also love experimenting. I wrote The Lord’s Prayer 100 different ways in 2018.

What are some areas of design that are particularly challenging for you?

The areas that are currently challenging to me are EMPHASIS, BALANCE, and UNITY. I also struggle with layout on the longer quotes.

What are some goals you would like to accomplish in this course?

  • Develop and refine my workflow
  • Articulate why a design strategy works or does not work
  • Get professional feedback on my designs

What styles of lettering can you do and how well can you do them?

This is where I am the weakest. I have only heard of Uncial, Modern Versals, and Modern Pointed Pen. I can write in cursive confidently. 🙂

What tools and materials are you familiar with and how well do you use them?

I can fluently use brush pens, hand drawn letters, and acrylic paint. I am comfortable with B-nibs, folded pen, flat brush, and watercolors. I have some/minimal experience with pastels, pointed pen, graphite, gouache, and broad edge pen.

What is your overall level of confidence with the process of layout and design?

I love playing with layouts and design!

How would you describe your current relationship with the Inner Critic? Feel free to share improvements in this area as well.

I am developing a new relationship with my Inner Critic. I have gained confidence these past four years and continue to express myself and share my work even when I am scared.

What is your relationship to perfectionism and making mistakes and work in progress?

I learn best by doing. I am comfortable working through the awkward beginning stages of messy learning. Sometimes I will completely paint over a work to help me learn not to be attached to it.

How comfortable are you with the following areas of layout and design?

I am good at this.

  • coming up with ideas
  • knowing how to start
  • sharing my work
  • experimenting
  • finding inspiration
  • trusting the process of design
  • taking pleasure in my finished work

This is not a problem for me.

  • having a variety of options
  • knowing how to develop an idea
  • not judging myself and my work
  • understanding the principles of design

This is hard for me.

  • knowing when a piece is finished
  • having a reliable process
  • trusting myself

What are three things that inspire you?

  • nature
  • art & music
  • conversations

What are three words that describe you as an artist?

  • open
  • energetic
  • joyful

Is there anything else you would like me to know about you as your instructor?

I love to learn and am comfortable learning in situations where there is a great deal of social learning. I am at the point where I want the feedback and the community of learners for this part of my lettering journey. I do not have the formal learning in my practice, though and I know that will be an additional challenge for me as I progress through this course.

Artwork Samples