Earlier this month I headed back across the ditch sunny Queensland to do some teaching and attend the 4th Typism Conference. After the workshops and sideline events on Thursday and Friday the Keynote speakers all took the stage Saturday. Surrounded by a crowd of likeminded typomaniac's our enthusiastic crowd packed the Home of the Arts Centre on the Gold Coast.

First letterer out of the gates was Wanissa Somsuphangsri (one of The Letterettes, a lettering girl group based in Melbourne Australia). Wanissa credits her long surname, with giving her plenty of practice drawing letters from a young age.

Around 2013, she began lettering as a hobby to escape her digital graphic designer lifestyle. Gradually the lettering enquiries began to grow and she made the leap to a full time freelance letterer in 2015, specialising in flourishes, scripts, signs, stationery and botanical illustrations.

During her talk Wanissa candidly spoke of her career mistakes. Sharing fantastic advice and lessons for starting out with freelance (and creative practice generally). Wanissa implored us to start with a lean, sharing encouraging advice about, creative possibilities, sharing your work and landing dream clients


One of her first tips is to value your skills and not to sell yourself short, but also to be kind to yourself, she said "Creatives need to eat well, sleep well, take care of yourselves and make time for the things and people you love"

Wannisa's wisdom also extended to the importance of personal work, diversity and experimentation - with a strong call to action that we should all be creating and sharing the kind of work we want to be hired for in our personal time.


The second speaker was one of the people I was most excited to hear speak. Barbara studied show card and ticket writing in 1967 and hasn’t put down her brushes since. She has been a passionate lettering teacher throughout her career, was the first female president of the Sign Association of Australia, and ran a successful sign shop in Sydney for over two decades.

She has been described as a human font machine - her hand can generate so many different styles with mastery. Barbara described "writing script is dancing with a brush, you need patience practice and perseverance" her brush skills really are next level and it was an honour and a privilege to hear about her career journey and her current teaching initiatives.

Shits & Shirts! It is so easy to focus on form over content when under time pressure - love this typo by the showcard queen.

Shits & Shirts! It is so easy to focus on form over content when under time pressure - love this typo by the showcard queen.


Barbara also spoke of the importance of knowledge sharing and mentorship in our industry - She is collaborating with her Mentee - and outstanding letterer in her own right - Carla Hackett to deliver a host of workshops (globally) and develop an online teaching platform https://learnbrushlettering.com/, which will teach you how to create beautiful brush lettering with 12 days of online instructional videos, practice worksheets and more…

Barbara was hugely inspirational, energetic - and so dedicated her craft - I could have listened to her talk, about her career path, ticket writings history, and the practice of painting letters all day!

Her experience and insight was the perfect introduction to the  morning tea break as sign painter and Typism Alumni Brett Piva of Pocket Design gave an epic gold leaf demo in the conferences market hall area!


Crystian Cruz was the next talented typographer to take the stage - he is such an accomplished and brilliant designer - but also so humble. He spoke of the beauty in ugly lettering - specifically how vernacular hand painted signs and lettering found around his home town inspired one of his first fonts Brasiléro. Originally a student project it has become prolifically used in Brazil and features on everything from childrens books to condoms.

Crystian spoke specifically about finding delight and variation in amatuer lettering he has photographed over 5000 signs to build a rich reference which can inform his professional work. Crystian also explored the purpose and intent behind the lettershapes. He visually interrogates letterforms, questioning why are glyphs and strokes were reversed, thick or thin, spaced or decorated in certain ways? His was a fascinating talk!


Kiwi Kelly Spencer was next to take the stage - I have profiled Kel's work here previously - she is doing such cool work and it is wonderful to see her murals popping up in different cities and towns all around New Zealand. Her is characterized by a bold use of colour, curvaceous forms, and clean lines and she loves the variety in her projects, including sign painting, murals/street art, illustration, apparel graphics, festival & gig branding, identity design and more.

One of the key takeaways from Kelly's talk was the power of community and collaboration, Type is a team sport! Kelly spoke on the importance of community and network in your growth and career longevity as a creative practitioner. Kel also riffed on allowing yourself to trust in the creative process make peace with the ups and downs.

She also urged us to "Don’t be making for a purpose just make for makings sake. Also don’t make - have time out. The combination of those things enable you to make quality work and to find a unique and relevant voice!"

Kelly - Mauao_Paint.jpg

This is where we paused for lunch and its where I will pause in this coverage before the post becomes overwhelmingly long! I will be back to share more coverage from the event in Part 2 soon so stay tuned!