Neil Tasker is not only a brilliant graphic designer, but a master of typography and lettering. His style boasts creativity and his custom lettering is one of a kind. He creates typography that flows together in an old-fashioned style with beautiful curves and font treatments throughout. He has a passion for the work he creates and enjoys working with like minded people. Below is our interview with Neil where he shares his personal insight into the world of typography and graphic design.
What is the most important aspect of typography?
I think knowing the anatomy of a letter is very important, whether you’re creating a font, or just want to become a letterer, it does not matter. Knowing how a letter comes together and what its restraints are gives you a guide to creating balanced, concise typography.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of creating your own custom typeface design?
The biggest advantage is the uniqueness of every piece. Your work is not just some type set on artwork, you want it to really stick out and be recognized on its own. Custom type takes a lot of dedication, experimenting, and use of your knowledge and experiences to convey what is needed in that certain piece. The downside to custom type is, unlike an actual font, if you reorganized the letters, it will more than likely turn out looking bad.
While you are in the process of creating your designs, what are three rules you always follow to maximize results?
1. I always keep an open mind and not limit myself.
2. Experiment with something in as many ways as possible, even if it’s just adjusting a single swash in ten different ways.
3. I always walk away from my work at some point in order to refresh my mind. It can really give your mind some time to rest. This allows for a fresh look at what you have been staring at for the past 8 hours.
Do you have a favorite typeface? What is it and why do you like it so much?
Right now it is Neutraface Condensed. I love how it displays at larger sizes, and it fits great with a lot of things I am making.
When working on a print project that doesn’t involve custom typography, how do you decide what font is best? Does it come naturally or do you cycle through fonts until you find one that fits?
When a piece requires the use of a font, it really comes down to looking for something that melds with everything well. I don’t think it’s natural, but instead a lot of trial and error. Knowing your history and what typefaces were used at what time does help narrow down the process.
Some people struggle to work with typography. What advice would you give them on layout, readability, emphasis and alignment?
The number one thing I would say is to learn how to kern your type, because no one enjoys reading poorly kerned type. (Here is a good article on kerning.) Another thing you want to look at is the white space in between lines or leading. This, in combination with kerning, can help to not tire out your client when they are reading whatever you created (especially large amounts of text). At the end of the day, our job is to make information easier to retrieve and process.
Most if not all of your typography is created by hand, making it detailed and original. Can you take us on a journey through your creative process and explain how you create your typography?
I usually start out with looking up inspiration in old type books and sometimes things online. I then start sketching on paper. Sometimes, all it takes is some scribbles for me to have a great enough idea to take it straight to digitizing. Other times, it ends up being completed on a piece of paper. Lastly, I scan the sketch into Adobe Illustrator and complete the process by outlining the type with the pen tool. I think this is pretty normal method throughout most letterers.
What are some good rules to follow when working with typography?
I think it is important to look at all different kinds of type and see what they are made up of (Serif, San Serif, Black letter, Script etc.). It’s good to really study the anatomy of letters because it gives you great insight when creating your own. There are countless books out there, but a great book is Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton. For more lettering, check out the book Scripts by Louise Fili.
What key skills (technical or personal) do you believe an artist needs in order to succeed as a graphic designer specializing in typography?
One needs to really dive in and study letterforms, even if it is just looking at different letters on myfonts.com every day. After that, the key is just constant practice. Sketch as much and as many different types of letters as you can, A-Z. Another good thing to learn is how to use the pen tool in Illustrator because as a letterer bezier, curves are your best friend.
Do you have any final advice for our readers?
Keep at it and experiment as much as you can. Remember that you are bound to make mistakes, but great things will come out of it!