Interview with Lettering Artist Nicolas Fredrickson
Nicolas Fredrickson talks about his Omatype project where he created a lettering art piece everyday for a year and how it led to a succesful career.
Nicolas Fredrickson Bio
When I started going to school for Graphic Design, I, like most students, didn’t know what I would be doing once I graduated. Early on, I developed a strong liking for typography and layout design. I would search through the hundreds of typefaces that were available on the school computers, and find the best solutions. This led to a problem though, because often times the typefaces weren’t quite right. I started to very poorly create my own letters, and liked that I had more freedom. This continued for months and the more I practiced, the more confident I became.
About 4 years ago, I decided to leave my small agency job and go out on my own. I now specialize in hand drawn lettering and custom typeface design and have been given amazing opportunities along the way.
Please tell us about your work?
Once I’ve learned about the project, I go to my iPad Pro. I sketch away in Procreate until I have weeded out the bad concepts, and have come up with stronger concepts. I then send the strongest sketches (usually 3-6) to my clients. From here we are usually able to choose a direction. Then I will refine a chosen concept to be pretty close to how it will look when vectored. When I get approval on this refined rough, I bring it into Adobe Illustrator and trace over the sketch with my pen tool to have a nice refined vector. For the most part, social media has been the biggest help for attracting clients.
Do you have a graphic design background?
I received my Associates degree in Graphic Design. While that laid a great foundation for graphic design, I had to learn lettering on my own. There were calligraphy classes here and there, but nobody around taught hand lettering. After a lot of trial and error I came up with a process I’m very comfortable with, and wanted to make it easier to learn for others. That’s what led me to teach the class I do.
Please tell us about your Omatype Project?
Omatype was what really kickstarted my career. Every day for a year, I hand lettered a quote, song lyric, word, etc. and posted it on Instagram. I worked hard on these and people enjoyed seeing consistent posting, so that led to a lot more followers. A lot even made the comment that they were sad to see my daily posting go away towards the end of the year! While it’s hard to say if I got work directly from this project, I definitely did so indirectly— By showing 365 pieces, this allowed for a large variety of styles, so clients had many options. There are other designers out there, who seem to do the same exact thing over and over. This can be okay if the style is uniquely yours, but I had a lot of fun going outside of my comfort zone with this project. I definitely found styles I like more than others, but it was good practice to be able branch out. I recently had a project where I needed to create about 10 different package design lettering pieces that were all distinct. Omatype set me up for something like that!
How do you typically find your hand lettering
I’ve been fortunate enough to have the clients find me. This is one of the great things about building an online portfolio. The more people who see what you do, the more people who will hire you.
Please tell us about the products you sell?
My main focus for product sales is found in custom typefaces. I’m constantly designing letters, but not nearly as often am I designing typefaces. With typefaces you need to create each letter, number, punctuation, etc. and make sure all the letter combinations work well together. There’s a lot more to it than you have with simply designing a few words. I’ve designed a couple typefaces for clients, but the majority I’ve made for the community.
Are there good opportunities in selling
merchandise with your designs or artwork?
I’ve had a pretty good turnout with selling typefaces. Some of my friends have had great success as well. It’s a lot of work but it can pay off. I’m wrapping up a new typeface today actually, and want to release 2-4 next year as well.
Your Skillshare class is very popular, do you have
plans for more classes?
I’ve battled this question for a while. I’m not opposed to offering more classes, I’ve just had a hard time figuring out what to offer. Many lettering courses have popped up on Skillshare so standing out is becoming harder and harder. I’ve thought of doing a typeface design class, but I’m not sure how many would want to learn the technical side of lettering.
Do you have any advice for designers interested in
a hand lettering career?
Be unique! I know that’s easier said than done, but it’s necessary. I started when hand lettering was still pretty new to the scene, so there weren’t as many people doing it. Now so many hobbyists are doing it and imitating the “popular styles”, that everyone slowly starts to look the same. It’s definitely important to be aware of the trends, and you can draw inspiration when fitting, but finding ways to be unique is going to be your best friend if you want exposure.