Hand Drawn Typography at Refresh Seattle

Refresh Seattle – February 2014

First off, what is Refresh? According to their website…

Refresh Seattle is a community of designers and developers working to refresh the creative, technical, and professional culture of New Media endeavors in the Seattle/Puget Sound area. Promoting design, technology, usability, and standards, Refresh Seattle is a part of Refresh and the associated Refreshing Cities.

Seattle’s branch of Refresh had been defunct since around 2008. It was resurrected last fall and this past Wednesday was the 4th official meet up for the group. Each month we are joined by a guest speaker, and this time local illustrator and designer Chris Ballasiotes came to talk with us about hand-drawn typography. He walked us through his process of developing work for clients and even brought a goody bag of art supplies for us to try out some hand lettering techniques on our own!


I was excited about this subject! Since starting my web comic, I have been figuring out my process. How do I juggle hand drawing and also utilize the computer in an effective way? I was hoping to grab some tis from Chris, or at least some inspiration.

The most interesting portion of the presentation for me was seeing Chris’ sheet of quick concept sketches. It’s something anyone who has done logo design work is very familiar with. You quickly draw out everything that comes to mind. Many ideas are crap, but if you allow yourself to put things down unedited, you open the doors for potential gold that you might not have uncovered if working in a less open format.

Seeing these early sketches from designers reminds you that design is a process for everyone. Sometimes it can be hard to remember that when you only see the final product of amazing work that people are creating. Chances are before they made that perfect final design that you saw, they sketched out a page of 10 or 20 mediocre (or even awful) ideas, 5 or 6 good ideas and 1 or 2 genius ideas.


Chris works to capture his final artwork as much as possible on paper. He said that for him and his work, he finds it best to perfect things in the original artwork rather than cleaning things up after digitization. His final drawings get scanned in (or photographed) and (if being used for print) Live Traced in Illustrator. Part of his style was to preserve the textured lines that come from hand drawing on paper, but for those of us who want a crisp line – there is still no other option than to manually redraw the work as vector art.

Later Chris passed out some paper and opened his goody bag of art supplies to the 20 or so designers and developers in the room so that we could try out hand lettering ourselves.  He said “Do your name… or your cat’s name.” Well… I don’t need to be told twice!

Here is what I ended up putting together. For a 2 minute pencil sketch and then moving straight into ink with a brush pen, I’m pretty pleased with this. I like the instant gratification of working with real world tools, but for me, drawing with my screen and tablet is still preferred. I still consider my technique hand lettering,  weather I am moving ink or pixels with my hand doesn’t matter, it’s still my hand!

Thank Ceiling Cat, It’s Friday!

February 15th 2008 was my last day of employment for someone else. Next weekend will mark the 6th anniversary of when I began to dedicate myself full-time to CMD+Shift Design and my own personal brand. One thing I began doing in those early days which has since fell by the wayside is regular blogging. I wrote and published something every week for the better part of those first 2 years and it was something that helped me to learn more, become closer to people within the design community and gave my personal brand a greater visibility that just having an online portfolio of your work cannot do.

Rebecca Black, Friday

In the early days, I designated Friday as a non-client day and this is something I am bringing back! I plan to schedule all client work for Monday – Thursdays so that I can leave Friday for Administrative tasks, organizing for the following week, scheduling projects, and for doing side projects that are a huge part of my life and mean so much to me! The podcast, my web comic, my illustration work… and now I am adding back to the list, this blog.

I touched on this back in January when I said that I wanted to start writing again, and I got some great advise from Steven Bradley which I found so inspiring. I do enjoy writing, so Fridays are my days to write again!

If you’re not sure what to write about then just write and figure out what you don’t want to write about even if it’s not here on the blog. If you enjoy writing, the subject will come.

My career has gone thorough many evolutions in these 6 years, as have I personally. There are things that I did wrong and things I did right, but I always tried to learn from each experience. Here’s to learning, loving and making things!

I Don’t Blog At all Anymore

This blog has been long abandoned since I got sick of writing “freelance tips” type articles… so maybe it’s just time for a change? I love to write, so I’m just going to start out here and write… and see what happens…

I guess we could start with getting caught up…

I turned 32 a few months ago, just celebrated 12 years with my partner last weekend, got health insurance for the first time in 5 years and CMD+Shift Design is approaching 6 years of business next month. That all sounds so “grown up”, while most of the time I still feel like anything but.

I started college in 2001 with no intention of pursuing graphic design. I fell into it during my studies and developed a real passion. After graduation I landed a job working in print production, but my dabbling in web development quickly found me falling into the web end of the design world. When I started my own business in 2008, web work was just more plentiful, and it still is… but, I MISS PRINT WORK! I miss logo design, i don’t get to do enough of it! I miss drawing!

To combat this need for less code in my life, I opened an Etsy Shop last year selling portrait illustrations as a “for funsies” side-gig and I love it! Seriously, pay me to draw you and your family — it’ll be awesome! :)

Last month I launched an idea I’ve been batting around forever, a web comic called “Womance,” which as of now I am not able to commit to publishing on a regular schedule — but I’m having fun with it when I can find the time.

I still have my podcast, Pagebreak — which (can you believe it!?) Niki Brown and I have been recording together since 2010! Sometimes it can be really difficult to work recording into our schedules (especially since we have a 3 hour time difference between us) but I love Niki and I love the show and I love the small group of devoted listeners that we have!

Money wise, 2013 was rough. I need business to pick up this year and I’d REALLY like to work more on print projects if that is even possible! Most of my friends in the industry are coders — I don’t exactly run in the print design crowd, so maybe I need to find these people? Where you at?

Anyway, it’s the 2nd week of 2014 — what DO I want this year?

CMD+Shift Design:

I want to spend a large portion of my time doing work that I am both REALLY EXCITED ABOUT that also puts some money in my pocket! I’d like to get some new clients who aren’t just looking for a website, but someone who can really help them with all their businesses design needs. Head to toe. I love that stuff!

If I can get deeper in the black with business, I’d love to go to a conference this year! POssibly a return to Interlink or FrontEnd Design? Or maybe something new?


I want to spend 2014 producing some really good content for Pagebreak with Niki. I want us to read more than just the 3 books we did last year and I’d really love to get a chance to see his sweet face again! (We haven’t hung out IRL since the summer of 2012!)


I want to keep up with this thing, even if I can’t publish on a regular schedule.  I have a real vision behind this and I’d like to execute it!


I want to get out and get more active again. I want to find a way to incorporate Yoga back into my life, I want to go rollerskating more this year, I want to go on some outdoorsy adventures this summer that aren’t just sitting in the park drinking beer (although I want to do that too!)

My Family:

I want to do something special for my parents and parent-in-laws who I love SO SO SO MUCH, and who give so much love and support to me and Eric. I get teared up just thinking about them and how much they mean to me.

There you go…

These all aren’t exactly resolutions I guess, and some of you may be reading this thinking “uhhh… who cares?” But — sorry. I just needed to WRITE and share on this blog for reals… and this is what’s on my mind.