There’s one thing I’m obsessed with and I know other artists are too–fonts! I could get lost in Creative Market looking through some beautiful, handcrafted letters. As a hand letterer, I especially admire font designers. One hand lettering piece for me takes a long time to do. I couldn’t imagine the refinement and detail that goes into actual font creation.
Luckily, I got to chat with a designer who makes fun, light-hearted fonts. (Can I describe fonts like that?! Because that’s how they make me feel!) Her name is Missy Meyer and she’s an experienced designer and illustrator.
She came to her job from different events in her life changing unexpectedly. After getting a degree in Communications, she planned to start a career in radio. However, after being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, she had to take time off and work only part time. The good news is, she’s been in remission for the last few years! Missy has been able to work thanks to the opportunities in design and illustration.
Check out her interview below. She gives amazing tips on how to get started doing what she does!
Name: Missy Meyer
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Occupation: Graphic Designer
Tell us about yourself!
I’m a graphic designer and illustrator in general, but my emphasis is in font design. So while I still do the occasional illustration work, logo, book cover, hand-lettering project, or other design jobs, most of my time is spent creating font software.
How did you start this business?
I’d made a few fonts off and on for years; I think the first one dates back to 2002. And I’ve always been the person people would go to if they needed something hand-written; I can imitate other styles really well. But I didn’t get serious about making fonts until 2015, while I was putting myself through a one-year intensive graphic design program. (I’d been doing self-taught design for years, and did the program primarily to fill in gaps in my knowledge.)
I got to the module on typography in my program and realized that I hadn’t made any new fun fonts for a few years. So on a whim, I decided to see how the font creation software had improved, and make a font to see if it was something I enjoyed doing.
I found software that I liked (and wasn’t too expensive) and taught myself how to use it. I created about a dozen fonts as I taught myself different elements of creation, and put them all out on Behance for free. It not only helped me learn and grow, but it helped me grow an audience, so when I finally had a font I thought was good enough to sell, I had people ready and willing to buy it.
How long have you been in business?
If we’re just talking about selling fonts, I listed my first one for sale a little over a year ago. But if we’re talking graphic design and illustration in general, I’ve been doing that part-time for over 20 years.
Who is your primary target market?
I’ve found a great market in the crafter community—people who have started up their own small businesses making decals, t-shirts, and other products that can be done from home. I’ve intentionally priced my work with those small home creators in mind, keeping everything under $15.
What does success look like to you in your business?
Being able to pay the bills, plain and simple. Without having to take on a job working for someone else. Having fans and a following is just icing on the cake. (And I still can’t believe that there are people who are fans and followers.)
If someone wanted to do what you do, how can they start?
I’d recommend starting the way I started: dipping your toe in using free software and seeing if it’s something they enjoy doing. My first font was created using FontForge, which is a free open-source program. You can either draw letters directly in there, or draw them on paper, take a picture, clean them up in an image editing program like Photoshop or GIMP (also free), and then bring them into the font creation software.
Because it’s open-source, FontForge has a steeper learning curve than paid software. But once you get a handle on FontForge, if you decide to upgrade to paid software, everything else will seem really easy.
There’s a huge price range to font creation software, ranging all the way up into the thousands. But there are several programs around the $50 mark that can do everything you need, and create good quality products.
The big thing about font creation is that there’s a more technical side to it, as well as the creative side. If the writing pretty lettering part is what appeals to you, there’s also a huge boom in business for hand-lettered creations, from logos to art prints to clothing and other product designs.
You could easily make a good living selling SVG files of hand-lettered designs. Making a font takes all of that and kicks it up a notch, with a bit of coding and more in-depth computing know-how; you’re creating a software product, after all.
What would you tell someone if they asked: “How do I know if I was meant to be a designer?”
I’d ask them, “Do you look at things in the world around you and think about how YOU would design them?” I’ve always been judgy about the fonts used on signs and products, which was a pretty clear indicator that fonts were something I was very interested in.
But I’ll also look at a logo and wonder, what would *I* do with that? Putting your own spin on things is a very designer thing to do. Heck, you could say it’s our entire job.
How do you make money?
I had no idea at first that I’d be able to make a living just selling fonts. Fortunately, there are a bunch of shops out there where you can list your work for free—you don’t pay anything unless you sell a product. (The shops take a percentage of the sales price.) So it’s the easiest thing in the world to get started.
I’ve settled into a few shops I like the most, ones that give me total control over what I list and how I list it. Creative Market is the biggest shop these days, but Font Bundles seems to be gaining ground. I’ve also just opened up my own shop using Sellfy, so that I can offer my own sales and coupon codes.
How do you take the breezy route in life and business?
My most important road to the breezy route is doing what *I* want to do, not what anyone else wants me to do. I create the fonts I’d want to use, and put them out there. Some of them are huge hits, while others do a small trickle of business. But they’re all what I felt like making at the time.
I do occasionally ask the crafting community what kinds of fonts they’d love to see more of, but most of the time I don’t take any one request directly; I let them send me down the path of inspiration, so I can figure out what sounds great to me.
What’s so great about the internet is that whatever you put out there, you’ll find your audience. In the “old days,” when you had to shop locally, you were stuck with only the people in your geographic area (and the smaller subset of those people who were interested in your specific work). Now that we can put our work in front of the world, it’s so much easier to find fans from all points of the globe.
(I’ve also written two novels, using the exact same philosophy: write the book that you’d want to read. Because if it’s something you’d want to reads, odds are there are other people out there in the world who would like to read the same thing.)
What does creativity mean to you and how do you stay creative?
Creativity, for me, isn’t just the act of creating (although that is a big part of it). It’s also keeping your mind open to all of the creativity around you. Looking at fonts and packaging design at the grocery store. Doing a doodle sketch on a napkin at a restaurant. Taking a photo of something beautiful, to keep for inspiration later. I may be doing creative things at my desk for 6 or 8 hours a day, but keeping an open creative mind is a 24/7 thing.
I also get a huge rush out of helping other people be creative. I’ve never held a job as a teacher, but I’ve ended up teaching and training in almost every job I’ve ever had. So it’s a thrill to see the creative work that other people are able to make using my own creative work as a base.
Thanks, Missy, for the inspiring tips to get into your world!
I’m tempted to create a font now, along with my list of 100 other fun things I need to go!
Some takeaways from this interview that I really wanted to hone in on:
- Missy has a very unique and recognizable style.
- From her style, she’s put herself in a specific niche.
- Constant observation and interest in design of everyday things is a sign that you can be a designer too.
So, if you want to create fonts, do those 3 things, plus take note of all her tips! If letters inspire you, you can give it a try! Here is a list of places to create your own fonts:
- Font Self
- Fontlab Studio
So, do you think you can #takethebreezyroute by getting into font design?
Missy Meyer was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, but moved to Florida for a decade in order to work for the world’s largest mouse. (She’s also had a strange variety of jobs, including singing improv comedian, game show host, bank teller, Radio DJ, webmaster, pizza chef, accountant, notary public, ordained minister, camp counselor, and casino dealer.) She also drew the web comic “Holiday Doodles.” Missy and her husband, novelist Scott Meyer, currently live near Phoenix, AZ with their two cats.