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!

Why Nerds Are Good For Business

Blame it on the internet or the evolution of consumer gadgets or whatever you want to blame it on but in today’s business world, being a nerd is an asset! Being a little off kilter, a little different is something clients and (many) employers are seeking out! Blending in and matching the status quo have become a burden on your business and being a little bit nerdy (or a lot nerdy) is where it’s at!

Why is this? What is it about nerdiness that adds that special ingredient for success? Well, here’s one nerds two bits on the matter…

Nerds are Inspiring!

Part of being a nerd has to do with having some strong opinions on whatever it is you’re nerdy for — be it Star Wars, video games or typography — nerds pride themselves on knowing a lot about what they are into and your opinions on the matter are part of your identity.

Working with someone who is nerdy about their chosen profession makes any consumer experience infinitely more enjoyable than getting service from someone just “doing their job.”

When shopping for new eyeglasses for myself I encountered this for myself and I could not stop talking about it! In the past I had always bought my glasses from the closest LensCrafters and it was a perfectly adequate experience. I truly have nothing bad to say about this company, they had a nice selection of styles, everyone was always very polite and it was always convenient to stop in and get my frames adjusted whenever I needed to.

This past year I shopped for glasses at 2 separate locally owned Seattle businesses for frames (Seattle Vision Clinic and Eyes on Fremont) and the experience I had at both of these places made something that in the past was nothing more than a necessary task into a remarkable experience! How? The people at these locations were total eye wear nerds!

This is a sect of nerd I was not even aware existed, but they were really excited to talk with me about what I wanted, what I liked and what I didn’t like. They were able to suggest ideas based on my face shape and style, they knew about eye wear designers, frame shapes, materials, vintage styles and their enthusiasm for the subject was infectious!

When you are passionate about what you do, you inspire the people around you – and who doesn’t want to work with someone inspiring!?

Nerds are Authentic

Part of being nerdy is accepting yourself for who you are and what you are into even if isn’t what fits into the status quo or flow into the mainstream. Those who are able to embrace their nerdisms and not be ashamed of them have this obvious badge of honesty.

Whether it is real or imagined, if someone can be totally open and honest about their Red Dwarf obsession, you feel they are probably transparent about other things in their life, like business practices and ethics.

Nerds are Memorable

Nerds are usually stand out from the crowd… and being unique makes you easier to remember, as simple as that. It is each of our unique experiences and abilities that make us valuable individuals, blending in has become a liability to any business trying to be remarkable!

What do you think?

Are you a nerd? Have you had experience working with, buying from or being served by a nerd?

Best Gifts for the Design Nerd & Internet Geek You Love in 2009

The end of the year is approaching, and many people are taking this time to reflect on the year past and the people in their lives who have made it so memorable.

Whether you’re celebrating a holiday or just celebrating the love in your life, finding a unique gift for that design nerd closest to you just got a little easier — here’s my 2009 gift list!

Days of the Week T-shirt Set

A new color for each day! These shirts could be fun for any color lover in your life – and on those hectic work weeks — they could come in handy when you can’t remember what day it is!

On sale right now at Cotton Factory for only $65 for the whole 7 T-shirt set!

Pop-Up Cards

You don’t even have to be a designer to appreciate these beautiful pop-up cards at PubliqueShop. At $4.50 per card, these may not be something you will want to send out to everyone on your mailing list, but will make a real impression on those who deserve something a little special! These aren’t just cards, they’re tiny works of art!

Typography Coasters

Coasters are perfect for any designers desk! Looks like a set of 4 will run you $45 for these Bamboo letter jumbles set in Baskerville Semibold.

Would it be over doing it to pair these coasters with the typography coffee table I featured last year?

Helbotica T-Shirt

No gift list for designers would be complete of course without a Helvetica Fan item! This tshirt is specifically for the nerd in your life who has cross over nerdisms for typography and robots! Meet Helbotica!

These shirts are available in sizes for Men, Women and Kids and multiple colors starting at $20.

Shirts For Coders

ShirtsForCoders.com has a whole store of shirts with silly slogans that show off your code nerd status. There are only 14 items on the site right now, but you’re likely to find something there that will make your favorite Web Developer chuckle. Prices start at just $19!

The Ruler Gun

Here’s one that’s sure to make a BANG! (Sorry, I had to say it!)  This wooden office ruler shaped like a pistol may not be something you’d put in your kids pencil box, but that special someone in your life who spends their days sketching will get a kick out of having this on their desk! It’s $12.49 from the Paris boutique, Atypyk. Ammunition not included.

Typography Soap

This gift will give a whole new meaning to “clean type,” its the Typography Soap from Charles & Marie and since the site is offering FREE shipping this week, I would head over there and pick this up now if you want it. It’s $20 per bar, which is a lot for some soap — but I can’t image anyone would actually USE it, more something you can display on your bookshelf next to your design books! :)

Well that’s it!

7 gift ideas for you to share with your loved ones, whether  you plan to grab one of these for them or you want them to get them for YOU! Is there something amazing I didn’t include? Leave a comment and let me know about it!

You can check out my 2 gift lists posts from 2008 if you are looking for even more nerdy schwag! 7 Gifts for the Design Nerd in your Life and More Gifts for the Design Nerd and Internet Geek in your life