How to find your inner compass as a lettering artist?

What exactly is an inner compass?

For me, an inner compass is a set of principles to guide you through life and work, and to help you understand what things work and what things don’t work for you.

What does an inner compass look like, how does it show up?

An internal compass does not show up; it is a constant and ongoing self-reflective practice, combined with mapping, planning, analysing and re-evaluating what works for you. And this is constantly evolving overtime depending on your priorities and projects.

Why is it so important to find that inner compass as a lettering artist?

I feel like finding your internal compass can make you feel more in control; more aligned to yourself; more responsible for your decisions. It can help you by driving your lettering career instead of being reactive to it.

How would you recommend a lettering artist go about finding their inner compass?

Start by collecting data on yourself:

1. What are your motivations, cultural interests, emotions, triggers, behaviours and undesired behaviours?

Around the cultural topic, I very much recommend watching this panel discussion with Eric Hu, Hassan Rahim and Erik Brandt on the nature of design education.

2. Identify what is good and bad stress.

For me, good stress is when I feel challenged in a way I know is going to help me grow personally and/or professionally, like my Typism conference talk.

3. Writing as a therapeutic and introspective tool.

Some people will write a weekly or monthly summary. Other people would write quarterly. Personally, I started in 2015 with my bi-monthly email newsletters.

4. Learn about how you work in a personal, creative and financial way.

What is more important for you, and in which order if more than one?

5. Try, tweak, try again, define and re-define success.

A lot of things I thought I would love, after doing them I realise I don’t like them at all.

6. Identify your personal interests.

7. Find your role models.

Find people you admire not only for their work, but for their ideologies, work ethics or ways of living.

8. Find a mentor.

Ask for help from people you respect, and feel aligned with their thoughts.

9. Develop your emotional intelligence.

Why am I doing this? Because of fear?

10. Learn about financial literacy.

No matter if you are a freelance or not, you’ll be dealing with money, and the more you understand money and how the financial structures work, the more equipped you’ll be to make decisions in your career and personal life. I cannot recommend reading The Barefoot Investor enough, especially if you live in Australia.

What if I suffer from shiny object syndrome? What if I can’t decide which creative direction to head in?

I identify two types of shiny object syndrome: The first one sits within the visual communication field; and the second one crosses disciplines.


Paraphrasing Jaimey Shapey “my best advice for design students is to start taking care of yourselves now: Force yourself into healthy habits because many design workplaces are toxic, and you’ll need a strong sense of personal care to stay sane”.


The Emotional Culture Deck by Raiders and Elephants;



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Maria Montes

Maria Montes

Barcelona born, Naarm based independent lettering designer and illustrator specialised in branding assets and calligraphy education.