Interview: Joanna Muñoz
Joanna Muñoz is the hand lettering artist and graphic designer behind Wink & Wonder. By day, Joanna works as an art director – primarily overseeing web design for large brands and movie studios – at a Los Angeles design firm. She runs her freelance business on the side, taking on projects from invitations to hand lettered products.
We are pleased to have Joanna on board as a Calligrafile Contributor. Her background in graphic design and web work makes her an especially great asset for the intersection of graphic design and calligraphy. I interviewed Joanna via email to find out more about her start in hand lettering, her favorite projects, and how she manages to balance her day job with her freelance career.
Where are you located?
Los Angeles, California
What sparked your interest in calligraphy, and what path have you taken to master the art form since that time (formal training, independent study, a combination of the two)?
I fell in love with calligraphy in 2013, shortly after getting engaged. I grew up loving to create things by hand and wanted to design my own invitations and address our wedding envelopes myself. Molly Jacques and Molly Suber Thorpe's Skillshare classes were the first investments I made into this calligraphy journey. Shortly after, I bought Molly Suber Thorpe's Modern Calligraphy book and practiced regularly. A lot of time was spent teaching myself before summoning the courage to attend an in-person workshop. Through the years, I've attended workshops hosted by Jenny Sanders, Lauren Essl and Anne Robin, all while continuing to practice and study independently. Nothing beats engaging with and learning from working professionals first-hand. I've since transitioned into more lettering-focused work. My style is constantly evolving and changes as I learn, experiment and incorporate new things every day.
In addition to being an accomplishing hand lettering artist, you are an art director at a Los Angeles production company. I think many of us can imagine how two creatively-driven careers overlap, but can you tell us about the main differences between the two, and how you strike a balance?
My company primarily creates custom websites for well-known brands and movie studios. As an art director, I design the sites and see them through from concept to completion. Designing for the web means you have to know how everything will work and flow together – does this font work across all browsers and languages? Did I design this to break down responsively? Will the developers freak out if I want to try x, y or z? (That answer is almost always yes.)
Lettering, on the other hand, gives me the freedom to explore and create from within instead of being confined and restricted by a spec sheet. I'm able to tap into my drawing roots and get a much-needed break from the computer until the piece needs to be finalized and prepped for delivery. As a freelancer, I also typically work with the client directly and have to stay on top of every aspect of the project to stay on track.
I'd like to think that my day job and freelance life balance nicely. Work requires a lot of attention to detail and I apply that same structured approach to my freelance projects. On the flip side, I try and use the carefree, explorative lettering approach at the office to help me find new ways to see and solve design problems for the web.
What is the main challenge you face having both full-time employment and a freelance job? What are the benefits?
The biggest difficulty I have is managing my time efficiently. If I've had a long work day, the last thing I want to do is more work for someone else. I try not to procrastinate too much, but I also know that if I'm creatively drained I won't put my best foot forward when it comes to my freelance projects. I allow myself time to rest and recharge before diving into things.
As for benefits, I enjoy the fact that I'm able to exercise different muscles creatively and business-wise when switching back and forth from my day job to freelance. I'm also lucky enough to actually like my job (where I've worked for 8+ years) and always have the comfort of a steady paycheck and health insurance, which I know can be a challenge when freelancing full-time.
What advice can you offer a budding lettering artist interested in monetizing their hobby?
First, learn the rules. I think that anyone who wants to take their craft seriously should learn and understand the fundamentals of lettering and design. Not only will it help elevate your work, it'll empower you to make informed decisions rather than relying on whims. Second: Don't be shy! Network and engage with people you admire and the people who are following you on your creative journey. Those same people aren't just your followers but also your audience. It's important to establish who you are and why they should trust you and invest in your products or services. Sharing behind-the-scenes photos, videos and blog posts is an easy way to enhance that personal connection. Third, quality is key. It's important to put your best foot forward in everything you do – from client interactions to the pieces on your website. If you focus on dedicated practice, put yourself out there and do good work, people will notice and want to be a part of your story.
What is the most unusual, interesting, or difficult commission you’ve worked on to date?
Last October, Lumi approached me about doing a weekend takeover on their Instagram account. (See photos above.) The challenge was to showcase their customizable products in a variety of ways with my lettering. It was really fun to think of a different approach for each medium and how to make the pieces feel unique but also cohesive. Because the takeover occurred over Halloween weekend, my images started out fairly clean and simple and gradually became a little more spooky to tie in Halloween.
What are the top 5 lettering tools you couldn’t live without?
I have three go-to tools that never leave my kit: the Alvin Draftmatic Mechanical Pencil, Papermate Tuff Stuff Eraser Stick and Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip Brush Pen. Every sketch I do starts out with pencil and nothing beats the ease of use of a mechanical pencil and eraser stick. The Fudenosuke offers fantastic control when creating thick and thin lines. As silly as it may sound, at this point I probably can't live without my iPhone 7+. When I'm away from my computer, I use it to correspond with clients, take and edit photos (the updated camera is incredible), shoot and send myself sketches and use apps to merged some of my lettering/photography pieces for Instagram. Finally, I absolutely love my Wacom Intuos Tablet. The pen and tablet combo makes me so much faster and more proficient when designing and editing photos or creating vector lettering pieces. It takes some getting used to but the investment is worth it. I tend to hoard a lot of tools and supplies, but the rest of my favs can be found on my website.
Do you have a hidden talent or hobby that you don’t usually share?
It's silly, but my husband and I met 6 years ago playing adult recreational dodgeball. I had a hard time meeting people when I first moved to LA and thought signing up for a goofy sport would help. The fun part is that you can be as casual or competitive about it as you want. We still play to this day (four times a week!), travel for tournaments and sometimes dress up in really fun costumes. We were Disney Villains for a Halloween tourney this year and it was hilarious. It's definitely not as crazy as the movie, but it's a great way to make friends, get some exercise and blow off steam.
Joanna's Shopping List
Alvin Draftmatic Mechanical Pencil
Papermate Tuff Stuff Eraser Stick
Tombow Fudenosuke Soft Tip Brush Pen
Tombow Fudenosuke Hard Tip Brush Pen
Tombow Dual Brush Pen
Sakura 30062 Pigma Micron Pen
Kuretake Fude Brush Pen
Coptic Sketch Markers
Canson Pro Layout Marker Pad
Rhodia Blank Notepad
Huion Ultra Thin LED Light Pad
Wacom Intuos Tablet