Quick and Spontaneous is lots of work!

I received an interesting job this week. I was asked to create just one word and it was to look “like a signature”. The client asked for something that looked like it was done quickly and “not perfect” but in a script like you might see “at the bottom of the Declaration of Independence”. It was also going to be used for printing and possibly tripled the size for a poster. I knew the biggest challenge would be to keep it spontaneous-looking but solid enough to be enlarged and reproduced. I first had to decide on what tool I would use, so I tried several on a variety of surfaces in my own handwriting. Would a quill be best? pointed pen? small, flexible broad edge? Should I use a slick surface or something with more tooth?

Various tools on a variety of surfaces to get things started
Various tools on a variety of surfaces to get things started

I just tried many combinations until I came up with a few categories of the word that the client might choose from. At this stage it certainly wasn’t a finished product, but I needed to know what the client had in mind. Did they want significant distinction between thicks and thins? Or something more monoline? Or something in between. I made a quick sheet with some notes on it for the client to see what look and feel different pen and paper combinations might accomplish.

rough ideas with notes for client
rough ideas with notes for client

The client chose the word which displayed the general look they were going for (an aside…client ended up picking to refine and perfect the very first one I did! Does that happen to anyone else?). She gave me some comments and suggestions so I went with the tool I used (EF66 nib) on a smooth surface (paper with a velum-like surface). I just started writing it over and over until I got the spontaneous look I wanted! It is a contradiction, I know! It is really hard to break away from needing the letters to be of good quality – yet seeing that the letterforms are still demanding a kind of integrity. Breaking the rules – but keeping them!

Trying to perfect the spontenaity!
Trying to perfect the spontaneity!

Now, if that weren’t enough work, once I had the one we wanted, I had to make it more camera ready! I was really worried that once I started fussing with the word in a program, I would take its life away. I was down to the pixel level in PhotoShop and even did a final tuning in Illustrator to create a vector file so the word can now be blown up and go on the side of a bus if need be! (I don’t think she’s planning on it being that big!).

The re-touched final for printing
The re-touched final for printing

The client was very happy with the result! And I’m happy with the way the word seems to be a spontaneous stroke of the pen. Phew. Fortunately, this client seemed to understand the work necessary to accomplish this, but I know I’ve been asked several times over the years to do something “just in your regular nice handwriting” so it won’t  cost as much. But that’s a story for another day!


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