Writing [ˈrʌɪtɪŋ] as a visual art form is “the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skilful manner”. It is a complex relationship between many different components and trying to define and pin it down with one word is very difficult, but some key elements are:

  • Symbol [ˈsɪmb(ə)l] here means a mark which has a specific agreed-upon meaning in a language, like a letter of the alphabet, a numeral or a word.
  • Integrity [ɪnˈtɛɡrɪti] of a letter or other symbol means admirable proportions and form.
  • Harmony [ˈhɑːməni] describes a pleasing relationship between different visual elements in a piece of calligraphy, letterform or etc: parts of a letter, letters, words, the whole text and surrounding space.
  • Ancestry [ˈansɛstri] refers to the heritage of letter-shapes, materials and techniques which artists use.
  • Rhythm [ˈrɪð(ə)m] means the deliberate repetition and variation of marks and spaces to create feelings of pattern and emphasis when you look at the work.
  • Creativity [ˌkriːeɪˈtɪvɪti] the use of imagination and original ideas to create a unique, individual piece of art. That elusive thing which makes it come alive…and when it all works in unison it is nothing less than pure magic.

Writing can be divided into four very distinct categories:

  • Handwriting [ˈhandrʌɪtɪŋ] the main focus of handwriting is to be quickly, easily written and accurately read. Beauty, personality and impact are not as important in handwriting as clarity and speed. So, although calligraphy is a kind of handwriting, and some handwriting looks calligraphic, they are not one and the same. It’s the difference between ‘writing as an art form’ and ‘artistic-looking handwriting’. Calligraphy aims to produce an ‘art’ reaction. Handwriting aims to be legible.
  • Calligraphy [kəˈlɪɡrəfi] (from Ancient Greek: κάλλος kallos “beauty” and γραφή graphẽ “writing”) is a visual art related to writing. It is the design and execution of lettering with a broad tip instrument, dip pen, or brush among other writing instruments.
  • Lettering [ˈlɛt(ə)rɪŋ] refers to built up letters which are drawn (draftmanship) as opposed to calligraphy (penmanship). It is a specific combination of letterforms crafted for a single use and purpose as opposed to using previously designed letters as components, as with typography.
  • Typography [tʌɪˈpɒɡrəfi] is the design of type (the letterforms) itself. It is also the art and technique of arranging type to make written language readable and beautiful. A repetitive pattern for type fonts, designing a whole alphabet.

It all sounds the same, right? Wrong!

As this quote from Joseph Alessio (“Understanding The Difference Between Type And Lettering”) exemplifies it is three very different art forms, and should not be confused.

“Typography is used for endless applications, from titles to body text, some of which present a myriad of typographic considerations that those concerned with lettering will not have to think about. Lettering is almost exclusively used as display text – imagine lettering a few paragraphs of text by hand! Calligraphy is a much more likely to be used in longer passages of text. While calligraphy and lettering are once again related, there is a fundamental difference between the two that I’d like to point out.

Calligraphy is based on penmanship; it’s essentially “writing letters.” Lettering, on the other hand, is based on draftsmanship, i.e. “drawing letters.” Persevering calligraphers and scribes have famously done books as long as the Bible, which are incredible works of art in their own right (e.g. the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Book of Kells), but those were a lifetime endeavour, and for practical purposes we now use typefaces.”

I have studied traditional calligraphy in London, and although I am a classically trained calligrapher, most of my work consists of hand lettering, developing handwritten scripts and designing type.

“More powerful than all poetry
More pervasive than all silence
More profound than all philosophy are the letters of the alphabet
Twenty-six pillars of strength upon which our culture rests”.

– Unknown

1. Artwork with a typeface which was designed by me, and executed as a handmade blind embossed artwork.

2. Artwork with a typeface which was designed by me, and executed as a handmade blind embossed artwork.

3. Close-up of the above artwork