In anticipation of our upcoming Hand Lettering Workshop, we spoke with Drew Melton, renowned designer, letterer, and co-owner of Anchor Paper Company, about his background, finding inspiration in nature, and what separates design from art.
When and how did your interest in illustration and design develop?
When I was 15 I learned to code HTML, which quickly led to designing websites. I spent a couple of years interning at a web design company, doing everything from interface design to Flash animation/development and some database design. It was all fun, but the design aspect stuck out to me. It was challenging and, when done well, rewarding.
From this internship I enrolled at Kendall College of Art and Design, where I explored design further- everything from illustration to photography. During my 2nd year of college, I was asked to write a paper on Herb Lubalin. He was a brilliant designer. Especially his use of lettering- it was absolutely genius. His work stuck out to me, and even though I didn’t really realize that he was really focused on typography, I knew that I understood his work.
How does living in Los Angeles shape your work?
Los Angeles is amazing for my work. Obviously there is the culture and all of the neighborhoods and graffiti and businesses and whatnot. But what I really love about Los Angeles is the view. I live right next to Elysian park, and I don’t know how I would survive without the nature around us. I’m from Michigan — It’s incredibly flat — So when I moved to Los Angeles I was blown away and so inspired by the views right out my front door. I love climbing a hill and seeing all the way to the ocean. It opens of my mind, it inspires me.
Tell us about the Phraseology Project- why do you feel it is so important to link design and community?
That’s the fundamental idea behind design. It’s what separates it from art. You’re creating artwork for a specific purpose. The Phraseology Project really connected with people because they could see the direct result of their input in a visual artifact. There was also a low risk level, so it was a win win. I was able to practice my craft, and the audience was invited to participate in my development.
Any interesting projects coming up or recently completed that you might be inclined to share?
I’m really excited about my work with Herb Lester Associates. We just finished up a set of menu guides for Italy, France and Spain. They really allowed me to take the project wherever I wanted creatively.
When you aren’t lettering, printing, or illustrating, how do you occupy your time?
Usually, food, friends, exercise, or a good TV show does it, but most of my time goes to design.
Be honest- is hand lettering a natural talent, or can it be an acquired skill? Are you really able to teach us how to create our own custom lettering in a three-hour workshop at Poketo?
Ha! My feeling is that you can be naturally inclined, but I’ve seen incredibly talented artists get sweaty palms when you ask them to work on some custom lettering. It’s hard. My goal with a three-hour class is not to teach you how to make perfect work (which is impossible) but to introduce people to the process of creating letterforms. The honest truth is that everyone does it differently and everyone has different strengths. The problem is that we try and emulate what works for other people instead of paying attention to how our mind and body works. Not everyone draws the same- some people can hardly draw at all, but they are incredibly creative. It’s all about exploration and curiosity, finding what works for you.
Favorite or go-to typeface?
Georgia? Haha- It’s really unimpressive, but it just works for me. I have about 20 fonts on my computer. I hardly ever use them.
Hand Lettering Workshop with Drew Melton
Sunday, March 16th, 2014 2-5pm
*please arrive 15 minutes early
Poketo Store, 820 E.3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013