Year-long Alphabet Design

Last year I came across a blog called “A Letter A Week 2012”. For several years people have come together to commit to creating a letter a week for the entire year and then sharing with updates on the blog. Since there are 52 weeks in a year – that turns out to be 2 entire alphabets! The first alphabet is given a theme, the second alphabet is more open-ended. The only criteria is that each letter “fit” on a 7cm x 7cm square (of paper, of fabric, or whatever) when complete. At the end of it all, each alphabet should be put together somehow in order for it to be displayed (a book, a broadside, etc.). I was intrigued by the challenge, so I followed ALAW 2012 until they announced ALAW 2013!

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on my letters. This year’s theme for the first alphabet is PEACE. Nicely broad! Already it is fun and inspiring to witness others’ creative process and how they arrived at certain decisions in the creation of their first 4 letters of their alphabet (we are asked to post on the ALAW site about once a month).

Initial "play" with pencil and ink wash
Initial “play” with pencil and ink wash

I first thought about what, in general, I wanted my letters to look like. With PEACE in mind, I thought my letters should be lower case (less fussy than caps?), sturdy without a lot of “extras” like serifs or swashes, etc. I played with pencil and ink wash and created what I think will be the “look” of the alphabet. I wanted smoothness, but I found making ends of the letters rounded made them a bit “cartoony”, so I stuck with the flat/straight endings that the brush created. I may come back to earlier letters to do some refining, but I think I have the general idea.

I have decided that the final composition of the letters will be done with embossing. I will make a template for each letter which can be embossed individually (for now) on a 7cm x 7cm square – in this case Nideggen paper. I think the final composition will be a larger sheet of paper (I might try several types) with each letter appearing together in an interesting arrangement. I thought embossing simplified the whole choice of color. It is just the paper color letter on the paper color background – peaceful, no color choices (distractions?). Just seemed to me to fit the theme.

Letters transferred (with Saral paper) onto board to be cut into template
Letters transferred (with Saral paper) onto board to be cut into template

I transferred the letters onto heavy board which I cut into the templates. I backed the cut templates with translucent paper to help when embossing later – and also to glue the counter spaces to. You’ll see here that I initially put the backing on the wrong side so if I embossed the letter would either be considered backwards OR I guess it would be considered “de-bossed” which is OK, I guess. But I redid them anyway.

Templates with translucent paper on "wrong" side
Templates with translucent paper on “wrong” side
Fixed templates
Fixed templates


I am fascinated by the diverse talent that is participating! Calligraphers, typographers, painters, fiber artists…All intrigued by the alphabet and the way its lines, counters, and spaces can induce thought and feeling. I’m so looking forward to seeing what all the participants will bring and for the challenge to keep up such a long-term project.


4 thoughts on “Year-long Alphabet Design

  1. At last I have found your blog!! I am also fascinated by the processes of the ALAW participants… finding it a little bit scary because although I went to art college, I’ve never been on any sort of lettering course and my art training included a lot of theory and essay writing, and the bits and pieces I made in conjunction with this were 3D or performance based. Over the years Bloggers, of all disciplines, have taught me so much.


  2. I’m sorry if I made finding my blog difficult…I’m new to the blogging world! Even this early in the ALAW, I’m finding it quite interesting all the approaches, backgrounds of all involved. I am actually in the process of re-thinking my final letters…I’m finding them a bit boring. It is nice to have made the commitment so I can revisit and fine-tune and rethink and of course see how everyone else’s work evolves. Thanks for stopping by! See you around ALAW!


  3. Sally– This is fascinating. I just got back from Burma and I was in love with their lettering style… it’s called bubbles or something like that and it resembles your letters below. As soon as I recover a bit from jet lag I will be loading my photos on the computer and will forward you some of the ones I took pictures of. Possibly it could be googled I guess, but right now I am fading, so that will wait for another day.

    You have so many good ideas and such drive… I’m in awe, and yet encouraged when you take side tracks to knit/crochet… I think it’s just another form of creativity. Enjoy! l,p

      “Perfect balance is an illusion– just try for upright.”



  4. I knew I would find these eventually…. bubble letters from Burma. Cool stuff.

      “Perfect balance is an illusion– just try for upright.”



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