8 July 2008
Hit pause for a moment and consider how greatly we – people in the digital age – are indebted to typographers. Almost all of our visual communication is delivered using the products of their craft: newspapers, SMSes, instant messages, emails, web pages, signs, posters, billboards; the list of purposes is endless.
In these days where looping strokes have been replaced by keyboard clickety-clack, typographers define the style and tone of our missives. Would you like to be elegant, modern, childish or ... disturbed? Then you can choose between Garamond, Montag, Comic Sans, Zebraflesh, and a thousand more.
There's great power in a typeface, but what's always interested me more than the typeface is the designer behind it – why did they create the typeface? Where did their inspiration come from? How did they start?
Lately, I've been asking just one question, though. Something which has always intrigued me: these people that help us communicate ... how do they themselves communicate? If we strip away the monitors, and the printing presses, and the typefaces ... how would William Caslon have written on a post-it note?
The handwriting of typographers intrigues me because it raises so many questions, big and small: Do typographers exert some extraordinary control of the pen that laypersons don't? Does a typographer's handwriting influence the typefaces they produce? Has the rise of digital communications made handwriting redundant? Do modern typographers, born of digital tools, lack the finesse of their more wizened counterparts? If so, does that change the way their type is designed?
And then, there's just something strangely ... meta ... about looking at the handwriting of people who work with type.
So, to satisfy my own curiosity I asked a number of prominent typographers to send me a scan of their handwriting. This article is the result.
Many thanks to Marian Bantjes, Veronika Burian, Nikola Djurek, Sebastian Lester, Eduardo Manso, Dino dos Santos, Mark Simonson, Goran Soderstrom, Kris Sowersby and Erik Spiekermann for contributing their time to this endeavour.
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