The Skateboarding Alphabet

Interview with designer George Boutall.

How was the idea for this project born?

I had been wanting to create an alphabet dedicated to skateboarding for some time, as a sort of recognition for all that skateboarding has “given” us over the years. 36daysoftype is an Instagram initiative dedicated to drawing alphabets, and it seemed to me like the perfect moment to create the alphabet that had been floating around in my mind for a while. So I brought in Alberto Chimenti of The Good Life Studio, who really knows the deal when it comes to skateboarding, so we took off from there!

For the selection of photos to work on did you start from images that you liked or did you give precedence to their adaptability to lettering?

Even before selecting the images we had to couple every letter of the alphabet to a certain trick. For some letters, like the “A” for example, we didn’t have many alternatives so we chose “Air,” while for other letters, such as the “B” we had to choose between “Boardslide,” “Backside air,” or “Bigspin,” and we always used tricks that are important to the history of skateboarding. Once we chose a trick, we tried to figure out who did that trick better or what version of the trick was more “legendary.” For the boardslide, I grew up watching videos of Steve Caballero boardsliding longer and longer rails, so our choice fell upon him. Then, we found a photo of the selected skater doing that trick and we adapted the lettering to the photo.

How long have you been into lettering and what do you take care of usually?

I studied graphic design and in 2007 I spent the year in Finland, where they have a much more “hand-made” approach to graphic design, and there I discovered that you do not need a computer to draw fonts and types, to the contrary, by drawing them by hand they come out more natural and “authentic.” So I eventually fell in love with lettering, strictly hand-made of course, and when I opened my studio called Evergreen design house, we were among the first to offer this hand-made style, which nowadays has become much more common. At Evergreen we take care of everything that is visual, which obviously means lettering and graphic illustration, but now above all we take care of branding, publishing, and web design, and together with The Good Life Studio we also take care of video production and animation.

What were the main problems you had to face?

Let’s say that the only real problem was trying to find the photos online that we had in mind. For example, one of us wanted to use a certain kickflip of such and such a skater that he had seen on Thrasher mag, but we couldn’t find it anywhere online so we had to choose another photo.

What techniques did you adopt while developing the project?

The letters are all hand-drawn with Indian ink over a penciled sketch of the letter with the skater, we then scanned and colored them digitally and finalized them using photoshop.

Was it just you two guys who worked on it or were other Good Life Studio members involved?

Actually six hands were involved in the making: the photo and trick selection was done by Alberto Chimenti, I took care of the creative side of it, while the drawings were done by our super illustrator Diego Marmi.

Which is your favorite letter and why?

It’s difficult to choose only one… For sure the “A” is one of the more important ones because it gave birth to it all. Tony Alva’s photo is truly a classic and we like how the letter becomes the transition for the trick. Also, the “H” is fantastic because the trick ties in perfectly with the shape of the letter, and being able to use the Gonz was exciting. Alberto’s favorite letter is surely the “V” because he was able to combine his passion for filming with the VX1000.

What feedback did you receive and are there any developments tied to this or other particular projects at the moment?

We were amazed by the positive response we received from the skate community in general, but the biggest satisfaction was receiving feedback from the very skaters we depicted. Receiving compliments from Jamie Thomas for example was really epic!

Thanks to all the positive feedback and the many requests we have received, we have decided to print a series of silkscreen posters with the whole alphabet, stay tuned!


The Skateboarding Alphabet Poster hand drawn by Evergreen Design House, silkscreen printed by Sericraft is available here.