It’s so exciting to announce that Gold Coast Australian Matt Vergotis is this months ‘Lettering Legend’. Matt has been working freelance for seven years, specialising in typography and branding. Altogether he has over twenty years of experience in the design industry. Matt is truly talented at creating unique lettering designs, and it’s very clear that a lot of thought and effort goes into every lettering piece of work he creates.
In the past he’s shared a few videos and tips aimed at helping other letterers. He also very recently created a pretty great Skillshare class teaching you how to develop your brush lettering skills. With all of his knowledge, and the way he is continually inspiring others by giving back to the lettering community, he is truly deserving of the title ‘Lettering Legend’.
Matt not only taught himself how to brush letter, but he also mastered the skill as a lefty (left handed person). Read great tips, find helpful information about illustration, left handed lettering, and advice on starting your own lettering business along with more below!
If you need a little reminder, a ‘Lettering Legend’ is someone who is or has been an inspiration to the hand lettering community. They may or may not be well known, they just need to have positively affected those around them through the use of lettering. Read more about legend criteria.
Update: Lettering Legends are now recognised through the Typefolk Awards platform. Visit Typefolk.com to participate in public community votes, apply to join the Typefolk judges panel and enter work to try and earn the title of Lettering Legend!
The whole world loses power, and has to resort to ways of the pre electric era. No more internet, computers or digitalisation. How much would this affect you as a letterer, and how would you adapt?
“Ha! Great question. Being a letterer today without all the electronic mumbo jumbo, eh? I’d love it! No more obsessive compulsive traits around publishing work to social media, checking in and looking at a little rectangular monitor… I like that world. I’d shift all that OCD towards better refining my craft, fine tuning curves to perfection and nailing the perfect composition, without having to rely on the digitalisation process to do so. I spend a good amount of time sketching and writing already and I’ll always try and nail that perfect composition, so I do have a comfortable relationship with crafting, but I find no matter how hard I can push a design on paper, there’s always room for refinement on the computer, so my time is split evenly. Without technology it would just mean 100% tool time.
Another issue would be that I’d immediately lose 95% of all enquiries that come through thanks to social media. I guess I could tackle that by doing a bit of sign spinning, roadside on a Monday morning.”
Your website portfolio has a good amount of brush script lettering in it, and much of your Skillshare class is focused on learning brush lettering. What led you more towards brush script over other types of lettering?
“I probably illustrate letters 40% of the time and do brushpen calligraphy 60%. I started out illustrating everything, even the stuff that looks like it’s done with a brush pen and eventually I wanted to grow as a designer and get the results organically by wielding the pen. There’s so much more movement and flow you can capture when writing words – It’s instinctive realtime flow, rather than visualised flow when compared to illustrating your words. That said there are different styles that I prefer to use to illustrate words. It really comes down to the client and what approach I feel will suit them best.”
You’ve been running a business specialising in identity, rebranding and lettering for quite some time now, do you have any tips for those looking to start their own lettering businesses? Are there any do’s, or definite do nots?
“Sounds cliché but you have to want it, you have to love it and you have to stay passionate. The moment you lose that passion, it reflects in your work. I always tackle every client job with an enthusiasm to do the best I can. If I wouldn’t publish something on my website, I won’t show the client. Set yourself ridiculously high standards and try and turn up every day and deliver them. As for don’ts, try not to get lost in distractions.”
Some of your logo designs include little icons / illustrations. Are illustration skills just as important as lettering skills for those wanting to specialise in lettering logos?
“In some instances you can complement a lettering style logo with a mark or lock-up. So yes, being able to have those illustration skills to match the style and integrity of the lettering is very important for continuity and execution. I started this industry as a conceptual mark / logo designer before lettering came into my life, so I always had a handle on mark execution.
For me it’s important to have a flexibility to jump from one style to the next so you can be relevant to a variety of clients requiring completely different identities. A corporate client like a finance company is just as important to me as, say a trendy clothing label, so it’s super important for a designer wanting to specialise in corporate identity to have that depth and variety in styles. Specialising in only lettering logos will pigeonhole your clientele fetch, so if you can illustrate marks then it’s definitely going to help.”
The lettering world is starting to catch on that you’re a lefty, what have been the biggest struggles you’ve found as a left handed letterer? How have you overcome these?
“I don’t know any different, so I’ve never struggled with being a lefty. It’s funny because people tend to always think we’re at a disadvantage, but I don’t know how good a right handed person has it and being a lefty has always worked for me. I guess the main issue people associate with being left handed is the smudge factor. Since I write from over the top, the side of my hand rests and slides above the words I’m writing, so that’s never been an issue. If I was a mirror reflection to a righty (underneath approach) then definitely the smudging would be a factor. In a way though, seeing the paper I’m leading towards when writing can help me visualise the path i’m about to take. I can visualise where the brushpen is going before I go there. So perhaps that works in favour for the leftys.”
Is it best to be comfortable at lots of different styles of lettering or develop your own style?
“For me, variety is key! I need to have different styles to accommodate different requests. If you only have one style then you’re denying yourself a world of other opportunities. Even designing a typeface or font will help you better understand letter shapes that you can apply and learn from when discovering your own signature style. So by learning other styles you definitely grow and open up your repertoire – natural styles will come to the forefront but you’ll just have more of them in your bag of tricks. It makes things interesting too as you’re always growing as a designer.”
What advice or tips would you give those first starting out at lettering?
“Draw your lettering first. That will help you understand letterforms, positive and negative space, thicks and thins etc. Get comfortable with being able to illustrate what makes a killer-looking letter. So when it comes time to breaking out the brushpens, you’ll already have a blueprint on how things should look. Never give up either. I do feel brushpen lettering is something everyone can learn. Most of us have the building blocks already in place from learning cursive writing when we were at school. It’s just a matter of tapping into that and working out those thicks and thins. The learning curve is steep and all it takes is a little patience and persistence and you’ll start achieving desirable results. Push through those teething stages and really surround yourself with good typography.”