Modern Calligraphy: The Very Basics

Calligraphy is something new I’ve been trying out so I wanted to share with you the very basics of what I’ve learned as a beginner. I’ve taken a class and done a bit of practice on my own to get started. So far it’s something that I’ve found challenging (especially being left-handed and smudging ink constantly) but it’s something I’d like to practice and pursue further to gain a greater understanding of lettering!

What is Modern Calligraphy?

Modern calligraphy relies on dip pens with pointed nibs to create thick and thin strokes. Although there are some basic strokes and rules to abide by, this type of calligraphy allows the calligrapher a lot of freedom to experiment and develop their own style.


As a beginner, I can’t tell you what the best tools out there are. But I can definitely tell you what will get you started!

Getting Started

Before you use your pen nibs, you have to clean off the coating left by the manufacturer. You can do this by polishing them with toothpaste (weird, I know) and then cleaning them with water and a paper towel. Don’t forget to clean the nibs with water after each use!

Next, you can begin by assembling your pen and dipping it in the ink until the ink reaches the cut out circle. Getting the right amount of ink is hard to master (and I’m far from mastering it) which is why you probably want to test your ink on a scrap piece of paper before getting started. Basically, if you’re getting ink blobs all over your page you’ve got to much ink and if your pen is creating two thin lines then it’s time to dip your pen again!

Some suggest trying out “faux calligraphy” with a basic pen or pencil before graduating to the real thing. You can do this by taking a pen, making two separate strokes for the thick lines and then filling them in.


There are some basic strokes you’ll want to practice before you get into building actual letters. Use grid paper and/or worksheets to help you out with this. What you want to remember that all thin strokes are upstrokes, and thick strokes are down strokes. Tilt the paper to the left if you are right handed and to the right if you are left handed to help achieve a nice angled script. Above are some pictures of some of the strokes that I’ve practiced. These are pictures from my first try so they look a little rough, but with practice I hope they’ll improve.

Once you’ve mastered this you can put these basic strokes together to create letters. There are tons of online worksheets you can download to help you out with this. Begin connecting letters and having fun with it to create your own style!

Above all, mastering basic strokes is what will help make your calligraphy better. Which means a lot of practicing (which hopefully I’ll have some more time to do over Christmas break). I hope this helped for anyone who is curious about getting started.

Thanks for reading!



The Beginner’s Guide to Modern Calligraphy

Modern Calligraphy




Should Designers Pay Attention to Trends?

As designers, we need to be always be learning and looking at the world around us. Even after we graduate from school, I expect that my classmates and I will need to continue our learning by constantly keeping up with the industry in order to stay up to date with new technologies and standards. Additionally, as designers, we need to pay attention to what people are interested in and what others are creating. For students and young designers, the first place we often go for inspiration is the internet where we find a lot of popular designs. This may cause us to reiterate a lot of design trends that will be irrelevant within a few years.

The creation of trends and the way that they spread is an interesting process. You can get lost on sites like Trendlist, which identifies graphic design trends and categorizes them by country and year, tracking their evolution. Pictured above is a project by designer Harrison Park which is a publication on trends in graphic design and how they effect professionalism within the industry in the 21st century. It references sites like Trendlist and uses a lot of the typical trends that the site lists in order to get it’s point across. Publications like HOW Design, AIGA and Creative Market put effort each year into predicting design trends and reporting on new ones. It’s interesting to keep up with and it helps to know whether or not your own ideas are just repetitions of whatever popular designs are circulating the internet.

Some of the trends that have been reported for 2016 seem like things that might have some longevity. Creative Market cited strategic use of negative space as a popular trend in 2016 for branding and logo design. However, a trend like this offers many different takes depending on the project and can yield clever ideas for strong, lasting results. Another trend I saw reported on a couple websites was typography that is bold, playful and dramatic. However, I think that typography that is expressive and commands attention can also be unique and result in strong, appropriate designs. Trends like these allow designers some freedom to try new things and can inspire other designers to do the same.

I do think that there are some trends that aren’t worth paying much attention to. For example, knowing Pantone’s “colors of the year” might not do much good for you if you never get an appropriate excuse to use them. It also might make your work a bit dated in a couple years. Same with trends like wiggles, or infinity shapes. Really specific trends like these will probably be gone in a couple of years and leave behind a bunch of work that no longer seems relevant or appropriate.

I think it’s good to be aware of trends. Even the ones that will pass within years or even months. It’s good to know how designers around you are thinking and what consumers enjoy seeing. However, getting caught up in trends will eventually make your work look like it’s rooted too much in the past and may not always create results that are appropriate to the client.

Thanks for reading!



The Trick to Predicting 2016’s Graphic Design Trends

The 9 Graphic Design Trends You Need to Be Aware of In 2016

What to Expect in 2016: Predictions from Top Creatives

Review: Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming by Ellen Lupton

I was super excited when I bought this book because it seemed like something that would come in really handy. Reading this book, I was delighted to find that my expectations were satisfied. This book offers some really practical advice about the design process, and it also encourages a lot of experimentation and offers up some techniques I wouldn’t think to try on my own.

The book covers different ways to approach all aspects of the design process from defining the problem, to getting ideas, to creating form. A lot of the concepts and practices listed in the book are things that will be familiar to most students and designers. The book covers topics like conducting interviews, visual research, brain dumping and creating mockups. However, for each one the author goes into detail on how designers can use these approaches more affectively and offers case studies to back it up. A lot of the approaches that the book suggested were new to me and might be to other students as well. The book suggests activities like “sprinting” where a designers sets certain parameters and must make as many designs as they can within a set amount of time in order to encourage more creative risk-taking. This seems like a really practical technique that I’ll probably try out next time I’m stuck trying to create a new layout. Another interesting technique is one called “regurgitation” in which the author encourages you to go for a walk and find any artifact with text on it record it, study it, and find the best way to demonstrate the object’s essence. This activity seems like a really fun one to try out when I finally have some free time again.

The book finishes off with some quotes from well known designers about their personal design process. It’s interesting to read a variety of different perspectives and see how much the design process can vary for different people. There are a lot of ways to be a successful designer and to make successful work. Some of the designers interviewed described their process as unpredictable, while others said that they follow a set routine when doing their work. It’s interesting to see how people with very different work styles can all make great contributions to design.

I would highly recommend this book to students and young designers. This is a resource I definitely wish I would have had in first year when in some instances I was struggling to understand design research and the design process as a whole. But even if you feel that you firmly grasp the concept of design research, this book can offer some new ways to think about projects to help keep your work fresh. I also think that this would be a great book for non-designers and clients to read. It offers a lot of good perspective on the amount of thought and hard work that goes into a project and I think that it would help others to appreciate the value of design.

Thanks for reading!



Profile: Kate Moross

Kate Moross is a London-based graphic designer, illustrator and art director. Her work first caught my eye for it’s playful use of colour, abstract shapes and energetic illustrated typography. Since beginning her career in 2008 Moross’s work has touched on so many areas of graphic design from packaging to advertising to editorial design to branding and poster art. I admire Moross’s versatility as a designer and ability to infuse just about anything she works on with her distinctly playful style. In addition to being a talented designer, Kate Moross also has a strong entrepreneurial spirit. She briefly ran her own record label which specialized in packaging vinyl records and she later went on to found Studio Moross in 2012.

Above are some examples of Moross’s typography-based work. Although works like these both exemplify a bold, playful style, Moross says that style isn’t what is most important to her designs. She has said: “If someone was to bring all my work together in a room or on a page I would want it to make sense, but I don’t want it to be an obvious lineage in style or aesthetic. I’m not concerned with style. I care about answering the brief, and making good work.”

Throughout her career, Kate Moross has worked closely with the music industry, doing branding and packaging for a number of popular artists. Above to the right is an example of branding for a music festival that her studio completed this year.

I like how Kate Moross’s work manages to incorporate bold and clever imagery while always carefully considering a clients needs. I think that her work can serve a great inspiration to designers and illustrators looking to take a more playful approach to a project.

Thanks for reading!



Design Instincts: Studio Captain Kate Moross Talks Shop with Use All Five