Graphic Design and Typography with Andy Anzolitto
This interview with Andy Anzolitto reminded us of how disciplined artists are called to be, and that practicing being an artists can happen in really ordinary moments. Andy is a graphic designer with a focus on typography and lettering. His work ignites a whole new appreciation for the art of lettering and I was so thrilled that he made time to talk with us.
Tell us about yourself?
My name’s Andy Anzollitto, and I am a graphic designer with a focus on typography and lettering. I live in Brooklyn, and I grew up in the Texas Hill Country. Back in Texas I had run my own studio and, about a year ago, I moved up to New York to work for Louise Fili.
What led you to graphic design?
When I first started using the softwares that would be visibly similar to what I now use professionally, I don’t know if there was much of an evolved perspective on what I was doing. I don’t think I was imagining that I could make a career out of it. I just thought it was really cool to draw pictures on the computer, and it was a natural progression as more of my life started involving digital spaces.
It was in college that I learned about the principles of design and became attracted to the idea that I could approach problem solving with images. To be presented with a challenge and then to solve that challenge using image making was very engaging. When I understood that this was graphic design, I got really into wanting to do more of it.
One of my favorite quotes is by Mary Oliver, “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” I think you’re a master at that. Letters, forms, old signs, things that most people don’t see, you see so clearly and draw inspiration from. Is that a practiced skill or have you always been that astute?
It’s a little bit of both. I grew up in an environment that was very detail oriented. In my house there were always conversations about why things were done certain ways or observations of things that stood out. Even now, my dad has this habit of just naming the objects he sees while he’s driving down the highway. It’s a little silly, but it’s also not that far away from how I observe and take in my own influences in design. I see a conversation in the signs on storefronts, and in the manhole covers on the ground, and in the words inscribed on trucks and buildings. Over time I’ve improved on learning where to look for the extra-curious things or how I catalog different collections so there is a nice cycle of discovery and refinement that has grown over the years.
Tell us about your recent typography work. Specifically, the piece above. What goes into making a piece like this?
This piece started with a loose sketch on paper using a selection of wood-engravings for stylistic reference. Once I had the general composition in a good place, I brought the sketch into Procreate on my iPad which is whereI did the majority of the work building up the image and details. Then I brought that version into Photoshop for some finishing details and texturing.
The great part about a style based on a relief printing process like wood-engraving is that most of the texture comes out of the action of making the marks. There’s a nice opportunity where the imperfect construction of the image can be expressive, and when you look at the illustration, there is an understanding that someone’s hand tooled the shapes you see. I enjoy that connection that printmaking offers between the maker and the object, and I wanted to see if I could emulate that physical process with the digital methods I more frequently use.
How do you find inspiration for new lines, curves, and forms?
I often find novel and interesting outcomes by manipulating my process and exploring new ways to work on problems. When looking for new approaches, I refer back to my catalog of things I find interesting whether that’s in an architectural detail I’ve photographed or a snippet from an old book I’ve found. I try as best I can to find material outside of my own discipline since it’s good to have a level of separation from what I make and what I’m inspired by.
There’s a nice opportunity where the imperfect construction of the image can be expressive, and when you look at the illustration, there is an understanding that someone’s hand tooled the shapes you see.
There’s something really interesting in how comedians can take an observation from life and turn it into a joke that elicits a visceral response from the audience.
What other forms of art are you interested in? How do they influence your graphic design and lettering work?
At the moment I am very into architecture and comedy. With architecture there is always a wealth of ideas and approaches to observe; and, living in New York, there is an abundance of material to take in right here on the street. As for comedy, I am fascinated by the process of writing a joke.
There’s something really interesting in how comedians can take an observation from life and turn it into a joke that elicits a visceral response from the audience. To make the joke work, the comedian has to be both technically able and also continually connected with the audience. Those are the same things I strive to do in my own work and I find it valuable to explore the process through a creative medium that on its face is very different.
What advice would you give to those looking into graphic design and lettering?
Be curious. Learn about the history of graphic design and lettering. Practice daily and work on the fundamentals. Go grab your camera or library card and collect some analog inspiration. When you find yourself at a loss, ask someone who knows more than you. Be vulnerable and make work that is meaningful.