Mar 26/13
By Joe Ross

Type Tuesday: On Writing

Confession: Sometimes I write things down in illegible chicken scratch. Sometimes I can't decode that illegible chicken scratch and get really frustrated. With myself.

Last year, I stumbled across this video of a wizard transcribing incantations with some sort of magical, unicorn pen. The balance of his letterforms and the variation of stroke width are intoxicating. Look at those decorative swashes! All of a sudden I have mental images of Thomas Jefferson composing the Declaration of Independence by candlelight.


All joking aside, it's captivating and inspiring to see someone with such strong penmanship in the 21st century. For me, there is an old world romanticism that surrounds excellent handwriting. It demonstrates that the writer is not just scribbling down an idea, but working from an understanding of the pillars necessary for clear and effective writing: ethos, logos, and pathos.

Read more about the pillars here.

As a designer, I feel that these same principles apply to typography, albeit in a different way. Fonts have a digitally-rendered consistency that can feel monotonous outside of a creative composition—handwriting doesn't seem to suffer from this problem. I can't explain the psychology behind this, but my guess is that handwriting has an inherent character which invites you to imagine the person you are corresponding with. The challenge is designing the type in a way which establishes the pathos mentioned above.

Like writing, setting typography is an incredibly nuanced skill that you can only improve on with practice. This line of thinking has inspired me to invest time in developing my handwriting. Check back in a year to see the results of my newfound commitment to penmanship.

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