Rachel Broyles (Designer, Atlanta) is an excellent hand letterer and makes sense when you know her. Hand lettering is an art form that is both playful and precise. And Rachel herself is a mix of buoyancy and thoughtfulness, as indicated by her diplomatic answers to some initial interview questions.
Interviewer: Weigh in on the decorative word signs they sell at Target.
Rachel: Oh yeah. Like “Gather” or “Live. Laugh. Love.?” I’ve heard it referred to as the “Joanna-Gainesification” of lettering…
Interviewer: Do you have a tattoo that says “Mom” in a cool script? Have you designed any tattoos?
Rachel: (Not irritated) No tattoos and I haven’t designed any.
Interviewer: I bet everyone asks you to design their wedding invites.
Rachel: (Still calm and smiling) Not really…
Passionate from the get-go
As a grad student at Miami Ad School, Rachel was exposed to hand lettering in a Type & Image course taught by James Harrill. James gave students a choice of two project ideas, and she loved doing the one she chose so much that she did the second one too – just for fun.
Finding inspiration in a bottle
Rachel told me most hand lettering students tend to head to the liquor store first. That’s because wine and booze use labels and packaging for differentiation, so bottle shop shelves offer a ton of inspiration.
The rest is history
Rachel finds the handmade nature of this particular art form especially soothing. “I spend a lot of time in the pen and paper phase because it’s so tactile. Only when I have what I feel is a final product, then I put it in illustrator.”
Then, there’s the history of lettering or what Rachel refers to as “hunter-gatherer mode.” To put it in context, she talks about how, in the 20s and 30s, the art deco movement, jazz and swing, and sequined fashion are all cultural responses to the realities of war and the Great Depression. She examines the ads and posters from the time to discover new ways of mixing geometric and organic forms. It’s like hard and soft are duking it out in lettering, just as they were in world affairs. Diving into the geometric/organic duality is something she does often.