The Little Interview

Cristina Vanko Is (Sort of) an Adult

Chicago's hand-lettering expert wants to help track your progress as an adult.

Named after Margaret Anderson’s literary magazine founded in Chicago in 1914, The Little Interview asks Chicago poets and writers about their reading, writing, and relationship with Chicago.

Cristina Vanko is a Chicago-based author, art director, hand-letterer, and illustrator. Her books Hand-Lettering for Everyone and Adult-ish were both published by Penguin Random House, and she’s a very active freelancer. Adult-ish is her illustrated, hand-lettered guide to becoming an adult, “a charming and cheeky celebration of what it means to finally be a grown-up (sort of).” To see Vanko’s artwork, click here.

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How did you wind up in Chicago?

I grew up in the suburbs, so Chicago has always been on my list of cities to live in after graduation. I moved to Indianapolis for my first job, but I met my advertising copywriter partner-in-crime a few months later while we were interviewing to work at a Portland based ad agency. We came back to the Midwest eager to create side projects together as an art and copy pair, so the move to Chicago to work together at an agency was natural so we could keep creating.

What are you reading right now?

I’m in the middle of #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso and I just started Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.

Of all the books you could have written/designed, how and why did you settle on this one?

The mid twenties hit my friend group, and I got so tired of everyone complaining about getting older and not hitting their age-related “milestones” that society pressures us to complete. I had to be that friend constantly reminding everyone we’re not that old and our life spans are getting longer. Instead of dwelling on our wrinkles and problems, I chose to commemorate and celebrate adult-like moments both big and small. We’re all aging, so we might as well embrace this rollercoaster called adulthood. So creating Adult-ish made growing up a little bit easier for me.

What is your favorite book about (or set in) Chicago?

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. I’ve always enjoyed Chris Ware’s draftsmanship, eye for design, and all the empathy that he pours into his characters. So, Chris Ware’s depiction of Chicago during the World’s Fair truly mesmerized me as the story flashes back between the present day and the 1890s. I always enjoy how Ware’s work has so many layers. I’m always discovering something new visually or contextually every time I reread.

What under-appreciated Chicago-based writer, designer, illustrator, or artist (past or present) do you wish everyone would read?

Armand Baltazar! His book Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic is absolutely incredible and full of imagination.

Where do you usually write / design / work? Do you have any favorite public writing spaces in Chicago?

I tend to be the most energized in coffee shops — not only because of the coffee; but also, I love the buzz of other people working, coming, and going. Some of my favorites include Wormhole, Intelligentsia in Logan Square, Gaslight Coffee Roasters, Ipsento 606, and Star Lounge.

What forthcoming books from Chicago-based writers are you excited about?

I’m really excited about The Comedown by Rebekah Frumkin!

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