Dante's «Inferno» | Skillshare Projects

Anton Shhlyonkin

Graphic designer



Dante's «Inferno»

*note - english is not my first language, so sorry for mistakes. I'll try to write in short sentences so it could be easier to read.

Added one more letter, please, see below

Here's some final results at the moment. Please, see the rest of the story below


Dante's «inferno» («The Divine Comedy») is my choice for this project. That's the book i'm reading right now. And it's one of not so many poetry books i really like too. 

As you know, there are three parts - hell, purgatory and heaven. I chose the first part - the hell, or inferno. But i don't feel like drawing some demons with pointy tails and stuff, so i want to focus on the metaphorical meaning of the poem. Something about protagonist's fears and ideals and his spiritual growth.


I chose the last letter of the title "inferno" - letter O. "O" is also a circular form, that complements the overall idea of the poem. And, well, "circles of hell" a circular too.

I will not post keywords, because they are not in english anyway :).

I made some sketches and chose this idea:

Idea overview

Well, less ls more, but the book itself is very deep and rather complicated, so there is much going on in my letterform too. And it needs some explanations, i think.

The book was wrote by Dante Alighieri between c. 1308 and his death in 1321, so i decided to use some medieval symbolism. The main part of this letterform is the three beasts: lion, wolf and lynx (or leopard). And this three beasts represent three types of sin: the self-indulgent, the violent, and the malicious. These three types of sin also provide the three main divisions of Dante's Hell: Upper Hell, outside the city of Dis, for the four sins of indulgence, Circle 7 for the sins of violence; and Circles 8 and 9 for the sins of malice. And this beasts is the first thing protagonist faces in this poem, and they are, metaphorically, the reason for the entire book.

So you can say this three beasts represent all the content of this book in compressed form.

Second thing we have in this sketch is snake scales. First idea was to make beast jumping out of each other jaws, but it looked too surreal (in style of surrealism) which was not a thing i wanted. So i decided to use some Bible motives instead - the snake, the reason of the first sin.

The circular for of the letter itself is also reminds me about Ouroboros, the serpent eating his own tale. It often symbolize self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself. Like one sin is leading to another and so on. It also connects all three beast among each other. So i decided it may be a good idea.

The third thing is all about number 3. Poem consists of 3 parts, every part consists of 3 parts, every verse consists of 3 lines. Protagonist is 33 years old. Live circle consists of 3 parts - youth, maturity and elderly. Father, son, and the holy spirit - also 3. And so on.


In terms of style i chose to use some medieval-like forms but with a little bit of modern details. I wanted to do it in vector first, but it looked too polished for a medieval-styled image. First - a rough sketch:

(There were tails in the center at first). Then i cleared it a little:

And the final outline:

Some coloring after that:

Then i added some little details like scars and saliva drops:

So, here is the process overview in one image:

Then i typed author's name in Trojan Pro, cause... Rome, Italy.. Well, you know.

But it also looked too polished. So i decided to write the name with a flat pen and black ink:

Final look

Here's the letter itself:

I added a little bit of white "light" to the borders, so it won't look so "cut out".

And the cover:

Then i added some ink splashes on the back for no actual reason, really :). I think it looks a little bit more interesting in counter form this way and complements the graphic:

Cover with varnish finishing (the "ink" on the back in this case is not "varnished", so it will be more like a background than actual part of the letterform):

So, in the end i think it came out too illustrative for a lettering project, but for the first attempt i kind of like it.

Two colored version

My second thought was - it would be nice to still have more lesson-related two colored version. So i did one:

It's more classic, i think. Something more engrave-ish looking. It's kind of hard in graphic, so here i went with the classic title in Trojan Pro:

Second letter

Then i though - still would be nice tom make a letter that looks like... well, like a letter. Because "O" still looks like an illustration with circular motive.


This idea is pretty simple - hands of sinners, trying to break out of hell.

Book concept

Though it's another letter, i though it would be nice to incorporate it into the same book somehow. So here's my idea - i chose letter "A" like a metaphor of alfa and omega. So i'll use it backwards (because it's hell) - "O" on the front cover and "A" on the back.


I made pretty simple classic "A" for a start.

Added some depth.

Started drawing hands. About hands style - my idea was to express some "unnatural" dramatical posing like in early italian paintings. I kind of don't like nowadays modern zombie aesthetics for this project.

Some more hands :).

Added some details - and here's the final letterform. Overall counter form is star-shaped, because Lucifer is also known as "morning star". It also reminds me about classic spiritual symbol - pentagram.

Back cover

Front cover was white, so i made the back black. It made me to change the letterform a little too.

Both covers.

Thank you for watching and reading! Thank you Jessica for the great class! It was so much fun!

* note: If you like this project, please take a look at my other lettering attempt - tarot deck made entirely of custom letters. I would really-really appreciate that: 



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