Expressive Language and Art

By Sydney Prusso

 When we speak, we speak using facial expressions, tones, and notes. Not only that, but we can sing! Our bodies are a perfect vessel for expressive language. On the contrary, when we write, we are limited in our expressions. Generally, the exclamation point is the most popular emotion we can type or write. But even that leaves too much room for interpretation. Too many times have I sent an email with far too many exclamation points in an attempt to sound like more than a robot, while the recipient might find me just plain…abrasive. (Thank god for emojis. I can’t wait until they’re considered professional enough for work emails. I like to think they’re the missing link to the lack of expression naturally built into written English.) But that's where expressive typography and hand lettering come in to play.

Expressive typography is the art of highly visual text where the text itself can become imagery. Designers can play with the juxtaposition of what the words say and style of the words themselves to support the message or even create an entirely new meaning. Hand lettering is the illustrating of words from scratch, similar to graffiti, which lets the artist have total control over the meaning and feeling of the text. (Not to be confused with calligraphy, which is the art of beautiful handwriting.)

For example, take the phrase “Let it Be.” Although this piece may not add anything obvious to the phrase, it adds a melody. Similar to how we might sing words to convey a feeling, the words “Let it be” here are illustrated in a symphony of loops and curls and colors to create an entirely different meaning to the viewer than just the words themselves.


My artistic journey as a designer has gone through many phases. (I like to think of artists and designers as being in relationships with their current interests.) At the moment, my artistic love lies in the art of hand lettering and pieces such as this, “Let it Be.”  I started my journey with painting and drawing in high school and several ARTS By The People workshops. In a graffiti workshop, I loved learning about all the fun and expressive ways to handle typography. That ABTP workshop that I took at 14 years old influenced my love of lettering to this day at 22. I love to call to experiences like that when I do my design work now. Here’s a picture of me at that workshop.


Next time you see some cool graffiti or lettering, remember its creator is just a singer who is more comfortable working with their hands.