Type Tuesdays featuring Emily Sikora

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a recent grad from UW-Stevens Point with my BFA in Graphic Design, but am from the small town of Cary, Illinois. In my design work, I love designing experiences that keep the end user in mind. I often incorporate hand-lettering and illustration to achieve a fun and often “whimsical” aesthetic in the finished product. I also love photography, dogs, and spending time with my family and friends.
When did you first discover your love for hand-drawn typography?
I became interested in hand drawn type at the end of my senior year of high school in my graphic design class. I had listened to a Design Matters podcast where they interviewed Jessica Hische, and I looked up her work and what she did looked like a lot of fun, so I wanted to try it myself!
How much time do you send on a design?
It all depends on the design. Some designs I can sketch out in a half hour, others take multiple hours. More complex, highly detailed designs take me a lot longer. Digitizing my lettering usually takes me just as long as the sketching does.
Being a graphic designer, do you try to incorporate hand-type into all you projects?
In the majority of my projects, yes! I love using hand-drawn type when I can. However, there are some projects where a hand-drawn aesthetic wouldn’t be the most fitting.
Is there anyone in particular who has had a great influence on your style?
Mary Kate McDevitt is a lettering artist whose work I really admire, and her work definitely influences my own style. She wrote a book called the “Hand-Lettering Ledger” which has been a great resource for me to better understand hand-lettering, and the vast variety of typographic styles. I often find myself inspired by some of her letterforms and compositions, and then add my own spin on it by adding different patterns and details.
Stroll us through one of your favorite pieces.
I designed a board game called Considerate Kingdom that teaches children the benefits of being generous. In the game, players all start off in their own kingdom and as they navigate their game boards, they have the opportunity to grow their kingdom by helping others. Whoever has the most prosperous kingdom at the end of the game wins. This is one of my favorite projects because I was able to design a whole system and incorporate hand lettering and illustration throughout the almost every element of the game.
Best advice you can give to someone looking to start hand type?
Honestly, just practice and sketch everyday! Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s so cool to see how much you can improve over time if you just keep at it… I’ve definitely seen improvements in my own lettering over the past 3 years. Find inspiration in other lettering artists, and practice drawing letters that have a similar style to the work you admire. I’ve given myself lots of little “letter a day” challenges that have helped too.  Instagram has a great community of lettering artists too, and there are many accounts that have daily/weekly lettering challenges. The @handletteredabcs is a great account on Instagram with weekly challenges and an encouraging community.
Any tricks to share about digitizing your work?
Once I have a finished sketch, I digitize it in Illustrator. If I have a super detailed piece, I will scan it in at 600ppi, but more often, I usually just take a picture of it on my iPhone, and that works just fine. I edit the contrast in Photoshop so that all the linework is solid black, and then I bring it into Illustrator and Image Trace it using the “Sketched Art” setting. I will adjust the threshold until I get the amount of details that I want. After that, I expand it so all the lettering becomes editable vectors. Lastly, I smooth out the anchor points using the “Smooth” tool in Illustrator. If I want the lettering to have a more polished look, I will pen tool over the letters.
What does the future hold for you and your type?
I plan on keeping myself busy with various lettering and illustration projects this summer, while looking for career opportunities around the Midwest.
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