Even at the height of his success, Erik Marinovich isn’t afraid to start over. And he’s doing it for the second time already. Now with Nuform
Getting involved with Erik Marinovich’s work can be kind of intimidating. You’ll find no shortage of superlatives like “lettering legend”, and his client list, ranging from Nike to Google and Air Canada, doesn’t make it any less so. But despite all his success, he has now given up lettering and started the foundry Nuform Type. And it is as unique as his former work. We talked to him about his big step, about what impatient clients and the pandemic had to do with it – and how nature has influenced his work lately.
As if your lettering itself wouldn’t be impressive enough, your success is so as well. How did it all start? Erik Marinovich: I worked in New York doing branding at the agency Landor. But whenever we had some downtime, my colleagues and I were just doodling. All four of us had an affinity for drawing letterforms, and something just clicked for me. One day, when I was already back in my hometown San Francisco doing freelance work, I had a really, really bad meeting and was so furious that I drew a “Thank You and Fuck You”. When I sent it to my colleagues in New York, they just loved it, and to share it with others, the blog Friends of Type started. That was 2009 and to keep it short – that was the moment when everything shifted. I suddenly felt that with lettering I had finally found what I wanted to do as a creative. I gave up my client work and went full steam on doing it.
It’s impressive that you had the courage to try.
My wife supported me, and her full-time job was my safety net. Not to mention that I got really obsessed with lettering and was mad at myself for not doing it earlier.
Now I understand that things just show themselves when they need to, and if you’re open to it, it will change the course of your career.
What is so fascinating about lettering for you?
There’s something very enticing about it. That you can engage with an audience. I never felt that when I was doing branding work. That you can really hone in on a particular phrase, on a sentiment and a message. And that you have this amazing portfolio of different styles to do so. It’s almost like being a film director. And I like the idea that you could hold someone’s attention for longer than five seconds.
But you also said that lettering is so much work under so much pressure because you‘re the last one in the creative sequence and always on a deadline.
When I was lettering for clients, they came to me with a lot of problems I had to solve. As creative work is subjective, the briefings are often bad, and not knowing the mind of the client necessarily, I needed to show them at least five different options. And doing it for many years takes a big output of energy and time and you’re often staying up late. After a while, it became a cycle, and as long as you’re in it, it’s okay. But when you get a little bit of space from it, you realize how much of your personal potential it consumes.