Every time I go to sign my name with an ink pen, I am conscious that it will look terrible. I am out of practice; it is so rare I have to sign things in ink anymore. It’s even more rare that I have to write multiple words out in longhand.
If I have thank you notes to write, or postcards, I will write a draft out on on a sketchbook page, possibly multiple times. I want to get my words just right, and make sure they will fit the card’s dimensions in my handwriting. Then I copy the words onto the card with Zen-like concentration. The slightest distraction means leaving words out or “misscripting” the cursive–starting to draw one letter when I need another letter that probably looks nothing like the one I’ve just written. Or, giving my “n” or “m” too many humps. Forgetting that connected “r” or “i” after a “b’. Remembering what capital “Q” and “Z” are supposed look like. Needing a lower case “q” and accidentally drawing a” y” or “g” or “d”. !#$%&. That’s why they call it cursive. Thankfully, thank you cards come 8-12 to a pack.
So I was fascinated by a recent story about handwritten text messages. Designer Cristina Varenko received a calligraphy pen that had once belonged to a relative. She confides she felt chosen by this pen and it inspired her to create her own handwritten script typeface. She vowed that, for a week, she would only respond to text messages by handwriting her responses. She would write them on paper, take a photo of that paper, and upload that photo to her messaging window. The results of the experiment went viral.
Though we all receive the same instruction about how letters are formed, our script is very unique, more unique than handwritten print. As one of Varenko’s contacts responded, “It’s like you are here!” Her script had a visual “voice”–it reflected her personality, and the style and manner of how she expresses herself in person with her actual audible voice. That’s pretty remarkable.
To be fair, Varenko isn’t the only one to bring an analog style into a digital platform. Leah Dietrich‘s blog and twitter feature photos of thank you notes Dietrich writes to show gratitude for life’s great and not so great things.
Chef Alton Brown has responded to direct messages on twitter from fans, via Post-It Note and Sharpie marker, for over a year now. Brown’s voice on paper seems to be more pictures than words, but that’s really not surprising if you know his background: he was a filmmaker before he was a chef. While he can tell you, he would rather show you.
So I’m curious:
Could you handwrite & photo your text responses for a week?
Would you learn calligraphy, cursive or other hand-lettering art forms if your school curriculum didn’t require it? And by the way, many US public schools don’t cover cursive anymore.
Would you attempt analog communication styles (letters, postcards) if it was your choice, not circumstances?
Would you ever think of designing your own handwritten typeface? What would it look like? Would you design more than one?
FOLLOWUP: The day after I originally posted this, October 16, 2013 to be exact, #PSAT was trending on twitter. [It was one of those rare moments I could relate to people half my age! Haha.] Anyway, part of the test involved writing in cursive this year. Based on the comments on twitter, a lot of kids were positively stumped about how to do that. Interesting coincidence.