Lettering legend Lauren Hom on the importance of switching up your style

When Lauren Hom recently got back onto Twitter in advance of her online session at Adobe MAX, she realised she needed to push down her most recent tweet, which was entirely on the subject of bathroom malfunctions.

Photo by Kristle Marshall

Photo by Kristle Marshall

"I did tweet that someone close to me told me that they've never clogged the toilet before, and now I'm not sure if I trust them!" she tells Creative Boom.

Maybe they're telling the truth. Either way, it's apt considering the Detroit designer and letterer first found acclaim with Daily Dishonesty, a beautiful series of all the little lies we tell ourselves. Since then, Lauren's colourful, textured lettering have provided food for the eyes across classes, books, murals and work for clients like Google and TIME Magazine.

If that doesn't sound busy enough, Lauren also plans to become a student again, this time in cookery. Find out more in our interview with the artist and possible future chef (but not a future plumber).

How was it going virtual for your Adobe MAX session this year?

This was my fourth time doing MAX. I spoke about how to find your creative voice without overthinking it, even though it's something that I do all the time!

It was amazing how they pulled off the online event. The Adobe MAX team came out and shot my session maybe a month before everything went live, and it was cool to see all the production stuff happening ahead of time.

It was a different experience. I always describe Adobe MAX like a giant high school or a family reunion where you run into a hundred different people that you've interacted with on the internet at random times throughout the year. It's just nice and really rare to have that face-to-face interaction and to be able to get to hang out whether it's a brief conversation or the entire night at the MAX after-party.

I think it's something that I totally took for granted now that those things didn't happen this year. I'm really looking forward to them returning in future years.

Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you ever stumble across hand-painted signs which go on to influence a piece?

Found type is a huge visual inspiration for me so, as you said, hand-painted signs or things that I find out in the wild.

For me, my favourite places to look for graphic inspiration are antique stores or thrift stores and looking at old packaging and boxes and tins. I find that really interesting because I'm a commercial artist and I like looking at other commercial art-things that were used in advertisements or packaging from a while ago. It's an interesting mix of aesthetic and also practicality because it needs to be legible, and it needs to sell.

What letters/characters do you find the most fun to play and express yourself with?

I like letterforms that have a blend of straight lines and curves or angles. In my opinion, the letter R is the best to draw because it's got a straight line, an angled line and it's got curves. I think it allows for a lot of interesting experimentation.

I'd say the one exception to that rule is I really do not like drawing the letter K. It's just always been tricky for me.

How has your style changed in recent years?

A big part of sustaining a creative career is making sure you're interested in your work. I got a little bit bored of my older style after the first couple of years, and so I started branching out into chalkboard lettering and then hand-painted murals.

Lately, I've been experimenting with food lettering and paper, just making lettering out of materials that I might not normally use because I think changing up your medium is an instant way to change up your style. I'm still working with the same design sensibilities, but when it's a completely new medium, it's gonna look different. So for me, that's been my formula for doing work that pays bills while also experimenting with other styles.

What do you want to try next?

I want to go to culinary school. I don't know if I would be a chef or start some food project or website, but I've always loved to cook on the side. There's a lot of pressure I think to monetize every single passion or hobby that creative people have, and I've always been hesitant to you know, monetize my other hobbies. Still, there is something about food and cooking that I think could be a natural intersection with what I'm doing.

So 2023, I'm planning on doing that. It's gonna serve as a kind of creative sabbatical for me where I'll take the year off of doing illustration and lettering work and learn something new.

Speaking of learning, you conduct your own online classes. Is there a favourite tutor you draw from for those?

I went to the School of Visual Arts in New York, and I took a communication design class from Richard Mehl and Gail Anderson. Richard was my Intro to Typography teacher, and Gail was my Graphic Design teacher. The open assignments she gave to us really allowed us to take our own direction with the projects we wanted to make. She gave us the framework and then let us run wild and kind of guided our creativity, and that's what I try to do with my Passion to Paid class.

Richard was the one who introduced me to lettering. I didn't know you could draw letters before that! He gave us a lot of really hands-on type of graphic exercises, and I try to do the same with my lettering students now.

I suppose I had always thought of professors as, you know, more buttoned-up 'professionals' who were very serious. Then when I got to art school, I realised they wear t-shirts and have tattoos! Richard had a really casual, lovely style of teaching, and I think what I take with me in my teaching is I don't have to pretend to sound smart. I can just talk about how I talk, and that can honestly be a more effective teaching method.

This year's grads have it especially tough. What's your key advice for them to keep their hopes up?

My advice to all the recent grads is to stay passionate about the work that you're doing by creating the kind of work that you want to make. I think it's definitely a privilege to be able to work on personal work and carve out time for that, but if you can, I really do think it's one of the most beneficial things you could do to keep your spirits up and to build your portfolio again.

What amazing places and experiences has your career led you to?

My career has led me to speak ay a lot of creative conferences, and that's been an incredible opportunity to get to travel all over the United States. Internationally I've gotten to speak at conferences in Amsterdam and Barcelona and Manila and probably a lot more that I forget right now.

One of the highlights is getting to meet creative people. One fun story is I got tattoos with Jessica Hische while she was visiting nearby.


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