Friday Feature: Dathan Boardman




Back in early 2012 I received an email out of the blue from a guy who wanted to talk about turning my calligraphy into fonts. At this point in time, I was still in the midst of figuring out what I wanted to do with my creative career. I was practicing illustration but was gaining momentum with my modern calligraphy. Turning my calligraphy into a font seemed insanely foreign to me but that email changed the course of my entire career! Today, I happily call Dathan Boardman my business partner and friend as we continually collaborate to create fonts from not only my designs but a highly curated group of calligraphers and publish them through our foundry, Great Lakes Lettering. In addition to being the second half of GLL, Dathan also designs and publishes fonts through his personal foundry Rocket Type. I couldn’t be more happy or honored to have had the opportunity to interview Dathan a bit to share with you all a glimpse into his career…




Tell us a little bit about how you got into type design..:

I got involved in Type Design due to a job opening at the Font Diner. Stuart Sandler needed someone to help with support and he offered to mentor me on how to create and sell fonts.


What do you love most about type design and why?:

I love the craft and the process of it. It isn’t a very glamorous job, a lot of repetition but I love the repetition.


Walk us through a typical day in your shoes..:

Wake up and check support requests for a variety of different products, Photoshop plugins, font installation and licensing requests, and then most of the rest of the day is spent on font production. I do a lot of freelance work for people as well as building and creating my own fonts.




What personal traits do you feel have contributed to your success?:

I feel like I am constantly curious about how things work and how to streamline them. The more I learn about font making, the more efficient, streamlined and functional the fonts are.




This industry can be really scary at times. It’s usually feast or famine even for the best of us. How do you mentally and financially prepare for job famine?:

I experienced a lot of anxiety going through this. Font design especially can be a famine type job because so many more fonts are being created now and it’s easy to get overlooked. The best advice is to just keep making more and more. I always think of a quote I heard by Tom Petty where he said that he would be doing music regardless of whether he was able to make any money at it. Thats kind of how I feel about font design. I can’t really imagine doing anything else.


What has been the most memorable moment in your career to date?:

It’s hard to pinpoint just one memorable moment but I think I really felt like we arrived when one of our fonts was being used for a Hallmark movie. That was kind of fun.




Describe your dream client:

Myself ;)


What are three items you could not work without?:

Illustrator, pencil, Glyphs app


Describe the aesthetic and personal stylization of your work:

I kind of feel like I have a pretty widespread list of things that appeal to me, but the thing that I am constantly intrigued by and try to achieve in my own work is a sort of exuberant playfulness, I try to achieve this without my work looking overly amateurish.




Who inspires you?:

Molly Jacques, Fennesz, Nic Roeg, Kevin Drumm


How do you stay motivated?:

Sometimes it’s hard. I like that I have to do work for hire so that it kind of gears me up for doing my own work. If I was exclusively a creative I might not get anything done.




Do you have any hobbies or interests that you feel directly influence the way you approach your work?:

Music, movies. I used to really like to design alongside music as it would sort of inform the aesthetic I was going for. Nowadays I feel more and more like I need total quiet. I will be laying in bed listening to music sometimes and want to create a font that has a similar effect on me as the musical idea.


What advice would you give to an individual who wants to pursue a career in type design?:

Never stop releasing stuff.


If you weren’t an artist, what would you be, and why?

Probably a struggling musician but that dream isn’t quite dead yet.


That wraps things up! THANK YOU Dathan for giving us a little taste of your job. If you want to view Dathan’s work, you can at Great Lakes Lettering, and be sure to take a peek at his most recent collaboration with Jen Maton on Pen Swan.

Real Talk: More Than Lettering
More Than Lettering by @mollyjacques


I feel like at MJW I’m constantly getting emails asking “How do I make my lettering stand out?”.

It’s a really good question and I think it’s being asked more often for an even better purpose. It’s been a question rolling around the Illustration world for decades. It’s been the question I’ve asked myself every single day during art school (and even now).

Instead of looking at modern calligraphy and lettering as its own thing (which, don’t get me wrong, it totally is), let’s compare it more to illustration. Lettering is illustrating words, no?


groovy @mollyjacques


More often than not, when we think of ways to make our lettering stand out, we assume we just need to have a distinct take on letterform drawing, that if we can just master that one-of-a-kind lowercase k, we’ll have our ticket to unique city and everyone will recognize our work. But that’s so limiting, isn’t it?


I think when we start looking at lettering more as Illustration, we start picking apart more than just the letters. It’s now about color choices, composition, textures, technique, purpose, and meaning. It’s about context, concept, feeling, stylization, history…


@MollyJacques Chalkboard #Lettering


When you start looking at lettering as more than just words, you start gaining a better understanding of how to make yours stand out, using all the concepts I mentioned before, to your advantage. …You begin to understand how to better give your lettering purpose, more than just the words that are written out.

Moreover, when we start approaching lettering in this way, the industry becomes more sustainable. Respectable. Playful. Mysterious.

Until next time, friends.



*Chalk lettering book featured next to Molly’s chalk lettering: “The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering” by Valerie McKeehan*
TUTORIAL: The Easiest Digital Chalk Lettering
The EASIEST Digital Chalk Lettering Tutorial by @mollyjacques

Did you know digital lettering and calligraphy really doesn’t have to be complicated? When you’re creating digital files for client work, you should always have a more in-depth, layered and editable file, but if you’re creating artwork simply for your blog, social media, or a personal project, why not make it quick and to the point? Follow along with our SUPER easy steps to turn your pencil drawing into a digital chalk lettering image!



  • Scanner or iPhone
  • Adobe Photoshop & Computer
  • A Finished Pencil Drawing



Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 5.05.08 PM

PRELIMINARY: Get your pencil drawing into the computer. You can do this in one of two ways:

  1. Snap a photo in good lighting with your iPhone and email the image to yourself. Open the image in Adobe Photoshop, or…
  2. Scan the pencil drawing with a scanner at 300dpi in RGB. Open the image up in Adobe Photoshop.
Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 5.05.20 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 5.05.31 PM

STEP ONE: Adjust Levels to your liking.

Adjusting the “levels” of your pencil drawing is essentially going to make sure it has the right amount of lights and darks. To find your levels panel go to: Image > Adjustments > Levels.

Next, use the White (far right) Middle Tone (middle) and Dark (far left) sliders to adjust the image to your liking.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 5.06.39 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 5.06.48 PM

STEP TWO: Invert your pencil drawing.

To do this, you’ll want to go to: Image > Adjustments > Invert (or cmd + I as a keyboard shortcut).


Original artwork created for Ford, Go Further.

That’s it! You now have a digital “chalk” image ready for your blog or social media. Still confused? Follow along with our quick tutorial video for a more in-depth look at this digital lettering technique!

Want to share your image in Instagram? Simply email the image to yourself and save it on to you iPhone to upload to Instagram. Tag @mollyjacquesworkshop in your image for a chance to have your work featured!



**PS: Did you know we offer a full e-course on digital chalk lettering here at MJW?!
Business: Wedding vs. Commercial Calligraphy

When most people think of calligraphy, they think of wedding invitations, marriage certificates, and the declaration of independence. And to an extend, those assumptions are very correct. Calligraphy has deep roots in certificate artwork and original wedding paraphernalia.

But the outlets for using calligraphy have always extended past the wedding industry. In fact, our world extends far past that, into the commercial world. This has huge implications on what it means to be a calligrapher and what a calligrapher’s income and day-to-day will look like.

Throughout history, there has always been a place for calligraphy within the commercial world. These days, calligraphy can be categorized alongside commercial illustrations, and likewise, priced very similarly.

So what does that mean for you? Well, for starters, if you’re a calligrapher, it means that you have a variety of job sources outside of wedding calligraphy. The cool thing about being a calligrapher is that you’re not limited to one industry or another. Based on your work-flow and talents, you might find that you like one side of the industry better. You might find that you work well in both commercial and wedding, opening up a variety of job opportunities and clients. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two…


Photography by Heather Saunders


Wedding calligraphy is any and all hand made calligraphy for wedding purposes. For the sake of keeping things simple, I’m going to lump any sort of event calligraphy into this group. Wedding calligraphy usually consists of (but isn’t limited to) hand addressed envelopes, place cards, wedding invitation calligraphy (note, just the calligraphy, not the over all-graphic design), and marriage certificates. There are many other calligraphic elements that are used at a celebration but, for the most part, all calligraphy is used for one event and a good chunk of the calligraphy is one-off. In the wedding industry, calligraphers will often work directly with the bride or groom or they will work with a wedding planner or stationer. As a wedding calligrapher, the artist’s income is often based on the amount of calligraphy that he or she will produce for that specific wedding.

Photography by Heather Saunders

Photography by Heather Saunders


Commercial calligraphy is used for the intent of selling products at large scale. Commercial calligraphy consists of (but isn’t limited to) calligraphy for editorial purposes (magazines, books, etc.), ad campaigns, or products intended to be sold in mass quantities. In this commercial industry, the calligrapher will almost always be working collaboratively with a select group of highly trained individuals (usually based out of an advertising agency) appointed to bring a client’s project into being. As a commercial calligrapher, the artist’s income is based on a variety of things like the complexity of the calligraphy that is being created, the usage that the client needs for the artwork, and the type of company that will be using the artwork. As a commercial calligrapher, you’ll often have the ability to accept payment in the form of royalties, depending on the project.

Fiesta Movement Lettering by Molly Jacques for Ford @mollyjacques+commercial+calligraphy-1

I have extensive experience as a wedding calligrapher but I recently switched over to strictly commercial calligraphy (and lettering) about two years ago. Why? I found that I work best in collaboration with highly trained professionals when it comes to bringing an idea into being. It’s not that I don’t enjoy working on wedding related projects (I do!) but I’ve found that my personality and talents work better within the commercial industry.

So what type of calligraphy do you align yourself with and why? Maybe you dabble in both wedding and commercial art. Perhaps you didn’t know about commercial calligraphy until now. I’d love to hear about your experience and preferences in the comments below.




Business: Staying Motivated (w/ Post-it® Brand)


Hey friends! Molly Jacques Workshop has recently teamed up with Post-it® Brand to share the ways I stay motivated and keep on-track with running a business, being a self-employed artist, and managing it all. I’m excited to share my story a bit with you all and think it’s a helpful peek into what a day in my life often looks like… here goes…

Something that is important to me and keeps me motivated throughout the busy work day is keeping little reminder and motivational Post-it® Notes RIGHT in front of me, usually on my computer. A few things that are really important to me: staying mindful of WHY I work. Is it for money? For recognition? To help support my family? To help others? I think sometimes, it’s a variety of everything. Most importantly, to help others and to challenge myself as an artist to simply be better.

I’m guessing a lot of you folks keep notes in front of you while you’re working as well, right? What is something that is motivating you TODAY? Right now? Snap a photo and share it on social media with #postit and tag @mollyjacques so I can comment back!

#postit #makeitstick #MJW