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To the Letter: An Interview with Typographer Jackson Alves

Written by  Karen Lo
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Jackson Alves is a typographer and graphic designer in Brazil whose love of traditional calligraphy influences his modern design philosophy. Alves creates custom types and lettering for different projects and companies using the basic tenets of true calligraphy, and then translates them into digital works of art. Jackson spoke with Notes on the Road about his particular appreciation for word play and the place of manual labor, so to speak, in an increasingly digital world. Jackson also designed a parting gift for us, below.

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Type Lovers Project 

Karen Lo: Where do you draw inspiration from in order to create new sets of type?

I draw inspiration from everywhere. For example: every signpost, graffiti on the streets, my daughter's writing (she is four years old), or classical calligraphy.

Daily Calligraphy from jackson alves on Vimeo.

How did you get started in designing type? What is your artistic background, and did you have nice handwriting as a child?

I graduated as a graphic designer, and some time after that I got interested in typography, following the example of some friends of mine. Reading books about typography, I decided to start learning calligraphy to help me to learn how to design types. I've always known how to draw since I was a kid, and because of that I always had nice handwriting. I remember that I had the ability to change my style of handwriting every time. And the teacher couldn't figure out what I had written. I could emulate the writing of my friends (but I never used this power for evil, I swear). 

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Jackson Alves designing his personal logo

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What makes lettering so significant for you? Why is visual design important?

There is a quote thats says: "A picture is worth a thousand words." But imagine if this picture were made for words!

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Preliminary sketches for shirt design Soul Certified

How important is another person's handwriting to you? What do you think someone's penmanship says about him?

Nowadays most people never write on paper. Everybody only presses buttons to write things on their computer, tablets or smartphones, or maybe write some quick notes... But I think handwriting can say a lot of things about the person, about his organization, patience, and capriciousness. When people wrote letters by hand, they showed their emotions better than now, when people are just using Helvetica regular and Helvetica bold. I'm not saying that Helvetica can't show emotion, but that the most people don't know how to do it in digital world.

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Preliminary sketches for London-based design agency First 10

What are the elements of design that you concentrate on when you are creating something new? What is your design process like?

My work is designing types and lettering, so I concentrate on each curve of each letter. I always start sketching on paper, and then only when I find a style I like, I'll use a computer. 

What tools are involved in your design process? What basic tools would you recommend for anyone who is looking to try their hand at typography?

All calligraphy tools, such as nib pens, pencils and brushes. The same tools that were used a thousand years ago. Today everyone can find videos on the Internet to teach how to start learn calligraphy. That's how I started.

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How particular are you about pens?

When I discover a new pen, I buy it to test how it works on a lot of paper styles. But, although I work a lot with calligraphy, my final product is a digital file. Most of my works are delivered by email, and because of that I don't need to have a thousand pens, because I can reach any specific style by refining the original on my computer.

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Who are the illustrators and artists you admire most?

I started to learn calligraphy because I was inspired by the work of Luca Barcellona, a great calligrapher from Italy, and I had the opportunity to do a workshop with him last year. I also learned with another calligrapher whom I admire a lot, my teacher Claudio Gil. There are so many people I admire whose work I can follow on the Internet. I can't remember everyone, but I think of Niels Shoe Meulman, Erik Marinovich, David Harris' book, and all of my type–lover friends

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3Dlettering 

 From Jackson Alves' 3D Lettering Collection

Tell us about your workshop. Can anyone join, and what lessons do you give?

The only thing you need to know is how to use Adobe Illustrator. I teach quick lessons about basic calligraphy, calligraphy tools and how to create a nice sketch. After that I teach how to vectorize it on the best way, and some cues about effects. The workshop is a summary guide to learn the best ways I found to create nice lettering, to everyone can follow your own way. Because it is impossible to learn calligraphy in only one day.

The workshop is offered only in Brazil, but I'm thinking about a way to offer it through the Internet to all over the world, but first I'll need improve my English conversation...

Custom Types – workshop from jackson alves on Vimeo.

What is your favorite typeface?

I don't have a favorite one. I like of a lot of typefaces and a lot of styles... I love some foundries, like the House Industries, Process Type Foundry and the foundry of a friend of mine, DooType. Talking about typeface, l'm launching other versions of my first typeface, called "Bispo". There will be the original version, the new version (both for free) and the Bispo PRO, which will be to sell, but will be almost free.

New Bispo typeface - Teaser from jackson alves on Vimeo.

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See much more of Jackson Alves' typography work: 

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Jackson Alves on Behance

Jackson Alves on Twitter

Last modified on Monday, 04 March 2013 12:56

2 comments

  • Comment Link evion chong Saturday, 23 February 2013 07:22 posted by evion chong

    Hi there, can i just ask...

    what was your conclusion?

    and

    what did you find out from having this interview?

    I'm doing a project on typography and we have to come up with questions to interview someone, and i just wanted to know what you learnt from this?

    Thank you very much

    kind regards

    Evion Chong

  • Comment Link Claudio Gil Thursday, 07 February 2013 18:49 posted by Claudio Gil

    Great!

    Mr. Alves is really some of the most talented & enthusiastic type designers I had the honor to share nice moments.

    Congratz to “The notes on the road”. Nice shot.
    Congratz, “El Jack”. Keep going.
    My best. Cláudio

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