Hansen Belyea Blog
Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Live Letters: Designer Erin Anderson talks about her recent adventures in 3D typography

By Erin Anderson

Our senior designer Erin Anderson recently constructed a fantastic example of 3D lettering (see above) for the invitation to our Valentine’s Day client appreciation lunch. As part of our ongoing series on non-digital design and off-screen inspiration, I sat down with Erin and asked her some questions about her process.

James Nugent: So Erin, why did you build this image by hand instead of just doing it digitally? Why not just open up Illustrator?

Erin Anderson: Creating this piece with paper rather than digitally allowed me to add a depth that would only be possible with 3D software. I also wanted it to have a very tangible quality, even though it would be seen primarily through digital media.

JN: What materials did you use?

EA: The letterforms are mostly cardstock. I used a range of adhesives, including rubber cement, paper glue, double stick tape, and foam mounting squares.

JN: What was your process? Did you draw it all out first and then built it, or just dive right in with scissors a-blazing?

EA: I saw the word “love” in my head first. That’s where I started. I didn’t sketch it out, I just started building it. The Hansen Belyea brand uses Avenir for most applications, so I wanted it to at least bear a resemblance to that. I pulled it up on my computer as a reference for general structure but didn’t worry too much about replicating it. I just wanted strong and friendly letters.

The “we” and “our” are exact matches for Gotham Rounded and Thirsty Script. I used my laptop as a lightbox of sorts and then transferred the letterforms onto the cardstock before cutting them out with an Exacto knife.

The word that challenged me the most was “clients.” As a professional designer, we have to work within time and budget constraints and the project was beginning to take more time than I would like. To follow the same process as the other words, especially with the largest word, would cause me to push my schedule a bit more than I wanted. I went to the art and craft supply store and found large metallic stickers that would fit the bill. After a coat of sealant on the slick metallic surface, I was able to paint the metallic letters with white acrylic paint to better coordinate with the color palette.

JN: Well, I’m blown away by your attention to detail. When I first saw the image I thought it was digitally made! But there really is a certain aliveness to the image, a certain depth of field that you just can’t get digitally. So what’s your favorite part about doing graphic design this way?

EA: By creating the type physically, you become more aware of the nuances of each letterform. I’m reminded of a quote by Ernest Hemingway “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” It’s the same way for me with type. It connects you with the letterform in a way that you just don’t get when working a computer.