Martina Flor has been a prominent figure and role model within the lettering world for quite some time now. Martina has developed a set of lettering skills which are very powerful both on paper and digitally on screen too. She has perfected decorative lettering along with flourishes and swashes, and has created some very beautiful lettering to showcase her amazing skills whilst working full time as a lettering artist.
Companies including Adobe, HBO, Harper Collins, and Etsy have sought out Martina’s lettering skills. She has also presented a number of workshops, given a really impressive talk at a TEDx event and will be teaching a lettering workshop at the Type Directors Club a little later this year. It is a huge honour to teach at the Type Directors Club, and only those who have displayed remarkable skills usually teach. The workshop is on June 10th in New York and is suitable for lettering beginners and those that are more advanced too.
Between client projects, talks and workshops Martina has found the time to work on a number of creative side projects. She co-founded ‘Lettering vs Calligraphy’ and also created 100 lettered postcards which she sent to family, friends and complete strangers. Martina’s projects are always inspiring artists of all skill levels and provide her audience with new and exciting work to admire. Martina is incredibly deserving of the title ‘Lettering Legend’, she has worked hard, inspired so many globally and is continually pushing the boundaries within lettering and discovering wonderful things in the process.
In this interview, Martina shares information about her latest lettering book, challenges that can arise from using flourishes, her lettering preferences and more.
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!
You co-founded ‘Lettering vs Calligraphy’ where you challenged calligraphy artist Giuseppe Salerno with your lettering skills. If you could challenge any lettering artist past or present with your skills, who would you choose and why?
Your portfolio is full of work that features a number of different languages. Do you think language can create a barrier when it comes to creating lettering, or do you find the art of lettering is truly universal?
“I think that the barrier narrows down to “readability”. Can you read it in the language that it is created for? I think that good typography should take care of the particularities of each language and not put style over grammar. Some typographic styles might well have different significances according to the language.”
A short while ago you released a beautiful looking book titled ‘Lust auf Lettering’. What can readers expect from your book, and is there an update on when an English version will be available?
“Yes, it is being published in English in April and other versions in Spanish and French will follow later this year. I created the book under my personal belief that anybody can draw letters. The book covers the basics of letter design and guides you through the process of creating a lettering piece. Along the way, I write about observation, optical adjustment, lettering styles and professional work as a letterer. As the book is a good tool for whoever wants to take the first steps into letter design, I think it is about much more than just lettering.”
Adding clever flourishes and creative decorative elements to your work is a technique you have truly perfected. What are some of the challenges that can arise when incorporating flourishes and decorative elements into your lettering?
“The problem when incorporating flourishes arises when you haven’t thought about those flourishes upfront. Although they might seem like the last layer of your work, adding decorative elements much later on in your artwork may lead to spacing problems or composition catastrophes — when you, for instance, hadn’t initially thought of adding flourishes between that ‘A’ and that ‘N’.”
The lettering you have created incorporates use of uppercase letters just as frequently as lowercase letters. Do you have a preference when it comes to letter case, or do you specifically choose a case to suit the requirements of a project?
“Yes, that depends on the project. However, the style of lettering I work with often determines the case. Cursive lettering might need lowercase letters because uppercase letters tend to be very decorative and expressive, therefore, hard to read when in all caps. If the lettering has to fit a certain shape, you might be better off with uppercase letters, because of their unicase nature. Generally, lowercase letters allow for more flourishing and ligatures than uppercase letters, and those are things that you’d want to have as I think that they add a lot of flavour to a piece.”
Is it best to be comfortable at lots of different styles of lettering or develop your own style?
“That’s a very personal decision. I think that there’s work which can be recognised as coming from the same hand although portrays different styles. As I consider my work to be about storytelling I find it hard to stick to one style of letter shapes. The forms respond to the project and the story I want to tell, however, they are still made by me and that probably creates some consistency throughout all my pieces.”
What advice or tips would you give those first starting out at lettering?
“I would recommend practising a lot, no matter how sloppy everything looks in the beginning. I believe that lettering is one of the few disciplines where practice leads to quick and tangible results. I know that ‘practising’ sounds like very generic advice to give and is not always possible when you’re not doing this full time. As an addition to “practice” I’d say: set yourself deadlines and real goals, whatever they are. Challenge yourself to create five posters in five days, to draw 10 postcards when on your holidays. Create your own little projects and stick to them. That’s a good way to give yourself some goals and create certain pieces of work that are real and that you can relate to in a couple of months or years. You’ll know that you’re getting better when you can look back at those pieces and say “I can do that much better now”.”
More From Martina Flor
To find out more about Martina, visit her website MartinaFlor.com. You can also connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Here is where you can book and find out more about Martina’s Type Directors Club workshop again, just in case you missed it above.
Interview header image with credit and thanks to Jules Villbrandt.