The Making of Shawn Lukas

20/04/2019 | Berlin, DE

When I was a kid my kindergarten teacher Ms. Karen waved a magic wand to spark encouragement in me and other kids.

I’m reminded blurrily of her as I close my eyes and leaf through moving picturesque memories in sepia. In that one yellow morning, she encouraged us to keep journals. Write about anything you can think of, she said as she smiled. Well then, of course for me the bigger problem wasn’t what to write about. It was my handwriting. How can I write when I don’t know how to write? So instead, to provoke my childhood prodigies I decided to embark upon search for the perfect handwriting: a brand new shiny one for elementary next year.

I tried my left hand and tried my right. I fell in love with letters and uncovered their personalities. The letter (e) smiled at me; (s) is yellow and bright and full of life. This was, I guess the moment when my typographic wonders will spark into a hobbyist I claim to be today. Many years have sailed by and I still write a day when time allows. My handwriting is not a big deal as I once thought. I now write mostly on the computer. You know, having to dig up and learn and share thoughts and discoveries on this enriching medium we call the Web is some form of privilege. I know what I think for I write about it.

Growing up in a household filled with books is a thrill, although at first I did not realise the power of a written word. Or to be precise, the power of combining letters to weave strings of words and sentences and paragraphs and then suddenly the whole world is composed. In haze, I have a few memories from the journals written by my younger self, mostly drawings. At that tender age, starring at the stars every night with a mind full of wonders and drawing moons and imaginary planets provoked such unprecedented questions as: how do we fit into this mast universe? It turned out I also loved space suits.

Then one day an intriguing human being entered kindergarten in what seemed to be a colorful space suit and big red shoes and round nose. That changed my life! Here’s a person with a wide elastic smile that extends to nearly reach each side of their ear. Here’s a giant that kids look up to. Look at how happy we are—one doodle expresses. From that wonderful moment, I considered that being a clown was what I wanted to do. So I painted my uncle’s shoes to try out my future career. The outcome fairly exceeded my expectation. To think of this now, what do I make of that naughtiness?

At about eight years I was old enough to explore possible career paths. I was an aspiring actor for a short while, doing shows for a small audience in my grandparents backyard. Then one day a wheelbarrow stunt accident happened in front of a single audience which led me to loosing a pair of incisors. Since then, I turned my back on acting and took it to spending most of my childhood in my grandparents’ storage room, dismantling old gems such as loud ticking clocks and reading any book I could lay my hands on. At that tender age, going to bed every night after reading triggered such unanswered questions as: how did the brain get to name itself? But this post is about the making of Shawn Lukas: the typeface.

diagram showing off ligatures
Individual Characters
diagram showing off ligatures
Repeated Characters

It might sound tried and illusive but I’ll say it anyway. I threw my journals into a hat and pulled out a font. The last time I checked I was a designer not a magician in spades. I think I did it maybe to indulge my curiosity and yours, sincerely. It wasn’t my intention to make a typeface, it was by accident. The minute I tried not to, the next I found myself peaking under the sheets of my duct-taped journals and was tempted to linger between paper and a computer screen, composing a set of honest strings of characters.

Shawn Lukas is a script typeface I made about four years ago for myself to tackle a challenge I had back then. As a result it is a tool that emerged organically out of my design process. Before the typeface came into being, designing on paper was accompanied by a set of notes, supporting me to express or trigger the why, the how, the what, the when, etc, for the sake of articulating and designing better interfaces. Why would the user click here? How can this journey be improved? What is the best it can be?

In brevity, let’s dive into the why of making yours truly: the typeface. If you’d like a full post on the nitty and gritty process in details, send me a request to write it. For now, let’s settle with less. Anyways, I got tired of always working on paper when that wasn’t necessary. I got lazy of scanning to transcend paper to digital. I thought if writing supporting notes contributes to the success of a product, why not automate this? So I took up a challenge to design a typeface that would help me be efficient in some parts of the design process.

At first, I collected writings from my journals dating back to half-decade. Then I analysed each letter I wrote and in parallel came a stream of questions in the back of my mind. How did I feel when I wrote this? Why is this handwriting so hurried? Why did I press a pen so hard on this particular page? Is it about making an aesthetically pleasing typeface or a working one?

Only I may choose to leave elegance to professors and blow this horn by saying that my namesake typeface is strange, for it comes from my own hand. Just look at it. What do you make of the (n)? There are characters that seem odd on their own and beautiful as a whole and contrariwise. You might wanna reflect by pointing out the dancing of ligatures, thriving to shred the evenness or mechanical repetition that kills the rhythm of a writing hand. To make sense of it, this is for those who relish craftsmanship in the digital realm.

Though I believe this typeface might deliver the goods under the care of a good typographic eye, I’m pretty humbled to say it might not be for love letters—there’s nothing you can’t do when you’re in love after all; it is not to be vowed as large blocks of texts in wide measures. It is rather at ease as notes that support main text or diagrams. The typographic bible merely defines script as writing, and it goes on to say English might be in need for a new word. Oh silly me, I guess it wouldn’t drain a quarter of an ocean to borrow the word magic as a new word for script. But only for this moment.

So what’s next? Learning German inspired me to work on German letters such as (ä ö ü ß) for upcoming version of the typeface. Download the font and double-click to install it on your computer. You can also use this as a webfont. Or simply try it out on a notepad before you download. Yours Truly!