Mika Melvas is a lettering artist in Vantaa, Finland. He recently lettered our latest T-shirt in the store, and I drafted up some interview questions for him.
What discipline do you specialize in?
I am a type designer. To be more specific I design retail typefaces and also do some custom typefaces for companies. I also do some interesting lettering projects besides that.
What’s your typical day like?
I usually wake up about 8 am. Then I make some coffee and read all the news and check the Instagram and Twitter feeds. I have currently office at home so then I just start working around 9 am.
Then I sit in front of my laptop and do the design work or do some type sketching with pen and paper. I take breaks regularly. I go out or do some scribbling with pen and paper or whatever. I think it’s good to give your eyes a little rest. Then you can spot the imperfections better and spot the places that needs more work.
I try to stop working about 5 pm. Sometimes I do a little longer day and sometimes a little shorter. But it is important to have some boundaries especially when working on your own. So you are not working all the time. It happens easily when you love your job:)
After that I do other stuff. Sometimes I do some lettering or calligraphy exercises on evenings too. It is important to exercise and try new stuff.
How did you first get interested in typography / lettering / type design?
I don’t know exactly. I have been interested in typography more or less from a kid. First I was interested in graffiti. Then at some point calligraphy. My first type design experience was in design school. We had a type design course there and I was sold after that.
You seem to be pretty into brush scripts, what the deal with that?
I just like to do them it is as simple as that. It was also first calligraphy styles I started to learn. I have done some other stuff also. Like sans serifs. And I have intention to do all kinds of work with various styles in the future.
Favorite snack food?
I have to say Salmiakki. It is this salty candy that no one else likes than Finns. You can check for example Salmiakki challenge videos on Youtube and see how the people in other countries like it:)
What was your inspiration/process for your lettering for the latest Lost Type Tee?
I sometimes let the process lead the way to the end result. If you know what I mean. And it was the like that with this lettering also. I didn’t have a clear plan or vision in my head to start with. I just did some sketches and started to tweak and twist one of them.
I like to do this kind of projects in several days. So I can look at it with fresh eyes and then I usually figure out if it still needs some more work or if it’s too dull or something. I preferably sleep on it and look it critically at morning.
Then the process will go forward step by step. I also sometimes do so that I print the lettering out and put it on somewhere where I can see it. Then I just look at at it when I go by and start getting ideas what to do next and what parts needs fixing.
Would you rather stab yourself in the eye with a 3 prong fork or have your tombstone set in Comic Sans?
I take the tombstone set in Comic Sans. Maybe then my grave will become a sight. You never know. And people, other that designers, would think that he must have been a fun and laid-back guy.. with a bad taste.
And I kind of need my eyes in my work and personal life too. It would be quite difficult to design typefaces or lettering without them.
Has the vernacular typography (either of Finland as a whole or specifically in your town) had an impact on your typographic style? (photographic examples welcome)
In Helsinki, the capital of Finland, we have tons of old buildings that have been built in the beginning of 20th century. Some of those buildings has nice lettering on them. I don’t think it has impact on my style but some of those are very nice and special.
Please draw us a picture of a dinosaur…