Lettering in Instagram: How to succeed

Jon Benson

Hand lettering has become a big source of happiness for me. I take quotes and lyrics that speak to me and mold it into a personal expression through design. Lettering is also an endless chase. I’m always being inspired and challenged by a new style, ligature, flourish or technique. Instagram has become my platform of choice to share my work, as it has for a deluge of other artists worldwide. One quickly finds that receiving feedback, attention, and a following on Instagram is a joy unto itself. Feedback in the form of “favs” keeps me motivated to keep creating and developing my abilities. There are definitely proven methods to building momentum on Instagram, and I’d like to share four observations on how I’ve built a successful account.

1. Engage with your heroes, peers and followers

Surround yourself with artists who inspire you, kick your ass, make you stare at your screen in awe, and make you wish you could “fav” a post twice. Find and follow these accounts until your feed is a never-ending scroll of inspiration. Follow accounts that vary in style (for instance, you don’t just see brush lettering or calligraphy). This variety will help keep you challenged and prevent you from falling into a single style. When someone comments on your work, comment back. Engaging with visitors and followers gives your profile personality.

2. Hashtags mean exposure

If you want to be seen, you have to learn how to effectively hashtag your work. Most artists use hashtags that belong to large “feature” accounts such as Type Gang, The Daily Type, or Lettering Collective. These accounts have tens to hundreds of thousands of followers and artists who use their hashtags have a chance of being featured and gaining exposure. These hashtags are also how most lettering artists and fans search for work in general. Lately it’s become Instagram etiquette to not put all your hashtags into your upload’s description (this makes your post bulky and longer than necessary on a viewer’s feed), but rather as a comment. Be aware you may only use 30 hashtags per comment and it’s best to keep it under 30 per post anyway as too many can come across as spam. Here are staple hashtags I use: #goodtype, #thedailytype, #typegang, #designspiration, #letteringco, #artoftype, #typespire, #typematters, #50words, #calligritype, #handmadefont, #bftype, #typedaily, #typeeverything.

3. Process over perfect

People love to see works in progress. Posting open sketchbooks with guidelines and grids still visible show people not only the thought you’ve put into your work, but also that you start with a sketch like any mortal. Process work gives insight to technique and builds anticipation of the finished work. You may also use process shots to give your audience a peek into your environment. Maybe you’ve been working at the kitchen table on a rainy day or at a park bench. Take a shot of your work far enough back that you can give contextual clues of your surroundings—this will lend personality to your work. Also, I cannot stress enough the importance of lighting. Before posting do a little color and exposure correcting to make sure your paper is a nice, clean white and not a dim grey. Placing an object in the shot such as your pen in hand while touching up a detail provides both a sense of scale and being in-the-moment. If you enjoy brush lettering/calligraphy, a popular type of upload is to make a video of you writing. This shows the entire process of the work and functions as both entertainment and instruction for your viewer.

4. Be authentic, humble and patient

“Stay Humble, Keep Hustling” has become a sort of mantra for my millennial generation. Appropriately enough, I’ve seen this phrase lettered six ways from Sunday in every style under the sun. Don’t bow to trends; only do work that speaks to and comes from you. If your work is a clear expression of diligence, discipline and persistence, people will notice and appreciate it. Never stop challenging yourself; this way, people will look forward to what you’re going to do next. Most importantly, favs and features will come—just be patient and do good work. You must remember that feature accounts are run by a person with subjective tastes and likes and just because your work hasn’t caught their eye doesn’t mean it isn’t good work. Your work and pattern of uploading carries a distinct attitude, so make sure it’s a good one.

You can find my work on Instagram and Behance at jonbensondesigns. Thank you!