Calligraphy Convo with Laura Worthington
Laura Worthington is a calligrapher and typeface designer in the Pacific Northwest. She crafts original, lovingly handmade letters which form the base of her typeface designs, primarily for use in titling and display. Since we last spoke with her in April of 2014, she’s been busy. She’s taught hand lettering workshops at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, created a smooth version of the Charcuterie collection called Boucherie, and published the Adorn family of fonts—her largest typeface collection yet. An experience she calls, “an insightful and inspiring journey into the world of contemporary calligraphy.” Laura also explored new ground, designing the masculine-inclined script face Voltage, and publishing her first ever free font, Milkshake—available at Fairgoods.com.
We caught up with the talented typefacer, for some calligraphy Q and A.
A Love Of Letters
Extensis: What drove you to create your type foundry?
Laura Worthington: A love of letters that began when I was nine years old. I entered the field of graphic design to have this passion be part of my everyday life. When I realized I couldn’t spend as much time on lettering and type as I longed for, I began designing type instead. Six months after publishing my first typeface I realized I could make a living at it. Ten months after, I went from being a full time graphic designer to a full time type designer.
Extensis: How big is your team?
Laura Worthington: Officially, it’s just me. However I have a few talented freelancers who step in to write descriptions and design specimen and promotional images, as well as develop additional weights and kerning.
Most of my recent promotional images created to show off the features and uses of my typefaces have been designed by the incredibly talented Joe Newton. Designing with type is no minor feat, but he makes it look easy. Joe has a way of looking at the glyphs and ornaments I’ve created and design things with them that I would’ve never thought possible. And working with Joe is collaborative, I send him early versions of my typefaces and he sends me back suggestions of things to add or change. Being a graphic designer, he’s also a typeface consumer, having him tell me what works or doesn’t as a possible end user is a big advantage.
Leave A Lasting Impression
Extensis: What is your mission in creating type?
Laura Worthington: To provide people with a means of visual expression. With display type, a viewer should get an immediate impression of the content, and of course it should convey feeling. My goal is to leave a lasting impression—to strike a chord through the unique quality of the design that won’t soon be forgotten.
Extensis: What is unique about your work?
Laura Worthington: Being born and raised in the Pacific Northwest has had an impact on my design. I live in the woods; I love the greenery of the area, the raw natural beauty of it, the rain, … I think those sentiments are reflected in some of my fonts by the rough qualities of the outlines, which are as close to the original lettering as possible without overly reworking and polishing.
Adorn: Inspired By Contemporary Calligraphy And The Modern Wedding
Extensis: What inspired your creation of the Adorn collection?
Laura Worthington: Adorn was created as a reflection of what’s happening in the wedding scene with the DIY bride in mind.
It’s amazing how much modern weddings have changed over the years. When my mother got married in the late 1960s, she had a wedding at a small chapel, with about twenty guests. The reception consisted of a couple bottles of champagne and a small cake. Compare that to weddings now—the average cost is over 25 thousand dollars in the US. Brides now have professional calligraphers or graphic designers put together custom wedding invitations and collateral, hand letter envelopes, etc.
Based on my own calligraphy, Adorn features four different script faces, nine display fonts, three monogram fonts, frames, banners, ornaments and catchwords, there’s almost no limit to what can be created with this collection.
Favorite Tools From Days Gone By
Extensis: What’s your favorite professional tool?
Laura Worthington: Wet noodle fountain pens, I collect them! My current favorite is an 1850s gold dip nib that has been fitted onto a 1930s lever filled Pilot pen body.
Extensis: What’s the most useful thing you’ve learned from your professional type design experience?
Laura Worthington: Supposed failures or missteps are an important part of the process. Not only should they be expected but welcomed—you learn more from mistakes than things just magically falling into place. Also, don’t hold on too tightly to an idea or design just because you’ve put time into it. Creativity is equal parts excitement and torture.
Extensis: From the initial idea to a finished type design, how long does it take for your average new typeface to be born?
Laura Worthington: Around 300 hours.
Extensis: Tell us more about your newest type design, Al Fresco.
Laura Worthington: That’s one of my favorites of my library of typefaces, particularly because of how personal it was. Al Fresco is based off of lettering created with a felt brush marker—the kind you can purchase anywhere for a couple dollars. I spent a lot of time last year developing a brush-lettering workshop and in the process, I further refined my own brush lettering style. Al Fresco is a reflection of that. It was one of the easiest of my typefaces to design since the style wasn’t something I had to work hard to develop; was already part of an inherent lettering style of mine.
Extensis: How do you see the type industry evolving in the next decade?
Laura Worthington: I think there will be a significant increase in people entering into typeface design, particularly women. I believe (hope!) that more universities will make typography a bigger part of their design education curricula. Also, I believe there will be more independent foundries as well as collaborative groups.
Extensis: Recent research showed ‘Calligraphy’ as #1 keyword in organic search. What do you think is driving the popularity of this art form?
Laura Worthington: Besides weddings, as I mentioned earlier, I believe other movements such as the desire of things that are handmade and the longing to make things by hand, and the increased demand for more personal services, custom one-of-a-kind items, and the desire for more individuality and personal expression have had an impact on this art form as well.
Keep Laura Worthington On Your List Of Calligraphers To Watch
Laura’s typefaces have earned prestigious recognition, including multiple Awards of Excellence from Communication Arts; MyFonts Best of the Year, and Typographica’s Best of Year short list. Laura has also been featured in numerous type publications including Hand to Type by Middledorp, Slanted, MyFonts Creative Characters, CreativePro.com, and Computer Arts Magazine. Learn more about Laura and see her work, at lauraworthingtontype.com.