Case study

Freelance lettering artist, calligrapher and sign painter — Ged Palmer

A lifelong love of drawing and painting letterforms fuels Ged's ambition to make the best work he can...and earn a living from it!

What steps did you take after graduating?

I started working as a freelancer straight after university. I apprenticed with a fellow illustrator and lettering artist for a year, visited studios in London and New York and built a client base.

The work I do requires a keen eye and a steady hand so I find it's very important to keep up the practice daily

How relevant is your graphic design degree to what you're doing now?

Studying graphic design was extremely useful in developing critical thinking, learning about the scope of work being produced in the industry and establishing a solid understanding of how typography works. The handmade aspect of my current practice largely came through a lifelong obsession with drawing letters, and guidance from my apprenticeships.

Describe a typical working day

I split my time between meeting clients, discussing projects and creating the calligraphy, lettering and hand-painted signs. This gives me quite a lot of variety in my day-to-day workings. One of my most important mantras is to make something every day. The work I do requires a keen eye and a steady hand so I find it's very important to keep up the practice daily.

How has your job developed and what are your career ambitions?

As I'm a freelancer my role changes with each new job I take on. That can be in the working relationship I develop with my clients or in the skill set that I bring to the project. My ambition is simply to make the best work I can.

What are the best things about working this niche industry?

Working with letters of course! I've been drawing and painting letters for about 12 years. It's what I love to do.

What's most challenging about your job?

Starting out by myself wasn't easy. I was working like crazy with little or no return for at least a couple of years. The saving grace was that it's a really small community of people who work in lettering and calligraphy, and by meeting with them or connecting with them online you can realise that you're not totally insane and it is possible to make a living doing this.

Any pearls of wisdom for people interested in this career?

Begin practising calligraphy every day. Disregard current trends in digital design. Read old books. Find yourself a sensai. Or two. Practise.

Find out more

Discover more about Ged Palmer.

See what jobs are available at the International Society of Typographic Designers (ISTD).