I first connected with Newcastle based letterer, typographer and illustrator Sophie Elinor Brown when Sophie reached out via instagram after hearing about a shitty situation I was dealing with to offer support. Sophie was sharp witted, super intelligent and had a big heart - after chatting online we exchanged some letterpress prints, have kept in contact and got the opportunity to meet up at this years Typism conference.
Sophie's career spans visual arts, production media and public broadcasting, throughout she uses letterforms to tell stories (sometimes meaningful, other times downright silly, but always thoughtfully crafted).
Sophie says "typography is the place where language meets design, and where the written word is brought to life."
I think her work is really fun - I have some of Sophie's work framed in my home (one of the Ru Paul Fan Art pieces she mentions below)... Sophie has a diverse portfolio but a consistent thread throughout is her playful and well considered approach to typographic form. In November she produced a tremendous stop-motion self promotional video, so I asked Sophie to share a little more about her love of letters, process and aspirations with us to accompany the video.
I am keen to know more about your process. The video demonstrates a range of technologies and mediums and you’re a self-confessed type dork. What is your favourite process to work with? Are you analogue or digital or both?
I know this is a bit of a cop out answer (I love ALL my typography children EQUALLY!), but I really do enjoy both analogue and digital mediums.
I love the crispness and precision you get with screen-based work. I love CMND+Z; I love the efficiency of iterating vector drawings.
If I ever happen to draw a particularly sexy curve, I praise the Bezier gods for the copy paste function.
But I also really dig the mess and spontaneity of working with my hands. Analogue often feels more human. It can be near impossible to digitally translate the liveliness of hand lettering, or the splatter from an overly inky ruling pen. Disconnecting from the many distractions of a screen can be particularly therapeutic, too.
I think it keeps you nimble, switching between both environments, and I often find that one informs the other. As long as there’s typography involved, I’m happy.
What does your ideal type/lettering project look like?
It can take many visual forms, but my ideal project has some creative license, is full of letters, and it tells a story. I love the work doubly when it’s for a client who is doing good and cool things.
The Art of Problem Solving was a great one. The University of Newcastle asked me to design the visual branding for this year’s engineering exhibition, and I took it down an illustrative lettering path. Figuring out how to inject a Rube Goldberg-y/ Escher-esque vibe into each individual letter was incredibly challenging but really, really fun.
Last year I did some live lettering for Mimco, and that was pretty close to a perfect gig for me. It was nerve-wracking as hell, but getting to spend a whole evening painting customized monograms for awesome women was ace.
It feels a bit naff to say so, but often the projects I create for myself are the most ideal (except for the pay; the pay is pittance!). It’s the manifesto of many a designer: side projects feed your portfolio and your soul. You can make work you care about, take your time, and you don’t have to creatively compromise.
My typography video was a big side project. I wanted to explain the different kinds of typographic work I do, and how letters can be brought to life. I’ve lost count of the hours I spent shooting the stop motion; re-making the animations; and ritualistically practicing my handlettering… That sort of work is a joy and a privilege to create.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
Hooboy, there is a LONG list of incredible creatives I would be honoured to work with.
I adore the embroidery of Maricor/ Maricar; the illustrations of Beci Orpin, Libby VanderPloeg’s and Lena Vargas Afanasieva; the fierce, feminist designs of Jenna Blazevich’s (Vichcraft); the stop motions and murals of Tierney Milne; the ceramics of Ellie Hannon and Anastasia Tumanova (We Are Clay); the balloon art of Jihan Zencirli (Geronimo); the woodwork of Ariele Alasko… These incredibly talented people fill my instagram feed with so much beauty, and it’d be so interesting to combine my lettering with their work.
If anyone from the production teams of Broad City or RuPaul’s Drag Race is reading this, hello-I-worship-you-and-I-have-already-made-fan-art-for-you-but-please-hire-me-to-make-you-more!
Working with organisations like Superfierce DC or Bulletin Co NYC would be amazing. I visited both places recently, and I wanted to buy all of the everything they were selling. The warmth and strength of these female-centered art spaces is tangible, and I think the world could do with more of that.
I’d love to be doing editorial typographic illustrations for print and online magazines like Frankie or Collective Hub or Womankind. I’m often generating work that is inspired (or rather, mobilized) by news articles I read, so editorial work seems like a really nice fit. I like operating in not-for-profit/ education/ media realms.
What is the best way for people to get in touch with you?
Email is always the best! I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org and I love a bit of pen-pallery.