Type in Action: Mark Serrano

Type in Action is a series where Ligatures YYZ picks the creative brains of talented typographers and designers in Toronto about the things that inspire their work, and tips to chew on for other designers.

Meet Mark Serrano, an emerging graphic designer, illustrator, letterer, and pyrographer (that is, woodburner!)

Who are the biggest mentors in your creative work -- and why are they important to you?

Shelly Warsh (RIP). She was my typography professor at George Brown College. She was this drill sergeant-type of professor and watched over your shoulder as you work. It was pretty intense, but she was an amazing teacher. She made students fall in love with Typography. I’ve been into lettering since I was little but I lost a bit of interest in it until I got to college. This is the reason why I chose her as my thesis mentor - I needed someone to push me.

Social media provides such powerful avenues for sharing one’s work -- what role has social media taken in your creative work? 

Social media has played a big role in my growth as an artist. I remember posting some of my first few works and getting a good reception from friends. At that time I was still skeptical about the whole online store thing. But I enjoyed doing it, people enjoyed my work… so I thought “Hmmm, maybe I can actually even do this for a living.” From there I just started posting more of my work, opened up my Etsy store. I also did the 365 challenge which was a great excuse to use different mediums.


Day 338 of Mark Serrano's 365 challenge

Day 338 of Mark Serrano's 365 challenge

What technology or tool are you excited to geek out on lately and what have you created with it?

My pyrography set! It’s just so different than what I usually do. With chalk, pencil, digital illustration there’s a bit more room for mistake. You can go back the next day and fix or erase things. But pyrography has tested my patience and so far I’m up for the challenge. The last pyrography piece I did was “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” by Albert Camus. I have a few pyrography ideas but they’re mostly illustrations!

Within Toronto, where do you find your inspiration? Why does this/these inspire you?

I get inspired by working around other artists. I love going to events and meeting like-minded people. Ligatures has done a great job in connecting us -- they’ve made the lettering/typography world a lot smaller in Toronto.


Does Toronto specifically offer any advantages to your career, and if so, what does Toronto offer?

Toronto being such a huge city gives artists an advantage. There’s always something new and exciting happening here. There’s always opportunities as far as creative stuff goes.  I’ve enjoyed all the murals popping up -- there’s definitely a huge support coming from the city!

Where do you see yourself in the next phase of your creative practice?

I’d like to open my own studio. I feel like working for myself is the next phase in my practice. Stay tuned!


Type in Action: Ben Johnston

Welcome to the first installment of Type in Action, where Ligatures YYZ picks the creative brains of talented typographers and designers in Toronto about the things that inspire their work, and tips to chew on for other designers.

Meet Ben Johnston, a self-described multidisciplinary artist and designer with a focus on custom branding and typography -- not to mention an established mural artist that makes his mark.

What was the spark or influence to drive you to seriously pursue typography?

I think spending a lot of my teenage years doing graffiti played a major part in my interest for letters, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I really got back into lettering. For the first five years or so of my design career I focused primarily on branding and packaging while working at various ad agencies. During this time I started experimenting with type and illustration while slowly getting freelance projects in which opened up doors to the kind of work I really wanted to be doing. It wasn't until about four years ago that I started painting murals, so I still feel like I'm learning with each new piece.


Who or what were some of the key influences in the formation of your personal style? How would you define your style?

Personally, I feel like I don't have a set style as I like to be as versatile as possible depending on the brief that comes my way. I feel like I'd get bored doing just one thing, so I'm constantly trying to come up with new pieces and ways of working. It's important to me to be able to adapt my work to whatever project I'm working, which means I have to constantly be brushing up on my skills in all areas of lettering and painting.


What tips would you give to a budding designer trying to find their voice or style?

Just have fun and experiment with every style. If you put in the time it won't take long before you find your own way of working. Set some goals and stick to them.


Does Toronto specifically offer any advantages to your career, and if so, what does Toronto offer?

There's a really great emerging art and design scene in Toronto at the moment that's also getting a lot of support from big brands which is great to see. I find the culture to be really supportive and even the public seem to respond positively to murals going up all around the city.


What are some of the most meaningful collaborative projects you've participated in? 

I've been lucky enough to collaborate with a lot of different artists and designers in Toronto, which has led to some pretty great work in mediums I would've have never otherwise explored. More recently, I worked on a mural with Lauren Pirie for the Dudebox charity in support of the Humane Society and I'm also currently working on a mural campaign with CAMH which will be happening in the next month or so.

I'm big on collaboration, so I generally always jump at the chance.

Do you have a routine/things you do that are essential in keeping sharp in your practice?

Although I work for myself, I try to stick to a regular work routine. Get up early and start the day with a bike ride, then coffee and emails. From there I would either head off to paint until it gets dark, or head to the studio and work on whatever projects are on the go. I try to stick to a 'normal' work day, otherwise you can just end up spending your whole life at the studio as there's always something that you could be doing. The trick is try and find a good work / life balance. I also never bring work home, I think it's important to have a separation in what we do.

All photos courtesy of Ben Johnston's Behance



Want to learn brush lettering? Unable to attend a Ligatures lettering workshop? We've got just the thing! This 75-page printable PDF is the best resource to learn the fundamentals of brush lettering. The document includes:

-an overview of tools & techniques

-a review of stroke & pressure

-lettering guides for each letter of the uppercase casual & lower case casual alphabets

-blank guidelines to continue your lettering journey

Brush pens not included. Upon checkout, the PDF booklet will be promptly emailed to you. For personal use only.

Purchase here!

Sale ends Friday, March 31 at 11:59pm. Copyright © 2017 Ligatures YYZ

Recap: Brush Lettering Workshop with GDC Sask South

We've had a wonderful time in Regina with GDC Sask South! The brush lettering workshop was an amazing success and everyone is on their way to becoming lettering pros! A big thank-you to Corey, Rhea, and Laila for helping making this workshop come together flawlessly. It was an absolute pleasure meeting everyone and looking forward to seeing your lettering progression! Keep on lettering!


Brush Lettering Basics Workshop

Ligatures Toronto Brush Lettering Workshop We're excited to announce our ever popular Brush Lettering Workshop, hosted by Toronto letterers Kyle Gallant, Christopher Rouleau, and Veronica Wong.

Join us on Saturday, July 16 to learn the basics of Brush lettering. Our workshop will cover everything you need to know to get started with brush lettering. We help students learn the fundamentals of the English alphabet, working through basic strokes, and advancing to uppercase and lower case letterforms, as well as work construction.

Students receive a selection of our favourite brush lettering instruments, along with tips and tricks on how to get the most out of them. Students are encouraged to experiment and ask plenty of questions so they can get the most out of the equipment and our experience.

Space is limited and fills quickly. Sign up early to avoid disappointment.

Marquee workshop

Ligatures - Marquee - No 33 Back by popular demand is our marquee letter workshop! Spend Sunday afternoon with we teach you how to make marquee letters! Each participant will be able to create two cardboard letters or characters of their choice. Accentuate your space with these fun and easy-to-make letters. Theses letters are perfect for weddings and parties too!

We include supplies and will walk you through the process with some tips and tricks. Just bring along some letters from your favourite fonts and get ready to bring them to life (don't worry, we're type geeks so we'll have plenty to pick from too). Sign up for our Marquee Lettering Workshop today.

You can check out last years Marquee Workshop.

Type Attack 2 recap

After the success of last year's Type Attack lettering duel, we decided bring it back again this year. We had a tremendous turnout, with a record 20 competitors and over 50 spectators. The rumble was held at Shopify. In case you missed it, Type Attack is a tournment-style lettering contest, where artists are paired against each to drawn one glyph (letter or number) in successively shorter rounds. Other than that, there are no other rules: whoever creates the most interesting character (determined by the crowd vote) advances. Winner takes all!


We were happy to have Beau's Brewery samples their ales all night long.

IMG_0580IMG_0588 IMG_0599IMG_0613IMG_0615IMG_0619IMG_0637IMG_0642IMG_0649IMG_0658IMG_0668IMG_0672IMG_0683IMG_0684IMG_0693IMG_0697IMG_0698IMG_0706IMG_0733IMG_0736IMG_0758 IMG_0818IMG_0843IMG_0872 Photo 2016-04-28, 7 37 33 PM Photo 2016-04-28, 7 45 23 PM Photo 2016-04-28, 7 51 51 PM Photo 2016-04-28, 8 06 12 PM Photo 2016-04-28, 8 33 54 PM Photo 2016-04-28, 8 34 59 PM

Here are all of the glyphs created during the battle:


Here are the fierce competitors who gave it their all:


And (drumroll please) here are the winners:

Team favourite / People's choice: Anna Balares

3rd place: Anthony Trask

2nd place: Bronwyn Cowan

1st place: Mark Serrano


We were also blessed with an outpouring of support from the community in the form of sponsorship and prizes. Above Ground was generous enough to donate all of these supplies for participants to use throughout the night:


And these were the amazing prize packs for the our contestants, including door prizes for everyone who participated:


A huge thank you to the following sponsors for their overwhelming support this year. Please show your love for these local suppliers and stop by their shops.


We look forward to seeing you all at next year's Type Attack!

Pixel and Bristle

Full_GIf Ligatures and the Toronto Design Directory are proud to present the first annual 'Pixel & Bristle', the premier design & typography market in Toronto. The event will be held on Saturday, June 25 from 10-6 at the Drake Underground (1150 Queen Street West). This new market will bring together the work of Toronto's most exceptional designers, illustrators, typographers and makers at one of Toronto's most exciting cultural hubs.

'Pixel & Bristle' will showcase a diverse range of professional goods and products, including:
-prints, cards, gifts, signage, coasters, wall art, mobiles, bags, banners, textiles, mugs, enamel pins, patches, buttons, stickers, objects ephemera and limited edition art
Admission is free; food, drinks and prizes available.
Applications are open until April 1. More information here.

Ligatures Toronto Brush Lettering Workshop Recap

Learning brush lettering in Toronto On the weekend of March 12, 2016, Ligatures gathered at Shopify in Toronto to share the basics of brush lettering to two groups of eager students. We were super excited to announce our newest instructor Veronica Wong, who joined Christopher and Kyle in teaching our weekend workshops.

Veronica Wong Teaching Brush Lettering

Christopher Rouleau Example Letters

Kyle Gallant Teaching Brush Lettering

Our lettering workshops cover everything you need to get started with brush lettering. Using our Ligatures lettering workbook, we helped students learn the most crucial brush form to practice in lettering: strokes! Once everyone was comfortable writing "rows of picket fences",  we dove into the uppercase brush lettering alphabet.

Students receive a selection of our favourite brush lettering instruments, along with tips and tricks on how to get the most of them. Students are encouraged to experiment as they work through the class, but favourites were quickly found.

After everyone recharged over a lunch break, we offered a primer on lower case alphabets and script lettering. Then, we put their new skill to the test. Students were tasked with crafting word marks for brands and match lettering styles. We are always impressed with the progress folks make from the morning to the end of the day.

Ligatures Brush lettering workbook and brush lettering in Toronto

Students learning brush lettering in toronto

Christopher teaching students about brush letter construction

Thank you to Margot for the amazing photos, and Leslie for her support and social media savvy.

If you're interested in learning Brush Lettering in Toronto or anywhere else, please contact us with specifics or sign up for one of our lettering workshops today.

Brush Lettering Practice