Designer and Hand-Letterer Christine Herrin Is Making Life Documentation Cool Again

Designer and Hand-Letterer Christine Herrin Is Making Life Documentation Cool Again

By Libby Nicholaou

We all knew a “Christine” in school—the fellow student with the perfect handwriting, artfully decorated day planner, and impressive locker décor. It just so happens that when one is an adult, those skills translate to a healthy obsession with stories, paper, print, and (wait for it) scrapbooking, but not the type of scrapbooking you’re picturing. 

Graphic designer and hand-letterer Christine Herrin—recently named one of Adobe’s four 2016–2017 Creative Residents—always enjoyed “writing things out,” but her love for type and hand-lettering came to the fore in graduate school when a professor pointed out that letters are never exactly the same when you write them out by hand. Since then, having a handwritten element in her designs has become her thing. “It makes designs feel warmer and more human,” she says. 

Her love for documenting her travels and sharing her experiences has also been central to her work as a designer, especially in the line of products she’s been creating for the past few years. She explains, “I can probably trace this back to the fact that I was a history major, and I’ve always been fascinated with stories from the past that explain why things are the way they are today. Every new destination means new graphic elements, new colors, and new ways of doing things.”

Christine Herrin’s Everyday Explorers Travel Binder Kit

Herrin’s Everyday Explorers Travel Binder Kit, for sale via her online shop.


As part of her life documentation, Herrin is also into scrapbooking, although we’re not talking about an arts-and-crafts hour from yesteryear. She says, “A lot of today’s scrapbooking materials have adopted trends from the stationery industry—graphic shapes, modern fonts, even the use of icons and grids. Instead of the big, blank scrapbooks you may be used to, there are many different ways to document life now.” 

A few years ago, former lifestyle magazine editor and scrapbooker Becky Higgins started a system called Project Life. Her idea was to simplify the process of documenting, replacing the daunting task of filling up a blank page with a system where you fill photo pocket pages with photos, memorabilia, and pre-designed cards (some of which Herrin designed). “The pages sort of look like the ones baseball card collectors use,” says Herrin. The result is a modern grid of moments that you can hold and share with others in person, something the digital documentation of our lives can’t compare with.

This is a short video about Christine Herrin.

Click on the image above to watch a short video about Herrin.

Herrin recently landed a spot with the 2016–2017 Adobe Creative Residency, granting her a full, distraction-free year to create a line of products meant to inspire others to document their lives in creative, meaningful ways. During the residency, she’ll be using art supplies, Fujifilm Instax and iPhone cameras, and Adobe Creative Cloud tools to turn her analog hand-lettering into digital and printed products. 

“I have a background in publishing,” she notes, “so I’m already familiar with the physical, print side of design. But I want to get better at all things digital: animation, UI/UX, designing for web and mobile.” Instead of working on the desktop programs she’s used to, Herrin will be challenging herself to work on a tablet and with mobile apps so she can improve, sharing her experience along the way so others can learn with her in tandem. “I know it’s the only way I’ll get better,” she adds. 

Herrin experiments with Project Life products
Some of Herrin’s handlettering

Herrin experiments with Project Life products (left). Some of Herrin’s hand-lettering (right).

In addition to pushing her own limits, Herrin will invite the community to take part in her project through Instagram challenges focused on using images, words, and illustrations to explore new places and chronicle life’s most interesting moments.

One of Herrin’s projects explores San Francisco neighborhoods by way of their cafes.

One of Herrin’s projects explores San Francisco neighborhoods by way of their cafés.


I asked Herrin what she wants other creatives to take away from her work. “I’d love for them to be reminded to infuse themselves into their work. It makes creating so much more fulfilling and fun,” she says. Herrin once heard writer Elizabeth Gilbert say something that really resonated with her. “She said we must trust our curiosities even if they don’t make sense right now. It was like she was giving me permission to trust the fact that I’m interested in the things I’m interested in for a reason, and that my passion for mixing design, hand-lettering, and scrapbooking is something I can build upon, even if it’s a little unconventional—maybe even a little uncool.” 

The Adobe Creative Residency empowers talented individuals to spend a year focusing on a passion project, while sharing their experiences and processes with the creative community. Visit our Creative Residency page for updates on Christine Herrin’s work and to learn about the other 2016–2017 Residents. 

May 12, 2016

Video: Summer Wilson

Photos: Sarah Deragon, Portraits to the People