I’ve always admired how designers can develop interesting and innovative ideas, transforming the most ordinary things, like signs or letters, into something beautiful, meaningful, and creative. Annica Lydenberg’s short course “Decorative Letterforms: Creating a Hand-Drawn Alphabet” on Skillshare gives us a glimpse of what a professional graphic designer can create.
Lettering consists of designing artistic images on each letter. Lettering is a creatively freeing way of showing your designer style – you already have a predetermined shape, like a blank canvas, that you can modify to develop your idea. This course aims to help us discover our unique style and effectively express it through lettering. Let’s have a closer look!
Table of Contents
Who is Annica Lydenberg?
Annica Lydenberg is an award-winning graphic designer based in Brooklyn, New York. She runs her studio, Dirty Bandits, specializing in hand lettering, branding, illustration, and design.
Her career began with her passion for hand lettering, creating calendars and signs for herself and people close to her. Starting out, she focused on developing her own projects, which helped her push the boundaries of her creativity and gave her experience using letterforms to convey meaning. Developing this confidence and skill has resulted in interesting collaborations with brands looking to help their typography tell stories – and her living up to her professional moniker “Bad Ass Typographer.”
What to expect?
Annica Lydenberg provides clear and concise explanations of her techniques, making them easy to follow for beginners. She covers everything from sketching to scanning and digitizing. The lessons are well structured and fluid, so you won’t have problems following her instructions.
To begin this course, you will have to gather inspiration from images, fonts, colors, and shapes that you’ll use as a starting point for your letter designs.
Annica provides clear guidance on transforming these inspirations into a design concept for your alphabet. The initial lessons will teach you how to brainstorm ideas for letters and kickstart your creative process.
There are no limits to your creativity in this course; any object or concept can be transformed into a unique letterform. Whether it’s ice melting over letters or vintage boxes with lightbulbs, think outside the box and start sketching all your ideas!
To get a quick overview of this course, let’s go through each lesson:
- Lessons 1 and 2 provide an introduction to Annica and her experience.
- In lesson 3, we learn what we will be working on – the alphabet – and various tips on how to get our ideas flowing. Annica demonstrates how to begin by modifying the letter A in various shapes and concepts. I would recommend looking for lettering examples on Google or Pinterest first. This will give you more ideas that you can implement in your designs.
- Lessons 4 to 6 cover how to begin sketching concepts, choose the best ones, and apply them to the rest of the alphabet. After completing quick sketches, select the most appealing ones and apply the same design to the rest of the alphabet. The complexity of this process depends on the desired end result and the story you want to convey through the letter designs. Even if you have created a complex shape, this course will guide you in bringing it to life. Annica will teach you the best drawing techniques, including determining the number of layers your design requires and how to separate the objects in your drawing onto different sheets for easier digitization later on.
- Lesson 7 focuses on tracing, scanning, and digitizing. Annica has a clear and understandable way of teaching these topics. The scanning step is the simplest; ensure you have a scanner nearby or use your phone’s scanning app to utilize this step. Transforming your hand drawings to digital is not as complicated as you might think, and this course provides you with the resources you will need to digitize your drawing more effectively.
- Lessons 8 and 9 delve into the details of the letters, including how to accommodate them in the grid and what to look for in the programs. To digitize your alphabet, some experience with Illustrator and Photoshop is necessary. However, the course offers clear instructions on how to use these tools for letterform design, making it easy to follow along at your own pace.
- In lesson 10, Annica works with a more complex type of letter and demonstrates how to work with vintage letters and give them the light bulb effect.
By the end of the course, you’ll have created your own unique alphabet and unleashed your creativity through experimenting with this topic of graphic design.
How much does the course cost?
Courses on Skillshare can not be bought individually – they can only be accessed by signing up for a Skillshare membership. The good news? Skillshare offers e-student.org learners a full month free trial if you use our link (if not using our link, there is normally only a 7-day free trial). As virtually all Skillshare courses will take you less than a month to complete, you can in effect take this or any other Skillshare course for free – or any number of courses that you can finish in a month.
Once your free trial is over, the cost of Skillshare is $165 per year, which averages out to $13.75 per month. This gives you full access to all 34,000+ Skillshare courses. But if you're not happy to continue, you can easily cancel any time before your free trial ends – just go to your payment settings in your account.
If you have no need for a free trial, you can instead get %30 discount on your first year by using this special link instead. With this link, your first year will be just $115.50, averaging out to $9.63 per month. Note that this offer is only valid for new accounts, so it can't be combined with the 30-day free trial.
Black Friday/Cyber Monday offer 2023: Note that Skillshare is running an even better offer for the holidays, with a 50% discount on your membership (expires 30 November 2023).
Review Conclusion: Is this course worth it?
The course length is ideal if you want to get started with lettering since it is short, clear, and concise and goes through the basic but most important points about lettering. You can find great examples of how effective this course is by checking other student’s designs.
This course is particularly helpful for beginners, as it provides step-by-step instructions on how to draw each letter. You’ll learn important details, such as the impact of inclinations on letters.
One of the best things about lettering is that you can use it to decorate almost everything. If you want to give something special to someone, create a new image for your business, create a decorative poster for your wall, or just start your journey as a graphic designer, lettering is a special technique everyone will appreciate.
It’s a great starting point for illustration as it combines your visual-manual coordination, sense of shapes and colors, and experience in transforming ideas into visual concepts. You’d also utilize your sketching techniques and skills in basic design programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator.
It is an interesting way to discover yourself as a designer – and the course has helped me realize that inspiration is all around us; we just have to be observant and pay attention to the details in our daily lives.
I believe that “Decorative Letterforms: Creating a Hand-Drawn Alphabet” is worth taking. It is very well-structured, easy to follow, and enjoyable. Whether you want to expand your knowledge, gain more experience, or improve your curriculum, this class is a great starting point.