We’re big fans of Neil Summerour’s lettering, so when he told us about his idea for the Hand Swashed T-shirt, we were all in.
Fairgoods: Where were you and what were you doing when the idea came to you?
Neil Summerour: I was shopping in the mall one day,
listening to the elevator music, bored out of my skull. My mind was
wandering and I thought of the wording for it — and a bunch of other
phrases. I packed them neatly away in my head and the next chance I was
in the studio, documented it on my Letter This list.
Were you inspired by anything in particular?
Inspired, no. Haunted, yes. I was at the mall. It was an attempt to keep my brain from turning to jelly.
So it’s an idea you’ve had for a while?
Yeah, it sat there for a while. Time is the biggest commodity for me,
and rarely do I get opportunities just to do personal projects, so it
sat in creative purgatory until Fairgoods came along with a cherubic
trumpet cry to get off my butt and make pretty things.
The lettering needed to be a one-off — no cut and paste, no collecting pieces and tweaking.
What was your design process like?
I have a tendency to do over-the-top, self-indulgent lettering —
something I inevitably pine over instead of embracing the natural
calligraphic/expressive/reactive letter form. When I sat down and
started sketching, it became apparent I needed to avoid that because
earlier attempts at over-dramatizing were, well, boring. So I opted to
keep it real, picked up one of my favorite brush marker pens, and just
started lettering and lettering and lettering.
Did you encounter any challenges? How did you get past them?
The only challenge I had to overcome was my incessant, anal-retentive
affliction to make the perfect letter, the perfect execution. The
lettering, in my mind, needed to be a one-off — no cut and paste, no
collecting pieces and tweaking. And it had to be imperfect. Drawing
imperfectly when your predisposition is to make it perfect is
frustrating. So I kept drawing execution after execution until I hit one
that I liked and then I stopped, maybe expressed a few expletives, and