Tom Ad (a.k.a Dess) – Hand Lettering Interview

Dess hand lettering interview - Lettering Daily -min

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I’ve had the pleasure to have a quick chat with Tom Ad, (also known as Dess)  a lettering artist based in France with quite an intriguing and unique artistic style!

Needless to say, I was instantly hooked by the amount of amazing and unique artwork that Dess has been putting out on his Instagram profile.

Another very cool feature that caught my eye was the gradient changing color effect that Dess has been carefully curating on his profile (definitely check it out!)

Enjoy the interview!

1) Thanks for joining us for the interview! Feel free to introduce yourself to the community.


My name is Tom Ad but I prefer to hide behind my pseudo “Dess” (laughs).

Well.. What could I tell you to briefly introduce myself?

I live nearby Paris and studied graphic design for years, going from web design to motion design.

I recently found that, when I was a child, I couldn’t stop drawing letters (see below the old sketches I found at my parent’s)

If I had to define what I do, I think I’d say, at the moment, I’m a graphic lettering maker.

Dess hand lettering interview - Lettering Daily -min

2) How did it all start? When and why did you get into lettering? 

How did it all start? I guess I got the lettering fever as soon as I learned to hold a pencil and got to write properly (laughs).

When I was about 10 years old, I used to draw my friendsnames on a piece of paper, and give them the result as tiny gifts.

A few years later, I figured out there was a specific word to define what kind of drawings: graffiti. An epiphany!

Dess hand lettering interview - Lettering Daily -min

The problem is,

in France, graffiti had a very bad reputation: the concept and the word itself is misconceived. It was exhausting to fight against prejudice regarding that practice…

Step by step, I withdrew from graffiti for another very specific technique: dotwork (see photos)

With dotwork, I continued working with letters, and I felt anew, free to show and introduce my work to people again.

In my opinion, graphic design is a way to express yourself, and show what (and who) you are. That’s why I never stop to work with letters all theses years.

Dess hand lettering interview - Lettering Daily -min

3) Based onyourinstagram feed, we can see that you are really into creative lettering (tweaking shapes, perspectives etc.) Where do you get your inspiration from? What does your creative process look like?

Hmm. Good question 😀

I think curiosity is the best way to stay creative and improve your skills. You need to be open-minded, be aware of what is.

So if I have to answer about where I get my inspiration from, I guess I’d say I get it from everywhere I see. Series, design, books, food, people, stylism, clouds, news, artists, architecture, everything.

Letters are just a pretext to give sense to shapes you are putting together.

I don’t have a specific process. Sometimes it all starts with a graphic technique I want to explore. Sometimes the quote I want to illustrate is really inspiring. But every time I start with a rough sketch.

Dess hand lettering interview - Lettering Daily -min

4) You are really enjoying creating your work in Procreate with your iPad Pro, what about the traditional methods of lettering, what are some of your favorite lettering tools?

Pen  and paper! Definitely. I work on iPad since august 2017. So that’s kinda new for me to digitize my process. The sensations on iPad with an Apple Pen are really close to the real sketching. It sometimes happens that I start drawing on paper with brushes, inks and other stuffs but I admit it’s very rare now.

Dess hand lettering interview - Lettering Daily -min

5) What are your thoughts on making a living as a hand lettering/ calligraphy artist? Is it possible? What are your experiences with this?

I think it’s the secret dream of everyone (laughs). Some cultures are more likely than others to work with lettering artists.

Today, I can’t say I make a decent living with my work.

But I hope one day I will, here in France or elsewhere. In fact, you can use Lettering on every medium where you can applyGraphism : books, visual identities, CD covers, event displays, or anything else.

Even in animation like in movie credits, web ads, video mapping, etc.

Dess hand lettering interview - Lettering Daily -min

6) Books are amazing for learning hand lettering and calligraphy. Would you be able to recommend some of your favorites?

I don’t have any book about learning hand lettering, but I do have books to inspire me:

Dess hand lettering interview - Lettering Daily -min

7) We all have some favorite artists that inspire us, who are your favorites? Who inspires you?

The main artists who inspire me are not lettering artists. There is “Pejac”, I love the sensibility he puts into his art and what he denounces.

I admire street artists like Shepard Fairey or “Banksy”, and all the artists who are using their creativity to show their opinions to the world.

I really appreciate Tristan Eaton for the composition of many graphic elements, or “Glossblack” for the fresh creativity he has in designing letters.

And I can also mention Pichiavo cause I love the mix of their styles.

Dess hand lettering interview - Lettering Daily -min

8) We see very often beginners being more worried about their exposure onsocial media e.i Instagram and the engagement they get, rather than their lettering game. What are your thoughts on this whole situation?

That’s a real problem. To me, if you’re only preoccupied by what people think about your work even before being creative, it’s pointless.

I’ve been working for a few years now, alone, for my own pleasure. It seems to be, for me, the best way to improve what I can do and find my own style, knowing who I am and what motivates me, in order to evolve.

Dess hand lettering interview - Lettering Daily -min

9) Where do you see yourself and your lettering 5 years from today? Also, what sort of techniques would you like to learn?

Like I said earlier, I wish I can keep evolving, constantly.

I’d like to find an artistic agent to get bigger opportunities, and work with famous brands, go on and surround myself with creative people (thanks Instagram for that), and maybe organize workshops to share my experience with iPad Pro and Procreate.

About the sort of techniques, I’d like to learn, I think it’s more a question of time and the fact I would spend more time on personal 3D projects because there is a lot to do.

Eventually, mix skills and develop something new.

be sure to check out Tom’s other online platforms !

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