Alex Savakis interviews AG’s Lettering Design Group, Part 5

Your name and title? Terri Long, Senior Lettering Designer


What’s your educational background, i.e., college, professional school, high school, apprenticeship, etc.? Associate Degree, Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Visual Communications major
Who or what inspired you to pursue calligraphy or hand lettering? The nuns in my catholic grade school; love of letters

Was lettering for a greeting card company a pursuit? Yes. When I divorced after 14 years of marriage, I went back to school —The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.  While attending AIP as a ‘non-traditional’ student in the late ‘80’s, my ultimate goal was getting into either Hallmark or American Greetings.

What was your job or career before you became a lettering artist for American Greetings? I did the payroll for a school district in Pennsylvania.

What’s your approach/process to creating a lettering design for a greeting card? Choosing a lettering style that can comfortably fit within the space allowed while conveying the feel of the editorial sentiment and/or art used.

Productivity: how many finished designs do you create per day/week/month/year? In the last three years alone, I’ve averaged 270 regular lettering jobs per year.  (That doesn’t include concepting, logos, and other projects that crop up from time to time)

Every member of the team has a signature style, how would you describe your style? How much latitude and range do you have? I have 4 popular looks used here at AG – trendy mono-weight, expressive ruling pen, brush script, and sophisticated pointed pen.

Preferred tool(s) and medium? micron pen, ruling pen, Pentel brush, Wacom tablet, Higgins Eternal


AG creates proprietary typefaces for use on its products. How many typefaces have you designed? Talk about the development of your favorite typeface(s). What’s your part during the typeface design process? What’s the timeframe to create a typeface? I’ve designed 3 typefaces so far here at AG, with 2 more in the works.
Development begins with large demand for my hand lettering style that makes it impossible for me to hand letter all the jobs that require it.
I supply scanned individual characters, as well as ligatures, and develop baseline placement for overall look.
Timeframe for my fonts in particular, has averaged at least 6 months to 1 1/2 years for studio-wide rollout. (My hand lettering that is needed for everyday production here, limits the amount of time I have available for font development.)

What other lettering and design opportunities are presented to you at American Greetings, i.e., signs, annual report, logos, etc.? I’ve done at least 10 logos in my time here, as well as designing signage for AG stores.

What keeps you going throughout the day, i.e. music, video, books on tape, silence, etc.? Sports talk radio (GO CAVS!) and music.

Where or how do you “recharge your creative battery,” i.e., books, blogs, music, art, exercise, mediation, prayer, hobbies, interests, etc.? Listening to heavy metal music (especially Queensryche), reading, sitting with a fresh cup of coffee and watching the birds visit my bird feeders

Do you create art outside of AG? If so what types of work? Have you exhibited, if so, where? My husband and I own a small business, Madison Design Studios, Inc., where we create etched glass pieces.  We’ve exhibited in a number of AG’s annual juried art shows; in AG’s WHQ gallery within the Creative Department; and have been featured in numerous Letter Arts Review Annual publications.

Who or what are your influences or muses? Gottfried Pott and Thomas Ingmire–I attended 2 workshops each at lettering conferences years ago and they made the greatest impressions on me when I was just beginning.

Anyone who truly excels in their craft…be it in art, music, sports, etc.

My husband Paul’s exceptional work in design and graphics.

Endless inspiration comes from fellow lettering team members and other artists here at AG.

How has the computer impacted your approach to calligraphy and hand lettering? Much more convenient and faster for me.  My original lettering doesn’t need to be as polished. It’s much easier for me to fine tune and scale digitally (and sometimes even create on the Wacom tablet) than on the board.

Any advice to young designs and illustrators coming into the job market who have an interest in lettering/calligraphy? If you truly love lettering and never tire of creating hand lettering and type layouts, that’s half the battle—follow your heart and go for it. As I was preparing my portfolio when graduating from the Art Institute, I incorporated hand lettering into my resume design. I was told to be careful not to limit myself too much to lettering. Many couldn’t imagine lettering all day—that it would become monotonous and boring. But I never saw it that way. What I really wanted to do more than anything else was to create lettering for a major greeting card company. It has all worked out rather well for me.


To view work of AG lettering designers please visit my photo album at

Thanks Terri!

To see more work by Terri and her husband and business partner, Paul, please visit their website, madison-design-studios[dot]com.


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