Alison Carmichael: The Queen of hand lettering

Fri 20 Mar 2015

In a world overloaded by cold vectors and Helvetica copy cats, clients are now looking for that much-needed personal touch for their branding. 

Hand lettering is being embraced by the design world to create logos, packaging, and global ad campaigns that are unique, charismatic and memorable.

We went behind the scenes with Alison Carmichael to discuss how craft and hand-skills can have a positive impact on the personality of a brand.

Alison Carmichael has been collecting industry accolades for over 15 years for her unique, custom typography. She is famous for her diverse range of styles and versatile approach to lettering. 

Alison works with advertising agencies, branding consultants and design groups but has also created exhibition signage, window displays, pop promos, embroidered lettering and body art too. 


Tell us how it all started, Alison. What made you choose hand lettering? 

When I first graduated, and started working commercially, hand lettering was considered a bit old fashioned and something of a dying art. It was in the wake of digital design, around 15 years ago, and most hand lettering practitioners were at retirement age. I took a gamble that there would still be a relevant market for hand lettering and, luckily for me, there was!


Why do you think hand crafted lettering is so important?

There are a wealth of fonts available which can convey all kinds of different tones and styles, but to have something hand crafted means that a design is bespoke to a client’s needs. It’s unique, distinctive and can have a very specific voice or personality, which perhaps isn’t as achievable using purely digital fonts.


What have you been working on lately? 

I’ve been working on varied advertising and branding projects, including a job for Jacobs, where I created typography using seeds and grains. Similarly, I made an exhibition piece for “There’s a Good Girl”, where I created a 96 sheet poster featuring type made from cake decorating “sprinkles.” Niketown was another recent client - I worked on some neon lettering design for them, which I am looking forward to seeing in the London store.


You’ve got an impressive portfolio, tell us a little about what it’s like to work for such super clients.

In truth, I rarely work directly with these “super clients” - I am more of a middle man. I get commissioned by ad agencies and branding consultants, who have the job of coming up with the concepts, selling in ideas and managing expectations. It’s my job to interpret their vision and put it onto paper.

It is always great to put a nice brand in your portfolio though, and I still get very excited about it!

How do you approach a brief?

It really depends on the brief. My work can vary from hand drawn and crafted lettering pieces, right through to scribbled calligraphic hand writing styles.  If the brief is the former, I tend to pour through reference material and create a moodboard which inspires the tone, weight, and finish of the work. With the hand writing briefs, it is much more like getting into character. For example, I might have to create a number of hand writing styles supposedly belonging to different people. To achieve this, I have a variety of hand writing samples that I can dip into, as well as a good selection of pens and writing tools which help me to adopt different styles.


What do you think will be the next “big thing” in hand lettering?

I think that the combination of hand crafted style, together with technology like digital animation and 3D is huge at the moment. I think this marriage of styles has the scope to keep growing and evolving.



What have you got planned for 2015? 

Lots of hard work, and hopefully some more personal work if I can ever find the time! I like getting my hands dirty and just messing about a bit.

Think your brand could do with the personal touch? Drop us a line!

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