Gemma O’Brien is a Sydney-based typographer, hand-letterer and illustrator. A stint learning letterpress in university sparked a fervent obsession with typography, and the creation of her blog For the Love of Type. At 21 she produced an experimental video, in which she inscribed her body with hand lettering that caught the attention of Font Shop’s Jurgen Siebert and earned her an invitation to speak at Germany’s 2009 Typo Berlin design conference.
Since then she’s been sprucing up words in pen, ink and vector for clients including Woolworths, Vodafone, Smirnoff, Canon, and The New York Times. Gemma has also worked in art direction at Animal Logic, Fuel VFX and Toby & Pete. Career highlights include directing a new title sequence for Australia’s longest standing children’s show Play School, creating a strawberries-and-cream scented typography piece for Woolworths’ Christmas campaign and having her Taronga Zoo lettering displayed for 400km on the travelling crate of Kitoto the Giraffe.
More recently, Gemma has presented at creative conferences in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. Gemma’s unbridled enthusiasm for type and its potential is expressed through her ongoing experiments with hand lettering, endeavours to develop a commercial font and contemplations of type from a cultural point of view.
In her spare time she runs typography workshops in locations around Australia and talks at design festivals on a global stage including the Berlin Design Conference.
Gemma’s lettering and typography draws on what is obviously a deeper knowledge of the history of design, and the evidence can be seen in her figures that show the influence of hand crafted symbols from both Asian and European contexts of design, from drafting and calligraphy.