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Typism Book 8 Feature—Dan Forster

Dan Forster is an independent lettering artist based in the UK and a regular contributor to the Typism books.

Dan has been fortunate enough to make a career out of something he loves, working with clients from all around the globe on a wide range of lettering and typography projects. The projects range from creating brand marks to designing book covers and packaging. Letters are his passion; even without clients, he still enjoys drawing them.

Dan's passion for lettering and calligraphy was instilled in him by his father, Tony Forster—an esteemed lettering artist and calligrapher. As a teenager, Dan attempted to pursue his passion but found himself frustrated with the results and soon gave it up in favour of a career in graphic design. However, after 15 years, Dan found himself unfulfilled and yearning to return to his roots.

Then in 2008, Tony passed away, and shortly afterwards, Dan was tasked with clearing out and organising his father's studio, which was a colossal, overflowing mess of papers, work, and books that buried every inch of the room. This process took years, but it profoundly affected Dan's life. Seeing his father's incredible lettering work, much previously unseen by Dan, inspired him to pick up a pen and draw letters again. Over time, Dan's passion for lettering only grew, and he eventually fell in love with it.

At first, it was a struggle for him, and he began to regret not asking his Dad for advice when he’d had the chance. Later he realised that it’s actually good to find one’s way into things, to go through the process of making all the mistakes and learning from them. Despite all the obstacles, Dan was determined to succeed, and he developed a strong sense of determination and resilience that has served him well ever since.

We asked Dan to tell us the story behind the artwork he submitted for Typism Book 8. 

As a lettering artist, I love to explore new structural forms and challenge myself to make experimental and illustrative lettering. With the 36 Days of Type challenge in 2021, I had the opportunity to do just that.

The process starts with some kind of idea or approach. Interestingly, as lettering artists, our 'blank canvas' is a pre-defined set of 26 shapes we get to work with. Of course, we are in the business of communication, so readability is usually a key part of what we do.

I enjoy the challenge of exploring what other structural forms are possible that are different yet familiar and how close I can get to the boundaries of legibility. So I wanted to see how far I could push myself with this series of letters. I always start with sketching, whether this is digitally on the iPad or with pencil and paper.

The form is the most important thing to get right. Sometimes it takes just a few drawings, sometimes many. Where I can, I like to try and create the letter shapes from a single stroke (like with the H). Once I’m happy with the form, I move on to see how depth, texture and lighting can help give a further dimension and bring things to life.

I was sort of imagining a series of ‘letterform sculptures’. So I’d consider things like how shapes might overlap or how shadows might be cast. Again these ideas could be sketched or with experimenting in Illustrator or Photoshop. I sometimes go back and forth between apps. Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Procreate were the three apps I used for all the letters in the series.

When I submitted them to the Typism book, I changed the artwork to black and white.

What advice would you give to people who want to submit their work for the next Typism book?

Don’t hesitate. Show your work to the world; we all want to see it. 

It’s been a pleasure to receive my copy of the Typism book and see my work amongst the many great artists featured. I love the simple approach with the books—small in format but big in inspiration. I just want to say thanks for having me, Typism. Keep up the great work.

Thank you, Dan, for sharing your personal story and allowing us to include this work in Typism Book 8. The call-out for Book 9 will be in mid-2023.

You can see more of Dan's work on his website.

Typism Book 8 is available now

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