5 Questions, 1 Designer: Em Williams

As part of our new series, we are conversing with creatives from different disciplines, getting to know more about them and their work. This week, we had the chance to meet Em, a British sign painter and artist.

Em Williams is a British sign painter and artist specialising in hand-painted lettering, reverse glass signs and gilding (which is a fancy word for applying gold leaf, which looks similarly fancy). She combines traditional methods of painting by hand and various gilding techniques (water, oil and gesso) with the highest quality materials, to produce beautiful handcrafted typographic signs. Em not only paints but also holds a Masters’ degree in Typeface Design and has over ten years of experience working commercially as a Brand, Print, Graphic and Typeface Designer ( studioaves.com ). The love for, and use of type and typography has always been at the forefront of her work — only now it’s applied with paint, gold leaf, and precious materials like mother of pearl, making it even more of a joy.

She has also set up ‘Post Quarantine‘ ; an invitation to write to your future self with Nikky Lyle (creative recruiter), and Claire Medcalf (copywriter) not only as a creative task to do while in lockdown, but as a way of capturing how we’re feeling through this strange, separate yet shared, experience.

Post Quarantine – letters to open when this is all over
An invitation to write to your future self – take time out, reflect on how you’re feeling right now, and look forward to better days beyond COVID-19. It’s open to everyone, a chance to get creative and  feature in an exhibition in the near future. Find more on https://www.instagram.com/_postquarantine/

How do you define your work?

My lettering style is simultaneously classic and cutting-edge, honouring a traditional craft with modern interpretations that embrace the sensitivity of handmade heirlooms. Whether it’s with text, single words, letters or numbers, immortalising treasured memories with precious materials is a privilege.

Where/ how/ who do you get inspiration from?

For colour, it’s everywhere outside, and for type/typography, I draw inspiration from old specimens and 18th-century theatre posters where type on its own was used in an informative manner. By the Victorian era, printers were experimenting with different fonts and type sizes to make them more engaging, and glass artists were producing elaborate signs that incorporated painted lettering with the addition of gold leaf — for me, it’s about combining these two — the no-nonsense design with the captivating finish that gold embodies.

Best career decision you have made to-date?

Best career decision was sticking to my guns from as early as art college, being told by a tutor there’d be no point pursuing that school or direction. This happened again at University. Both times I chose not to take their advice and continued with the work I wanted to do. And I’m happy with that.

If you could have done something differently in your career to date, what would it be?

I do wish I’d made the time to pick up a paintbrush sooner but can’t change that now. And wish that I fought less with my inner-critic. It’s a constant battle, and either my determination or looming deadline sees me through each and every time.

Any advice for young designers / creatives?

I’d say work hard, be keen and always honest. Follow-up on connections, stay-in-touch, ask questions and say thank you. Understand the ‘business’ side early on, whether your self- employed or not, and stay organised and know your worth.

Find more about Em’s work here:


Instagram @lettersbyem.studio

If you would like to share your work with us as well, drop us a line!