Shaping the Future Poster — Handmade Type


Malia Hee, Spring 2019, Art Direction 2

Charlie Dawes, Spring 2019, Art Direction 2

Heidi Shackleford, Spring 2019, Art Direction 2

Level: ,
Duration: 3 weeks
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Project Brief

Custom hand-drawn type is a tough skill to master, but one you only get better at with time and practice. Hand-drawn lettering is unique from a “typeface” in that it has custom forms that couldn’t result from just typing out letters on your keyboard. Some OpenType fonts have so many ligature options that they can look pretty close to hand lettering, but nothing is quite like true hand lettering. 

Your first assignment is to create a poster, that utilizes hand-drawn/hand-made lettering within the piece, that shares your vision of the future. The poster can be a warning, a call-to-action, a rally call, a protest piece...Your poster should communicate your idea for the future, the future you want for the next generations. It is your chance as a creative to let your voice be heard as the future is defined by our actions today. 

Your poster can focus on equal access to water and to food. Or on climate change. Or basic human rights. It’s your vision of the future—and the focus is up to you. 


You can start with hand lettering, and then refine it on the computer. It is also okay to start with setting type on the computer, and then hand exaggerate those letters. However, your process needs to focus on drawing letters, and that aspect of the process should attempt to add a quality that a standard typeface cannot provide. 

I encourage you to think about what the proper lettering should be for the content you choose, then set the words / phrase / lyrics in a variety of typefaces you think might be appropriate. Identify the elements you think are particularly fitting and run with them. How can you exaggerate those forms in a unique and appropriate way? Alternately, you might consider drawing letters from scratch without basing them on existing type to see where it takes you.

The ultimate objectives are to get some experience with type—off of the computer—to fit your specific needs so that you aren’t always relying on finding the perfect typeface for your projects, but repurposing more basic type to your needs…and to hopefully come out of it with a self-contained portfolio piece.

Learning Objectives

  • utilize the design process: ideation (sketchbook), research/inspiration, thumbnails, roughs, comps, final 
  • appropriateness of digital type versus hand-drawn/hand-made type
  • how to choose proper lettering based on content
  • gain experience with hand-drawn/hand-made type 


FINAL SPECS  Digital Poster with hand-drawn lettering elements scanned in and digitally enhanced, 24\"x36\" (printed at 50%).  MOUNTING: Please mount either with a 1\" border on all sides or flush mount to BLACK MAT BOARD ONLY.


Type resources (approved quality):,,,,,,,,, (not free but very inexpensive),, (free with your Adobe Creative Cloud subscription)


This assignment challenges students immediately (assigned week 1) to make conscious decisions using their knowledge of graphic design principles. They were required to include a handmade/hand-drawn type element within their poster design. We had many in-class discussions relating to digital type usage versus hand-made type. The students had to share (good) examples of handmade type they were to find offline and then talk about the benefit in each of their examples of utilizing hand-drawn/hand-made typography versus digital type. 

Many students did a great job brainstorming ideas that would best utilize handmade type, but some students couldn't get away from simply hand-drawing a digital typeface. I challenged them to come up with a concept that would best be communicated using handmade type and not just recreate a digital typeface to 'meet the assignment requirements'. I had to pushback several times and still some students designed a poster that included hand-drawn type that simply mimicked a digital typeface. 

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