Amber Goodvin, Hallmark Illustrator & University of Kansas Lecturer, tells us about how teaching has really fed her own creative work – ‘Watching the design students solve problems is energising’ – why not to define yourself too tightly, and how she really had no idea what she was doing until she was actually there doing it.
What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design? I think being a kid before you have any self-awareness is fertile ground for creativity. When I was a kid my sister and I put on plays, made weird milkshakes, scavenger hunts, fashion drawings, newsletters for our class. It wasn’t until much later that I figured out “art” was an outlet for all those creative things I had been doing. I picked art as a major and on the first day of orientation, someone asked “How many of you are planning to major in graphic design?” and half the room raised their hands, so I did too. I really had no idea what I was doing until I was actually there doing it.
When did you fall in love with lettering design and how did you get started? I still remember the buzz I felt the first time we traced letters in Type class. I have always loved words, and have always loved to draw; and type class was where it all came together for me. Studying graphic design + illustration at the University of Kansas, I found myself looking for ways to incorporate words into whatever I was working on. My feeble attempts at handlettering apparently showed enough genuine interest to land me an internship in the lettering studio at Hallmark. During that time I got to shadow 15 artists who I still revere: all formally trained and experts in the craft of lettering. Making cards is a relatively quick process-and in the early years of my career, I had a steady stream of quick-moving assignments in a wide range of styles. This allowed me the time to experiment and try things before I started to find my voice.
Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops and if and how it shapes your practice? I taught handlettering at the University of Kansas for three years, and found that teaching really fed my own creative work. Watching the design students solve problems was energizing, and having to illuminate my process for others has helped me understand it more myself. At Hallmark I have also had lots of opportunities to lead and learn from others in the workshops within the creative studios. I think making side-by-side with others (especially others of different disciplines) in workshops has challenged and taught me more than anything else in my career and helped open up new directions in my work.
What do you think the design community could do more of to give back? There are so many great charities that would benefit by having stronger visual identities and communications. Donating (or discounting) your time and talent to a cause you are passionate about can be a positive for the charity as well as your own portfolio. Students who are passionate and giving stick out in the interview process too!
What type of tools do you like to use when drafting letterforms? What’s your process? I have different tools I favor at different times. I like how the brush or cut paper or pointed pen give me surprises and expressive line qualities. But a lot of the time I am just using regular pens & pencils in a sketchbook. Half of my process happens in the computer where I clean things up and correct problems, but I always start with drawing.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way? 1. Don’t define yourself too tightly – thinking of yourself as a creative problem solver and tackle anything that comes your way. It’s easy to get stuck because you have one vision of what life after school is supposed to look like. Thinking too rigidly limits opportunities.
2. But also…find your niche. Once you’ve experimented a lot, begin developing your own point of view so that you can stand out. I think the secret to a good career is alternating between those too – seasons of being open and experimenting – and seasons of editing and refining your brand.
3, More Social Making! Making alongside others is the funnest way to learn. Share what makes you you with others, and find out their stories and process.