An interview with Seb Lester

Type designer and typographic illustrator Seb Lester is truly passionate about letterforms. His recent limited edition posters have been a huge success. His typefaces are used by the likes of Dell, Intel, The New York Times, The Sunday Times, and GQ Magazine, to name but a few. Seb kindly took time out of his incredibly busy schedule to be interviewed by iLT.

How did you get started designing type?

I was doing a foundation course in Birmingham in the UK in 1992. I stumbled across a book, ‘The Graphic Language of Neville Brody‘, in the college library. That man really has got a lot to answer for because I became obsessed with type and typography. I later studied Graphic Design at Central St Martins in London where I got some help digitising my first fonts in FontStudio from a tutor there.

soho gothic sketches

My first typefaces were designs for T26 and Garage Fonts in the mid 90’s when I was still at college. I have no formal education in type design and some of my designs from that period certainly have ‘self-taught’ qualities about them.

What do you like most and least about it?

The best part is the creative process at the beginning. The excitement of developing ideas and fleshing out letterforms. It’s great fun developing the basic digital character set and developing weights. Watching the design take shape and evolve.

mmm sexy type sketch

Generally I find the more technical aspects of type design like font naming and coding OpenType features pretty uninspiring, but its part and parcel of the process.

What are you working on now / future plans?

I have a full time job as a type designer at Monotype Imaging working on custom fonts. I’m working on two very big and exciting projects at the moment that I can’t discuss yet, but I feel privileged to be involved in both of them.

soho gothic by Seb Lester

In my spare time I’ve recently done some typographic illustration for the New York Times.

NY TImes illustration

I’m also developing some experimental stencil lettering styles that I’m going to be using for some forthcoming t-shirt designs. I’m working on a new industrial sans serif family which is shaping up very nicely I think. Finally, I’m thinking about two art prints that I want to release at some point next year.

How have things gone with your first set of prints?

I have to say I’ve been really amazed at the response. The first one released, ‘Mightier’, has more or less sold out now, and several of the other prints look set to do the same soon.

mightier poster by seb lester

Thanks to anyone reading this who has bought one by the way. I greatly appreciate it.

Your favourite type designers / typefaces?

Way too many designers and too many typefaces to list. The usual suspects I suppose, but I have extremely broad taste in type. l love ornate letterforms. I love sober and functional type. I actually love a lot of crap type too. In fact I probably have the biggest collection of photos of crap type, mainly crap fried chicken shop signage, in the UK. Actually perhaps I have the only collection like this, now I think about it.

I find calligraphy very inspiring at the moment. Much of it can be rather twee but the best of it, the most innovative and virtuoso work, can be amazingly sensual and dazzling. That’s what I want to try to achieve in my ‘type art’ screen prints in the future.

now by seb lester

Any plans to digitise some of the scripts used in your recent prints?

I’d really like to develop some of them into full alphabets as I think some could be really nice typefaces, but I really have far too much else on my plate at the moment. Maybe one day.

Anything else to add?

seb lester self portrait

Just that I really feel very lucky to have found letterforms. I feel so passionate about type and lettering. There are a lot of things I want to achieve in my working life. Some brilliant opportunities are presenting themselves at the moment, fortunately. I’ll be curious to discover where my work takes me in the next few years.


Seb has kindly offered a free limited edition print of your choice, if you can answer the following question:

How many stylistic sets are there in the OpenType version of Soho Gothic?

Please send your answer to jboardley[{AT]}gmail[dot]com, and use Seb Lester as the subject line. I’ll pick one correct entry, and announce the winner next week. To see what you could win, visit seblester.co.uk.

Any more questions for Seb?

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