The Dying Art of Hand-Lettering

  • Michael Denmon
  • Cunning
The Dying Art of Hand-Lettering

In a digital age, the digital product reigns supreme. But what does that say about our value of craftsmanship?

Craftsmanship can’t be rushed.

Craftsmanship isn’t digital.

Fortunately for most craftsmen, their skills and artwork aren’t yet reproducible via digital means. But some craftsmen have started to see the encroachment into their skillset from people sitting behind a console and holding a digital pen.

One of those is the art of hand-lettering.


The art of hand-lettering is picked up like most trades that serve as shining examples of the importance of having both form and function as priorities in the finished product.

Hand-lettering is a trade that requires a built-up knowledge of technique, style, and formatting.

We see the art at its best mostly in the form of a company name on a large pane of glass. Or on a blackboard in a trendy coffee shop.

Any place where special attention or focus is desired is a prime placement for hand-lettering artwork.

The final piece may use the medium of chalk or paint and gold leaf. Whatever the medium, it is an artwork that demands accuracy on the first attempt. It is an art form that doesn’t allow for erasing. An error means starting over from the beginning, or being a quirky imperfection that adds character.

The art form is meticulous though, and in today’s age, time can be more of a focus than quality of the product.

New vs Old

As technology advances, the ability to replicate varying styles and fonts is as easy as making a few selections from a drop-down box on a computer screen. Mock-ups are easy to make from a computer and show a client what their investment will look like on their storefront or menu board.

It’s hard to provide that sort of future look as a hand-lettering master. Your product is more than just design and style. Your product has character and charm that no sticker or wrap will ever have.

The creative process of a craftsman will always be slower than the processing speed of a computer. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. But the most memorable parts of it still stand to this day.

Staying Power

Another beautiful aspect of a craftsman who has learned the skills required to create structured and intricate lettering by hand is that their work and jobs have lasted for a reason.

The artwork that is hand-lettering is something that immediately draws the eye. The slight 3-D aspect of a hand-painted sign gives it a depth that a reproduced graphic from a printer cannot offer.

Styles and fashions change with the wind, but the timeless classics have staying power for a reason. Design and skill combined will always trump quick design and flat patterns.

The art of hand-lettering may be dying, but the value it brings is still very much alive.

Hopefully, its value will be understood and encouraged before the masters are gone without leaving new artists to take their place.

As we see the move toward everything digital, there is a danger that the true art created by artists with steady hands will disappear. Or, the best may rise to the top. 

Here’s to hoping that businesses will continue to see the value in custom artwork and that the artists will continue to need to teach the younger generations.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash