Alec Tear on the design process of his 36 Days of Type series

We caught up with Alec Tear who is an independent Designer and Lettering artist based in Amsterdam. Alec works in a wide range of graphic styles and designs concept-driven typography for creative agencies and brands all over the world. After working at JKR and gaining invaluable experience, Alec decided to set up on his own as an independent British designer. Since then he has produced a number of incredible projects, a favourite being his 36 Days of Type series that acts as a lettering project as well as a study into lighting, depth and dimension.

How did you get started with lettering?

I’ve always been fascinated by typography and lettering art, but it wasn’t until a couple of years into my previous job at the design agency Jones Knowles Ritchie that I started to create my own.

As young designers we were encouraged to follow our creative passions; mine was type – of course – and I was lucky enough to get some invaluable mentorship by Bob Celiz & Ian Ritchie who were both very experienced and inspiring typographers at JKR. From here, I set up my Instagram account and, a couple of years after that, I was getting enough work to set up on my own. 

Do you have a most-loved lettering project?

I’ve got some exciting stuff in the pipeline, but out of my live projects it’s got to be my latest 36 Days of Type series. This project gave me an opportunity to dive into a style that I’d been dipping my toe in for years, and the time to really experiment with it.

However, the main reason this job feels so close to my heart is because – unlike the commercial work I do – the brief was just to express myself in any way that I could imagine, and so the outcome feels like a declaration of my passion for this kind of work. 

From your 36 days of Type project, which characters were the most challenging to design? And which characters did you enjoy designing the most?

The most challenging letter I designed was the P. Getting the thick curves and tight negative space was difficult enough, and then came the complex lighting and textures. However, this isn’t the longest I spent on one single letter; surprisingly that was the Z, which is much simpler. I’d already spent a fair few hours crafting into a different design for Z, but when it was finished it just felt overcomplicated and a bit try-hard (probably because it was). 

The next morning – with a clear head – I sketched a new design straight away, worked it up and it’s now one of my favourites. Like this new Z, the other characters I enjoyed designing the most all started out with strong idea as a sketch, and never by jumping straight onto software and torturing vectors.

Tell us more about the design process of your print

My process for this print was the same again, I started with lots of sketches. I always aim to try and exaggerate what makes a character look the way it does (kind of like how a street artist would draw a caricature of someone).

For this one, an exclamation mark, I was trying to emphasise the fact that it is made up of 2 shapes – making these two shapes as similar as possible seemed like a great way of doing this. I then decided to go with a gold metallic finish to charge the simple shapes with much more drama and emotion – in the same way a person is overcome with those feelings when the exclaim something.

What are you working towards at the moment?

As is usually the case, I currently have my fingers in a lot of different design pies. I’m doing a lot of brand creation across a really diverse range of categories – which is very exciting; lettering art and illustration in collaboration with some great creative agencies; and recently I’ve been focusing a lot on a series of prints that will be coming out very soon: so watch this space!