Confined by her process and imagination: Janna Barrett


1. Your name and title/business name? City, Country location?

My name is Janna Barrett. (But I always write it “janna barrett,” because I feel that capital letters are not fitting for my personality. What does that say about my perception of self, I wonder?) My city and country, haha … I realize this is unusual, but they change on a daily basis! I work on a cruise ship, doing the onboard print and production. When you initially requested I get in touch, I was in Gibraltar, a territory of the U.K. When you sent me your interview questions, I was in Casablanca, Morocco. I was in Lisbon, Portugal, when I began writing my response. Now that I’m finally able to finish, I’m in the Tyrrenhian Sea. Who knows where I will be when this publishes!

2. What’s your educational​ and professional​ background, i.e., college, professional school, high school, apprenticeship, etc.?

I have a formal design education consisting of a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design from Carson-Newman University, a Certificate in Digital Publishing from SCAD, and a Certificate in Typeface Design from Type@Paris. I’ve worked in publication design for 9 years now. Lettering is my most favorite hobby, and I’ve been fortunate to do a few freelance projects with it. Working with letters is absolutely what I am meant for.


3. Preferred tool(s) and medium?

My preferred tools are my Papermate Flair pens (preferably just black). I use Microns for fine lines and a Faber-Castell brush pen for fills. I pretty much only use pencil to sketch layout/composition ideas, and I prefer to go straight into pen once I’ve decided on a basic arrangement. I think it helps me to be more mindful and not rely on erasing. Plus, sometimes “mistakes” can be better than your original plan. At the least, they can force you to figure out creative workarounds.


4. Where or how do you “recharge your creative battery,” i.e., books, blogs, music, art, exercise, meditation, prayer, hobbies, interests, etc.?

The way I keep creative energy flowing is most definitely through exposure to new experiences. Most of that inspiration turns into ideas when I am in the gym and unable to do anything except be alone with my thoughts. I also write all the time–with this job I don’t get a lot of time to draw, but I always have a few minutes here and there to jot down a thought or a concept. Writing is actually my biggest form of creative expression lately, but I much prefer to draw words rather than write them.

Music is also a huge inspiration for me. In fact, most of my lettering work is lyrics—messages that I identify with or that I think people need to hear. I like hearing the way people put words together into lyrics. I think music is an interesting parallel to drawing a composition of words—songwriters have to figure out how to get a message across within the confines of rhythm and rhyme; we have to figure out how to get it across within the confines of a canvas and color palette. Constraints breed creativity.

I try to surround myself with excellent songwriters in the hopes that their way of wording things will influence me in my own writing and art. The writers I most admire are Simon & Garfunkel, Jim Morrison, Roger McGuinn, Bob Dylan, Lennon & McCartney, Josh Homme, and David Meads (a.k.a. Scroobious Pip). Lately I am also getting into Melanie Martinez who uses a lot of double meanings and interesting plays on words. I like music with a lot of layers to it—the kind you have to listen to intentionally because it’s a message waiting to be deciphered. 🙂


5. Tell us something about you that might surprise or delight us.

Something that might surprise you about me is that I collect vintage calendars. So far the collection is very small (two), because I only started last year. I have a weird obsession with the 1960s–music, design, pop culture, everything–and last year the calendars from the year 1960 matched up with the year 2016. So rather than a 2016 calendar, I bought a 1960 one on Etsy. My parents embrace (or maybe enable?) this nerdiness and gifted me with a 1961 calendar for Christmas last year, since it’s accurate for 2017. I take it with me all over the world. I plan to continue this collection for at least the whole 1960s decade.