Erik Marinovich: Everything After Z

Erik Marinovich, a San Francisco-based lettering artist and co-founder of Friend of Type, shares his story from being a graphic designer for large branding firms to a freelance letter artist and opening his own studio.

For those who missed the talk or want to rewatch Erik’s dance moves, you can catch his talk online.

In his talk, Everything after Z, Erik described his path from graphic designer to letter artist.

IMG_9250(Photo: Amber Gregory)

Erik worked for large branding studios like Landor and FutureBrand which exposed him to a wide range of clients and many facets of the design process. He found himself spending a lot of time tweeking type. He volunteered to take on branding-focused work as an excuse to practice drawing letterforms. His first lettering job was a pro bono rebranding effort for the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (where the Typo conference took place in San Francisco), and the client chose one of his first sketches to be their final mark. This was the first time his work made the final cut.

Tip: Never throw anything you do away because your first sketch may end up being the final mark that the client chooses.

Friends of Type

One day after a bad client meeting, Erik drew a lettering sketch and sent it to his friend Aaron Carambula who told him to post the sketch online. They decided to make a lettering blog, and eight hours later, Friends of Type was live. Aaron tweeted about Friends of Type and it got retweeted and retweeted. Visitors grew.

Their self-imposed rule was to post one original artwork per day so they recruited two more friends to join. The site was a vehicle for their group of four friends – Erik Marinovich, Aaron Carambula, Jason Wong, and Dennis Payongayong – to share personal work because client work was not fulfilling. Erik ended up dropping over half of his client work to do lettering. He made less money but was free to focus, challenge, and perfect his skills. To prevent burning out, they invited guests, such as Jessica Hische and Brent Couchman, to take over the site for a week so they’d get a break.

Erik Marinovich Portrait 2015

Erik Marinovich

Lettering Artist / Designer (San Francisco, California)

Erik Marinovich is a San Francisco based lettering artist and designer, and is a co-founder of Friends of Type. Since 2009 he has drawn letters, logos and type for nice folks like: Nike, Target, Google, Hilton, Facebook, Sonos, Sharpie, The Criterion Collection, Air Canada, Gap, Ford Motor Company. In 2012 he co-founded Title Case, a creative work space that conducts workshops and lectures. Between client work, teaching and side-projects, you’ll find him on the road promoting Keep Fresh Stay Rad and Let’s Go Letter Hunting, two new releases from Friends of Type published by Princeton Architectural Press.

The first year of Friends of Type enabled him to create a portfolio of personal lettering work that would later launch his lettering career. Two and a half year since launching Friends of Type and having his work live on a screen, paid work started coming in – from t-shirts, to coffee ads and beer labels, to a Bloomberg Businessweek cover and billboard in Times Square.

Work Bigger

Erik wanted to work on a larger scale and had the opportunity when Friends of Type was asked to do a mural for an Etsy pop-up in SOHO. This was a learning experience and their first time working big so the effort took 17 hours when a chalk artist might have been able to complete the mural in less than half the time. The piece was successful and was even bootlegged in Bangkok. Next, they worked on a 60 foot mural for a New York office, one for Ichi sushi restaurant in San Francisco, and then even painted a building in Portland for a conference.

Do Not Open

He presented other lettering projects including Do Not Open. He invited people to submit any address and, for a fee, a uniquely hand-lettered envelope will be mailed to that address. All 250 spots were quickly taken, including one purchased by the US Postal Service to be framed for their headquarter.

Hip Hop Hullabaloo

Another project was Hip Hop Hullabaloo, combining his love for music and lettering by translating music into letterforms. Even with an injured back, Erik danced to ODB and Missy Elliott. 

One last note

His talk showed how his career path came full circle – what goes around comes around. Friends of Type started for four friends to make work that client’s don’t pay them to do, and work is now commissioned.

Erik ended the talk with one last note: “Make sure to always be in the moment and not focus so hard that you end up missing out on life because you never know when you might forget to see that there are letterforms in everything.”

Written by Diana Banh (@dibanh)