In the vast realm of typography, few artists dare to tread the path less travelled. Ana Michel, with her insatiable curiosity and passion, ventured into the world of kawaii illustrations, blending them seamlessly with type design.
My journey as a letter-lover person started in a self-taught way. When I studied graphic design, I hardly had any type design training, so I basically used it as an add-on to my designs. And because in University, I had no class on typography, I didn’t study it as a separate, complex and deep field.
One good day… as many stories begin. I accidentally made my first handmade lettering work for a small coffee shop. Their menu chalkboard had terrible drawings and awful hand letters. So, I offered the owner to fix the board in exchange for juice. She was happy with the results, and I was happy with my juice.
As a designer, I felt I needed to explore more about type design. I had all the resources and the motivation. And I had a good and stable Wi-Fi connection, too. So, without excuses, all I needed was to find the will and add some extra work hours for daily practice, of course.
For me, starting with lettering on boards was a bit of a discovery. To notice that the way letters were drawn, was affecting the message positively, and I had been working for many years in design without consciously realizing this.
I truly believe that practice means progress, so after uncountable small and sometimes unpaid lettering work, somehow, I got confidence in what I was doing and started to dive into Typography on a deeper level. Curiosity, experimentation, and excitement were part of my constant feeling about type design.
I had never taught before that, but how hard could it be? So, my ego betrayed me and I announced a lettering workshop in my city. After that experience, I realized how much I liked to teach and how much I needed to prepare myself to actually be a proper teacher, an expert in type design.
Going through specialization programs in type design, gave me a 180-degree turn in my graphic design career. I would have never imagined how hard it was to design a whole typography project. Once I heard, you either love it or hate it, I fell stupidly in love with it, after designing my first font “Laretia”.
Teaching is the best way of learning. Nowadays, I teach type design at UPB university and giving classes each semester feels like a great achievement. Especially by the end of the course, when students show their final projects, some of them are inspired by the Bolivian cultural diversity and identity.
When you have a curious eye, anything can be a source of inspiration, but if I could recommend a tool to keep ideas coming out, it would definitely be to carry a notebook anywhere. I owe great ideas to my daily sketch notebook.
Definitely the curiosity to learn more about type design and the accessibility to resources that came during the pandemic times.
I found the LTTR/INK app through Instagram; I downloaded the trial right away. The tool felt so intuitive. I practice and enjoy all analogue painting tools, so I felt that LTTR/INK reflected in an organic way the functioning or performance of hand-held brushes. It felt so easy and comfortable to work with since the first time.
LTTR/INK has been very useful in terms of time optimization. I have greater ease in controlling shapes and reusing them. Production time definitely speeds up.
Kawaiink is my first typeface born from LTTR/INK. It all started in a very experimental and playful way. I have always been attracted by illustration, especially the Kawaii illustration style. I just drew a few happy faces inside the Glyph, and once the properties of the brush were set, it just felt like painting. I instinctively started drawing sad faces as a game of happy and sad icons. And all of a sudden, I had a group of joyful dingbats and the crazy idea to make a whole typeface out of them.
After finishing the lowercase made of dingbats, I thought that the uppercase group could actually be letterforms with the same brush properties as the lowercase glyphs.
I would lie saying that I had a clear north, it all came from experimentation and a lot of proofing. After the first uppercase letters, the whole project started to look possible, and my biggest aspiration was to complete the set of letters.
One of the first drawn glyphs was the “egg”. At that time I was also intrigued by variable fonts, so I made some proofs to see if LTTRINK was able to respond to that format. I made an exercise of the happy egg vs. the sad broken egg. It took me a lot of time to get the different shapes with the same number of nodes and anchors, but the result was interesting and it worked!
For the lowercase, my only intention was to experiment a lot. I made some sketches of the faces on paper first and then translated them to digital with the magic tools of LTTR/INK. I could say that my only method was to look for kawaii references, draw, and play a lot. I just had fun!
I tried to be stricter with the uppercase group, drawing, and controlling the spacing, seeking the texture of the overall look took me a lot of time. And even now that I see it in use, I think it can still be improved. Maybe that will come along with the next variable version 😄
Definitely, the moment I discovered that variable fonts worked fine with LTTR/INK. Writing a small proof text using “the new creations” always feels rewarding and gives me that feeling of “discovering” something.
The brush look of the letters was possible due to the power of LTTR/INK. I tried similar tools, but none of them are as intuitive and easy to use. LTTR/INK helped me make the project faster once my concept was clear. It became the best production partner.
The nib styles function! Maybe it’s not a huge revelation for current users, but it was to me! and I am pretty sure that those who are new to LTTR/INK will be amazed by the Nib Styles function. This makes all processes easier and faster. It is an easy-to-set and fast-to-apply function.
This is not my trick, but I find it very ingenious to be able to change the tool parameters while drawing with it. This makes the result more instantaneous and gives you an overall view of the process.
I believe my biggest achievement in this project is to have worked on something absolutely different from my usual projects. It was distinct in the results and in the tools involved.
Trying out something new, learning from it in the process, and being proud of the outcome is always a fulfilling moment.
I see a playful type design, with some consistency and many possible uses. That makes me proud.
I would tell the younger “Anita”Keep on drawing, you have the talent, and it will become your way of living.Keep on practising and playing with all the handcrafted work you like. Try to enjoy the process and the experimentation of each project. Don’t rush into the idea of getting a job and start making money, money is good, but liking your job feels even better.
You are a privileged human being for so many reasons. Cherish your path, it is only yours, so don’t compare it with others. Definitely enjoy more and stress less.