Joel Holland is a former point guard and current amateur pizza maker based in the East Village of New York. He is also an illustrator/hand-letterer whose clients include The New York Times, Penguin Books, TIME, Pentagram UK, Weiden + Kennedy and many more. His work has appeared on billboards, t-shirts, lampshades, a teepee and model’s butt. In addition, he occasionally works as a masked model for random book jackets…Altpick Connects had the pleasure of talking with Joel about his favorite art form…
Altpick Connects: One of my favorite art forms is calligraphy and lettering. Tell us a little about why you do this for a living.
Joel Holland: Me too!!! I love that it’s style and concept based at the same time. There’s a lot of freedom and pressure to push yourself to reinvent. I started working on book jackets so my work is rooted in connecting the way it looks to the content. It’s just what I feel most happy doing. In addition to hanging with my family, making pizza and playing basketball…
AC: Does a letterer need to also be a designer?
JH: Nope, but it helps most of the time. Sometimes it’s good to not know what you’re doing or what you’re supposed to do and just see what comes of it. But overall, as a business, yes it helps pay the bills and saves a ton of time to know the rules and lingo. I went to Towson University where for two and half years I was a business major and then switched to ‘visual communication’. Although not a proper art school the program was diverse and taught printmaking to photography to design, etc, which helped me a lot. I also had a few great professors that helped along the way.
AC: Who are some of your favorite contemporaries in lettering? Who were your original mentors?
JH: I like everything House Industries puts out. They have an amazing way of seeming untucked and tucked in at the same time. Paul Bacon’s work and Ed Gorey’s work for Anchor are up there as my biggest inspirations in the design field. Otherwise, like everyone else, I love hand painted signage in all formats. That’s skill set I’ll always aspire to. Honest, ego-free, focused, fun.
AC: You have worked on editorial, book, and advertising projects. Which is your favorite type of assignment?
JH: I love working on challenging gigs with energetic/smart people. I’m lucky enough to have a variety of projects that keep me fresh for each one. Earlier this week I was writing on talk bubbles for a photo shoot, then came home and worked on hand lettering for Mariano Rivera’s autobiography.
Honestly though, there are great things about each kind of job. I love the restraints of a half page illo for a magazine and the freedom of coming up with ideas for a book jacket.
AC: Where do you live and why?
JH: I live in the East Village neighborhood in New York City on the SAME block as the great Katherine Streeter! I’ve been in NYC for about 15 years, most of it was in Brooklyn. Moving into the city was exciting and is a big switch from what I realize now was a calmer borough. I love the energy and the accessibility here. I can walk my dog into a nearby store and get food for my daughter. Not so bad.