RECAP: Workshop with Nathan Yoder

Nathan Yoder

Nathan Yoder grew up in Oklahoma with creative parents who supported his love of design from an early age.  He started screen printing in middle school, and eventually taught himself how to use design programs. He then freelanced his way through high school, creating logos for $30.

After graduating college with a degree in graphic design, he began his career at a branding agency in Oklahoma. During his work meetings, he would doodle about everyday things, and started posting his doodles on Instagram. Eventually his work got noticed by an agency on the west coast, so he took a chance, and moved to California to work as a designer. It wasn't long afterwards that he came north and made Portland his home.

Nathan continues to create unreal pen and ink illustrations and gorgeous hand-lettering within his own roving design studio, Yondr. He predominantly uses fine-tip sharpies or pens that are permanent when sketching, which is totally terrifying to most designers. We’ll explore this method a bit more later. 

In his workshop, Nathan focused on the transition from human > artist > designer > robot. Obviously, no one wants to end up in the last section of that transition, so it’s important to understand that there should be always be a human element at the base of all design. 

"We need to recognize the human base formula we all already have in our brains, and build from there...Bring your human emotions, fears and doubts into your art and build on it, and use any particular order or method that you prefer." 

One question Nathan often hears is, "How do I find my voice or style in lettering?”  He implores us to never start with this question. Becoming a great designer isn't a goal, it's the action of doing. No one should tell a designer how to make art, we should just assist them in their own original creative way. With respect to lettering, there are many different ways to approach this art, and there is no right way to do it. 

And now we’re back to Nathan sketching with sharpies. By doing this, he is forced to focus on the act of creating instead of where the sketch should go. His entire creative process is about experimenting; let the mistakes happen and see where they take you. If his work is any consolation of this practice, then we should all take a cue from Nathan; chill out and let the human and artist drive before we turn into designers. 

Want to see more photos from the Workshop? Check out the WeMake Flickr page for the full photo recap. 

Special thanks to Scoutbooks and West Coast Paper for their generous contributions to the workshop, and for their continued creative support and collaboration.

Photography: Susie Lee Morris