Do typedesigners with bad handwriting exist?

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  • The most interesting observation from this discussion to me is the fact that many of those who regularly write by hand today do so privately. When handwriting used to be you calling card, it now is highly intimate. For me writing really is about thought and structuring it. You might argue for meeting notes it would be essential that I can read them later, but actually I find for myself it is often a lot more important to write than to read. There is a nice book on this general topic which I can recommend: “The missing ink” by Philip Hensher.
  • BMorickeBMoricke Posts: 22
    @Johannes Neumeier Totally agree with you, this is a much more interesting approach then handwriting being beautiful or not. I think that is NOT the purpose of good handwriting. Good handwriting should first of all be comfortable. I see so many people struggling with their handwriting and I just like to HELP them, because I would like to share the joy of a good hand!

    It's exactly like you say: For me writing really is about thought and structuring it. ...I find for myself it is often a lot more important to write than to read. YOU ARE RIGHT, interesting approach.

    Here you see the handwriting if a 32 year old male, who is clearly struggling. Instead of saying 'ugly' I would use the word 'uncomfortable', especially for him. You see he doesn't know where the connections of the letters should be, there is no rythm. Instead of working with him on better letter shapes (this would be stage 2), I would focus on applying rhythm. 

     
  • BMorickeBMoricke Posts: 22

    @Johannes Neumeier, and oh, I'm going to look for the book, the title is like a short poem!
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,704
    edited April 22
    Manuscript page from “A Christmas Carol”

    While a teen, Charles Dickens had worked as a clerk in a law office, so one can assume that he was capable of the polished and professional formal script required for that sort of work. He also taught himself shorthand, which he used in his early career as a journalist and reporter covering parliamentary proceedings. Clearly, the man knew how to write.

    However, I would not have wanted to be his compositor!
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,338
    Dickens writing is  far better than mine ;-)

  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,992
    edited April 22
    BMoricke said:
    he doesn't know where the connections of the letters should be
    The first thing to do is liberate people from fully connected letters. Cursive is cursèd!  :-)  For true comfort let people ligate where it feels right to them; rhythm doesn't have to be a waltz, it can be like running through a forest. That said: more comfortable is less legible...


  • BMorickeBMoricke Posts: 22
    edited April 22
    BMoricke said:
    he doesn't know where the connections of the letters should be
    The first thing to do is liberate people from fully connected letters. Cursive is cursèd!  :-)  For true comfort let people ligate where it feels right to them; rhythm doesn't have to be a waltz, it can be like running through a forest. That said: more comfortable is less legible...
    I think we might have a misunderstanding about the specification of cursive writing and italic writing. This might be a misunderstanding from the cultural background: in holland we mean by cursive: 'slanted script'. Cursive writing is a way of how the letters are constructed: not lifting the pen, running script (from Latin). Italic is a version of cursive writing, 'invented' during Italian renaissance. 

    Is your visual reference with cursive writing this?


    If so: I think this is a horrible script to teach kids! Please understand me well: I'm the last person to say 'you should do this, or you should do that'. I would rather say: 'you could do this, or you could do that.'

    I have been writing italic script now for over 30 years, and to me, this is a very versatile and comfortable hand to learn and to teach. I also taught it to art students at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague and it takes them around 3 lessons to learn this! 

    The snapshots below illustrate how versatile it is. In slant (in the last snapshot it is an upright italic), connections (or not), and a different pen gives a totally different look!

    For me this script is totally comfortable AND legible. 

    The 'skeleton" as I call it: 


    As my daily handwriting:



    With a brush:




    Broader pen, quite calligraphic:




    Or even an upright italic:






  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,089
    In 1979, I was in grade three and a couple of architects visited our class to explain their jobs. I noticed they used Bic Rollers and ulktra-fine markers and wrote in a wide architect style like Tekton, Farfel or Blambot's Architext BB. Even though we were supposed to be using pencils in grade three, I begged my parents for Rollers. These were the early kind that were prone to leaking. I refused to learn cursive and kept working on my style which is what I still use. I think it caused my typefaces to be focused more on the shapes and negative spaces rather than thinking about strokes. I normally build type from the heaviest weight and create thin lines as an interpolation target rather than thinking of then as strokes. I have decent drawing ability and havce some competence with nibs and brushes.

    For me, drawing ability is more important than writing ability. If you can draw, you can draw anything. However, my lack of calligraphy skills limits my ability to create plausible script typefaces other than mechanical styles like Deftone Stylus...or Amienne which looks like a raccoon got hold of a watercolor brush.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,752
    @BMoricke Yeah New American Cursive is pretty shit and they waste time teaching it in most American schools. I started in fifth grade and was required to use it with blue or black ink for all of my schoolwork until I graduated high school. And once we get to college professors tell you to not write like that. It’s a complete waste of time. Learning to write a basic italic that an adult can use would make a lot more sense.
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,992
    edited April 23
    @BMoricke I appreciate that there are different flavors of "cursive". The writing sample of the hapless 32yo that you showed simply made me point out that insisting on connecting everything backfires. The thing is, connecting comes naturally to handwriting, and it does save critical time, because people think much faster than they can write.

    Concerning your handwriting, is it indeed very pretty, and relatively legible, but probably rather slow... which I would argue is generally worse than ugly and/or hard to read. This is because –as others have pointed out– with very few exceptions we now write only for ourselves, and: we're not fooling ourselves with appearances; we can usually recall what we meant to write.

    @Ray Larabie @James Puckett I was about nine when we moved from Lebanon to the US, and I had to learn cursive. Then 2½ years later we moved back to Lebanon, and I remember the first time I was called to the board to write something the teacher said WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SIT BACK DOWN AND I DON'T HAVE TIME TO RETEACH YOU HOW TO WRITE. :-)  So I looked at printed type and copied that... including the binocular "a". Which of course the teacher complained about too but not nearly as much. Eventually I realized the binocular "a" takes too long and I switch to a monocular. And once I got comfortable (after graduating and no longer needing to handwrite for teachers) I started writing much faster, with pronounced/sloppy ligation. Here's a "they" I just wrote for your collective amusement. But even though it's ugly and muddled, it's comfortable, fast, and in context pretty much impossible for me to misread it back.


  • My handwriting changes depending on the writing implement.
    The first example https://g-type.com:/fonts/rollerscript-font was written with an R50 Ball Pentel pen. Top is my handwriting and bottom is the font:
    The second Goskar, was written with a Lamy Accent broad nib pen. Top is my handwriting and bottom is the font:
    As you can see there are certain similarities, but they are both quite different. I have done Goskar in four weights from Light to Black. This is Medium.
    Your handwriting is pure, informed beauty to me. :)
    P.S. I think I have used Rollerscript at some point while I was doing packaging design where I worked. Is that one on Adobe Fonts?
  • BMorickeBMoricke Posts: 22
    edited April 23
    @Ray Larabie For me, drawing ability is more important than writing ability. If you can draw, you can draw anything.


    Do you mean this in general of does it refer to yourself?

    What I always question myself why I am a lousy drawer, and a decent writer. Isn't a letter also not just a drawing?

    And also the other way round, one of my colleagues at the academy where I work is an excellent drawer, but his writing stays behind.


  • Drawing letters is Design, painting letters is Art. The latter is self-expression, the former serves reading –hence society– better.
  • BMorickeBMoricke Posts: 22
    My handwriting changes depending on the writing implement.
    Love your writing! Personally, I prefer your handwriting to the fonts. 

    @Hrant H. Papazian mentioned before that his instructor of calligraphy said: "The highest compliment is when your calligraphy is mistaken for a font." 

    I have to say, being a calligraphy teacher myself, I totally disagree. If this is the aim, what is the added value then of doing things by hand? I find calligraphy way more charming when letters are not perfect. Because of this, I am a BIG fan of Edward Johnston, known as one of the most influential calligraphers that ever lived. His letters are far from perfect, but full of character. Much more interesting than Zapf I think. The way he polishes his letters is extremely skilful, but for me, takes away the interesting part of the flow of writing. He says in a documentary: 'Whatever you write, it should never come out as a surprise'. I think that says it all.

    Please enjoy a handwritten letter of Johnston:

  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,992
    edited April 23
    @BMoricke I disagree too!  :-)  But for a different reason than you, noting my previous "the best calligraphy [is] essentially unconcerned with legibility". It is now Art, with only an expressive reference to text remaining. What I nonetheless find relevant about the quote is the total inversion from Gutenberg, who was intending to fake handwriting with type!

    Concerning the "perfection" issue, it's central to note whether it's handwriting or type. And to keep in mind that although self-expression cannot be removed from Design, it cannot be the purpose. The character of the maker only matters to people who know them personally, like a person they're handwriting a letter to; for users of fonts that's a distraction.
  • That's what I learned in the first year at school with dip pen and inkpot:



    Before we began this one with pencil:


    And later in the art class Kurrent (old German broken script):


  • BMorickeBMoricke Posts: 22
    edited April 23
    And later in the art class Kurrent (old German broken script):


    I would have loved to learn this script! I think it is just beautiful. The main concern as I understood after some research some time ago was that the Nazi's wanted to get rid of it because of low legibility. The rest of Europe didn't use this script and since he was aiming to win the war he valued legible communication more.

    I love how umlaut evolved from the shape of the 'e'!

    Civilité had to deal with the same issue of low legibility, although Carter & H. D. L. Vervliet still valued the beauty of this script: 

    Hrant H. Papazian (maybe also interesting to you, referring to the your comment on Gutenberg):

    “The novelty and strangeness of these letters will certainly surprise the reader, but I dare say he will be as much delighted by their cleanness and elegance. In point of beauty and legibility these letters are not outdone by others, and they are familiar to us because they imitate the written hand. What is printed looks like writing, and it may be hard to tell the pages printed with type.”

    — Translated by Harry Carter, in Carter & H. D. L. Vervliet, Civilité Type, Oxford, 1966, p. 16.

    He didn‘t agree with the reason why civilité was abandoned, because we read best what we read most.

  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,089
    @BMoricke
    Do you mean this (drawing) in general of does it refer to yourself? 
    I meant drawing abilty is important for certain kinds of typefaces. Ed Benguiat claimed that you can't design typefaces if you can't draw. I don't agree with that becuase there are some styles which are more engineering based such as DIN, geometric Deco and ultramodern. I don't know if general drawing ability is important for calligraphy. There are certain typeface styles where engineering and draftmanship alone aren't sufficient. If your task is to expand Hobo into Greek, drawing ability is required.

    The term "drawing ability" is vague but what I'm referring to is the ability to go from gesture to sketch to crisp outlines. I had 5 years of art education: countless life drawing classes, drawing interiors, watercolors, character design, photography and illustration. When I graduated classical animation, I still coudn't draw...at least not in the sense I'm referring to. After graduating, I worked at a department store in a mall and sketched people on my breaks and then snap! I could finally draw. It happened suddenly. I could conjure any form out of the ether like magic. I still wasn't very good, but I knew the trick. That's the basic level that I think is necessary for designing some kinds of typefaces. Look at Benguiat's Benguiat (Stranger Things). I don't think he could have designed something like that using draftmanship alone.
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,992
    edited April 24
    @BMoricke Well, we do read better what we read more often... but there are also intrinsic things... which for example cause blackletter (at least in its lowercase) to actually be *more* readable than Roman (in my view).
    http://www.themicrofoundry.com/ss_fraktur1.html
    (Sorry for the ancient, and somewhat broken, HTML there.)

    @Ray Larabie Don't forget erasing ability!  :-)
  • Nick CookeNick Cooke Posts: 110
    Your handwriting is pure, informed beauty to me. :)
    P.S. I think I have used Rollerscript at some point while I was doing packaging design where I worked. Is that one on Adobe Fonts?

    Yes it is. I’ m making three extra weights, (one lighter, two heavier) at the moment because I’m fed up seeing it with an even stroke applied.
  • Your handwriting is pure, informed beauty to me. :)
    P.S. I think I have used Rollerscript at some point while I was doing packaging design where I worked. Is that one on Adobe Fonts?

    Yes it is. I’ m making three extra weights, (one lighter, two heavier) at the moment because I’m fed up seeing it with an even stroke applied.
    I never applied strokes to it: especially in modulated faces it‘s barbaric! :D
  • And Rollerscript is just wonderful, one of the few typefaces which manages to capture the irregularity of handwriting without resorting to many contextual alternates. You are a master at these kind of designs!
  • BMorickeBMoricke Posts: 22
    @Claudio Piccinini: Do you know this typeface? https://creativemarket.com/LiebeFonts/5352626-Color-Font-LiebeHeide

    I like it not so much of the letter shapes, but more about having the texture there of the pen and paper!


  • Joshua LangmanJoshua Langman Posts: 46
    edited April 26
    Matthijs, Zapfino is indeed based closely on Zapf's calligraphy — which is not necessarily the same as his "handwriting." His handwriting was beautiful and disciplined, though. On this page you can see a short note that Zapf wrote to me when he was about 94 years old.
  • BMoricke said:
    @Claudio Piccinini: Do you know this typeface? https://creativemarket.com/LiebeFonts/5352626-Color-Font-LiebeHeide

    I like it not so much of the letter shapes, but more about having the texture there of the pen and paper!


    Yes, I recall I saw it. It’s beautiful but it must have been a huge work in terms of development. Not sure I’d put all this effort to replicate an handwritten feeling: at this point, better to handwrite. I like some of Nick’s typefaces as they are actual typefaces but manage to attain a great degree of movement without much alternates or contextual variants.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,704
    edited April 26
    Handwriting typefaces do have to be designed as such, by which I mean the handwriting first has to be designed to facilitate its typographic expression.

    In particular, normal handwriting uses a profligate amount of real estate, resulting in a very small appearance of point size: it’s inefficient. But if you constrain it to increase its character count, you squeeze the life out of it. Therein is the design challenge.
  • Nick CurtisNick Curtis Posts: 56
    Once upon a time, my non-cursive penmanship was impeccable. Time, age and laziness has turned it into "abysmal."
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,338
    I am right there with you on that, Nick ;-)

  • Nick CookeNick Cooke Posts: 110
    And Rollerscript is just wonderful, one of the few typefaces which manages to capture the irregularity of handwriting without resorting to many contextual alternates. You are a master at these kind of designs!
    Thanks Claudio, but believe me, there are many contextual alternates and ligatures; that’s the only way to create the irregularities and randomness of handwriting in a typeface. 
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