Author Spotlight: Letter Shoppe & Dina Marie Rodriguez

Earlier this spring, we saw Dina’s book Lettering Adventures: Victorian and we were so excited! We also wondered how such an information-packed, useful guide came to be. Dina is inspiring because she found a way, with persistence and hard work, to make her creative passion into her “day job”. We caught up with ther to get the story about the book, the creative work, and the artist behind it.

1. What do you love about hand lettering?

I truly believe in the power of hand lettering and the human quality it can bring to a design. Every character, line, and serif can trigger an emotion that fonts just can’t seem to do on their own. If you’re looking for that hand-drawn look, you could argue that a hand-drawn font could do the trick with a few customizations. But it’s not going to be as visually interesting or unique if you had just made the letters yourself.

2. When did you realize you could make a living as hand lettering artist?

When I started lettering, I thought it wouldn’t amount to anything more than a hobby. But after a few years of practice and consistent posting on social media, I started to get flooded with inquiries for work, and people wanting to buy my designs. But it wasn’t until I started to make 80% from lettering that I was making at my day job as a Graphic Designer that I realized I could draw letters for a living full time.

My number one source of inspiration comes from talking to people. Whether it’s on social media, at a conference, or just the person sitting next to me at the bar. Everyone has a story and it’s hearing those real life moments and struggles that inspire me to create authentic design that we all can relate to.

3. What is your creative background? How did you get your start?

I’ve always been labeled the artsy girl, so I was one of those kids that was born with a pencil in her hand. I had creative parents that both drew, so they were vital to supporting me and gave me every chance they could to provide the design education I so desperately wanted. I even got the chance to live in Brooklyn, NY for a summer when I was 16 to take a special college course at Pratt.From there, I took on tons of advanced art courses. But my real start in the creative industry began after I graduated from Full Sail with a Bachelors in Digital Arts and Design. It was there I learned the Adobe Suite and got a glimpse of every design niche from motion graphics to print design. It was because of this education I was able to quickly move up the design industry ladder, working for companies like Disney, ESPN, and Universal Studios.

From there, I took on tons of advanced art courses. But my real start in the creative industry began after I graduated from Full Sail with a Bachelors in Digital Arts and Design. It was there I learned the Adobe Suite and got a glimpse of every design niche from motion graphics to print design. It was because of this education I was able to quickly move up the design industry ladder, working for companies like Disney, ESPN, and Universal Studios.

4. What were your goals for your hand lettering guide?

I wanted to create a hands-on approach to learning lettering that was fun and hassle-free—where I can walk people, step-by-step, how to draw one new vintage style of lettering every single month. That way, people of all skill sets could make time for deliberate practice so they could begin to build type libraries in their head, rather than needing references to draw.

5. What advice would you give to someone who wants to turn a passion into a livelihood?

Make sure you are good enough first. Don’t ruin your passion by taking on clients before you’re ready. Take the time you need to get extremely good first, so you can give yourself permission to do it for yourself and really fall in love with the process.

Then, as you continue to practice, start to show your work on social media, and then let your audience tell you when you’re good enough to sell your services. Once you start getting comments like “Where can I buy this?” or “Can I hire you?”, you know you’re ready for the Big Time.

I teach an entire course on how to start selling your hand lettering services in a new Creative Live class called “Make Things. Make Money” that walks you through how to gain a following, develop a brand, and how to start attracting clients so they come to work with you specifically.

6. What are some client-management lessons you learned along the way as a freelancer?

Every problem you ever have with a client is your fault. You are the professional, so it’s your responsibility to ensure success for every project, not the client. The sooner you realize this, the more successful you’ll be. This means asking a ton of questions, over-communicating, using the right contracts, and learning to listen more often than talk. Almost every issue I’ve ever had with a client was because of a lack of communication.

Secondly, time is money. So I invest in apps that allow me to have more control over my business while being able to work faster. I use applications like Harvest to stay on top of my time and invoicing, Bidsketch for my proposals, and Buffer to schedule my social posts in advance.

7. You’ve called 2017 your year of “education”. Can you talk about the connection you seem to have found between creative work and education?

My book Lettering Adventures is what started this idea of a Year of Education. It is a year-long commitment to teaching one new style of vintage lettering every month like Victorian, Blackletter, and 70’s script. This project not only allows me to better understand my own trade, but gives me the opportunity to teach lettering in a way that anyone can learn—whether you’ve been a designer for years, or you’ve just been drawing stick figures.

I’ve realized that the best work you can do is when you get inspired, so be inspiring.

8. What was the book-making process like?

I wanted to do both digital and printed versions of each book, so people could choose how they wanted to learn. I offer video tutorials and ebooks on Patreon for just $15, and then have printed copies available to purchase on Blurb and Amazon so people could “collect them all”. After a ton of research on book printing, I found Blurb to be the best option in terms of pricing, turnaround, and quality. I downloaded the plugin for Adobe InDesign so I could easily create the spreads and upload it to Blurb, where my pre-flight process would be automated.

Then using InDesign for layout and Photoshop to create all the original graphics, I was able to make a highly illustrative book with that’s jammed-packed with value. This project takes about 60 hours of production a month to create, so I needed a platform that wouldn’t take up any more time to launch each zine.

9. What are some projects you’re dying to take on, or a dream-gig you’d love to have?

I’ve had a ton of awesome opportunities already with companies like American Greetings, Random House, and Wacom. But, one thing I’ve always wanted to do is partner with a clothing line to create a Letter Shoppe series of hand-lettered shirts with a theme of “creativity.”

A feature with Target, American Apparel, or Johnny Cupcakes would, honestly, be a dream come true. To design something that would inspire others to pursue their passions in way that didn’t feel cheesy or too mushy. To mix comedy with inspiration, so that each shirt’s message could go further and make a real difference to the people that wore them.

10. What’s your favorite thing that brings you regular delight and inspiration? They can be places, objects, people, times of day, weather, etc.

My number one source of inspiration comes from talking to people. Whether it’s on social media, at a conference, or just the person sitting next to me at the bar. Everyone has a story and it’s hearing those real life moments and struggles that inspire me to create authentic design that we all can relate to.

 

There are already three guides available in the Blurb Bookstore. Circus and Blackletter are also available. We’ve had fun learning with Dina, and we can’t wait to see what comes next in her Year of Education.

Have any tips or stories about making a living from your passion? Share them in the comments below!

Comment

  • Domain Admin says:
    Sep 26 at 05:21

    You may want to proofread this once again. You’ve got this twice in her first question/answer spot. “From there, I took on tons of advanced art courses. But my real start in
    the creative industry began after I graduated from Full Sail with a
    Bachelors in Digital Arts and Design. It was there I learned the Adobe
    Suite and got a glimpse of every design niche from motion graphics to
    print design. It was because of this education I was able to quickly
    move up the design industry ladder, working for companies like Disney,
    ESPN, and Universal Studios.”

    reply
  • Browne says:
    Dec 26 at 09:58

    Bidsketch + Bitrix24 = mind blown.

    reply
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