Nathan Yoder

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

Experiencing The Process

Grit, imperfections, and grease beneath the nails. It's the kind of image you might get of a blue collar factory worker leaving home for a day on the job, and it's those same images that inspire the work of Nathan Yoder. As a kid growing up in rural Oklahoma, and at times often resenting the fact, Nathan discovered it was these familiar ties that his work commonly pays homage to.

“ I respect so much of it. My father, raising us in the way he did. It didn't matter if the job was glamorous. He was going to do what he needed to do to provide. Work is work.”

It’s with this reasoning that he gets the same satisfaction in designing a logo for a plumber or a logo for a top celebrity.  I found his honesty sincere, and so refreshing.

Having been in Portland less than a year, Nathan is quickly becoming settled into the folds of the community. He’s a full-time freelancer who has worked for an array of clients including Nike, Element, and Leo Burnett to name a few. We talked about his work, his move, and some of his other passions—drumming, his motorcycle, and jazz.

“I’ve been on a jazz kick for the last year, I’m not a jazz drummer but I feel like if I put my work to music, jazz kind of captures it. It’s spontaneous and moves in and out, it’s got the melody here and there but goes on these tangents and then comes back.”  

We also talked about the imperfect, and experiencing the process as a designer. With his roots in design, his style has evolved and grown and the work is a combination of design, illustration, and lettering. He embraces the imperfections in each area of his craft, and though he has used many tools of the trade his old faithful is an extra fine Sharpie in black.

“There’s something about when you have a brand new Sharpie. It bleeds a lot, there's a lot of variation and line weight that you can get. One pen will last me through a whole piece. Right now I have three Sharpies I’m using, one is brand new, one is almost out, and one is almost dead.”

Another thing about Sharpies is that they are unpredictable. Nathan finds satisfaction in this. Discovering his way through the process the handy work surfaces—along with a bit of grit and grease here and there.


Please join us for a night of inspiration and making.

In this workshop, Nathan will not only show his creative process but also share insights on the art of hand lettering, with step-by-step guides. Participants will illustrate in multiple forms and walk away with new tricks of the trade for their personal toolbox, plus a few other goodies!
Snacks and cost of materials included.

DATE: Friday, February 6th

PLACE: Tillamook Station

665 N Tillamook Street, 97227

TIME: 6:00pm- 9:00pm

COST: $20

Space is limited.

Nathan Yoder is an illustrator and designer specializing in pen and ink illustration, hand lettering, and branding. His personal style is often reminiscent of the Americana era.