July 2023

How to Be a Rule-Breaking Letterer

By Huyen Dinh
Review by
Huyen Dinh neatly breaks down hand lettering fundamentals, but her bigger agenda is to encourage free thought and open up readers to their own preferences and ideas.
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When I was a kid, bubble letters were very on-trend, and I spent hours perfecting my ABCs in bubble form. How I wish I’d had Huyen Dinh’s How to Be a Rule-Breaking Letterer: A Guide to Making Perfectly Imperfect Art back then to goad me into becoming a bona fide word-artist, or at least to nudge me toward further experimentation.

Dinh’s personal story is of the “good girl gets fed up and flees corporate malaise, follows passion” variety (one I’m rather partial to). Now, after years of struggling, she is no longer afraid to make what pleases her. While she neatly breaks down lettering fundamentals—developing your typographic eye, mastering brushstrokes, talking the talk (ascenders and descenders and swashes, oh my!)—her bigger agenda is to encourage free thought, to open up readers to their own preferences and to the wealth of ideas just waiting to be plucked from thin air. She’s quite candid about her own process and clunky first drafts, too, which is always a plus.

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