Gemma O'Brien: The art of lettering

Letter artist Gemma O'Brien talks about the appeal of the handmade and the way that the shape of words can capture the character of a place.

Australian letter artist and graphic designer Gemma O'Brien started out her adult life on a rather different path to the one she is on now. She began university enrolled in a law degree, but soon realised that she felt more engaged by creative work and switched over swiftly to design. She is now a well known artist and typographer and is frequently invited to design festivals and conferences around the world to host workshops and talk about her process. We caught up with her at Brief Festival in Madrid

"I think there has been a sort of trend towards handmade techniques or live murals," she says. "Kind of like watching sport or going to theatre: it’s unpredictable and it’s real and I think people are kind of craving something like that in today’s world where it’s so digital."

O'Brien points out that particular fonts or signs are very evocative of certain cities or places and eras. 

"You can see a piece of signage in a new city and it can speak to a particular era or place. So it’s kind of human and relating to time and memory and place, so that’s the side that interest me and I think for that reason it will continue to be interesting forever."