Apparently, I Am A Type Designer.


Just when I thought I managed to keep my foray in to type design quiet, I found this piece on Type Designers using iFontMaker. The piece was written by Luc Devroye from McGill University in Canada. So, I’m guessing that this is part of an academic work.

In any case, I was surprised to be referred to as a “type designer”. Specifically, “creator of handprinted dingbat typeface” – and referred to my first set of dingbats called Mahalia Cute. The author of the piece also referred to the other two fonts that I created: Shai’s Script and Shai’s Fancy Font.

I was pleasantly surprised.

When you create something for yourself, thinking that no one else would pay any attention – then, you find out otherwise – there’s a strange sensation the goes with the discovery. I’m not sure what to name that feeling yet. But, it’s a cool feeling.

It was especially interesting when I checked out my font’s pages and saw that my fonts were downloaded X number of times. Not a huge number, but still… The thought that some folks out there have actually considered using fonts that I created is pretty amazing. No wonder people do this sort of thing.


The Back Story

As some of you might know, I’ve started a 365 Hand Lettering project this year. I’m only really beginning to realise why I decided to do that project.

Typography is one of those things that I’ve always loved, but don’t really give that much time to. Well, not until recently anyway.

Sure, I collect typography stuff whenever I can – stickers, stamps, stencils, die cuts, rub ons, wooden, plastic and metal type, etc. I even wrote a series of articles for a website that was all about fonts. I'm not sure if they're still around.

And yes, I’ve been wanting to improve my handwriting, including when I’m using digital tools, for a very long time now. 

So, over the last few years, I’ve been playing around with type and hand lettering privately. Not a lot, mind you. Just every now and then.

The very first font I created was back in the early 2000s, I think. I can’t even remember which app I used. But, it was one of those things where you print off a sheet with boxes where you write the different fonts. Then, you scan the sheet back in to the program, then the handwriting gets digitised and turned in to a font. I was less than impressed with the result of my initial effort, so I never bothered again.

Then, I came across iFontMaker. I’m not sure when I first found it. Maybe it was over a year or two ago. When I first came across the app, I knew immediately that I  would download it. But, it was several months later before I started using it.

On the 8th of February 2012 (yes, I wrote down a private journal entry about this, that’s why I know the exact date) – I created my very first publicly available font: Shai’s Fancy Font. Since this was the first font that I created, shared, and used, I consider this my real first foray into type design. It’s not perfect, but I loved it. I ended up designing Shai’s Script next. I think, this was just a few days after my first font design. And, a few more days later, I ended up with my first set of dingbat design: Mahalia Cute. Partly inspired by my daughter, of course.

And, as I was going through this whole process, my then 8-yr-old son became interested in what I was doing. So, I taught him what it was all about and he ended up designing his first font too: Curly Cam.

I had other plans of creating more font designs. But, life got a bit crazy some time last year. So, I had to set that aside once again.


Why I Love Typograpy

I think my love for typography and hand lettering stemmed from seeing my late dad’s work. He was a civil engineer who had great handwriting. He used his amazing hand lettering skills in his blueprints and sketches. I’ve always envied the way he wrote. I thought my handwriting was quite poor compared to his (or to many others, for that matter!).

I believe my dad also invented a few of his own lettering. I now wish that I took scans and pictures of them.

Just the other day, I came across an old notebook with my late dad’s old scribbles of Scrabbles scores* (sounds like a tongue twister). And, it reminded me of his handwriting. His lettering.

Came across an old notebook with my late dad's scribbles of Scrabble scores. Yes, I sucked at Scrabble (mine's the lowest score there).

As a child, I remember copying some of my dad’s hand lettering. I sat next to him, mimicking the lines, curves, and flourishes of each letter, number, and symbol. Then, I’d show him the decorative typography that I recreated based on his work. When he smiled, it made me happy. I don’t remember if I ever asked him to teach me calligraphy. I just did them, and it made me feel closer to him. 


Now, I’m immersing myself in more typography.

Even though the other day, I was almost ready to give up my hand lettering project. Yes, out of frustration and impatience with my development, I wanted to give myself a way out of the project. It's just that, as I was looking at some of my hand lettering pieces and looking at a few folks’ work that I admired, I began to question why I was doing it.

Why do I want to share my clumsy attempts at hand lettering? Why do I want to keep trying to do stuff I’m not that good at? Am I just coming up with more things to distract me, rather than help me to focus?

But, now, I remember.

My love for hand lettering / calligraphy / typography goes beyond a passing fancy. I’ve always loved words and letters. I’ve always loved creating. I don’t do them often enough. And now, as I think more about focus – I seem to remember what’s the “centre” – the core – of the things that I care about.

So yeah, apparently, I can now add “type designer” as part of my slash-and-dash list.

And, one of these days, I’m creating more fonts to add to the collection.

Please let me know if you ever use them!


* Yes, my score is the lowest one you see there. I suck at Scrabble. :p

About the Author Shai Coggins

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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