Handwriting Fonts

On Phaidon, I saw a really interesting project creating fonts from the handwriting of songwriters, like Bowie, Lennon, and Cobain. Naturally, this project was immediately taken down just when it had gained a bit of attention, because something something intellectual property. But it used to live at songwritersfonts.com and maybe someday someone will come up with a legal way to do it.

Handwriting fonts always kind of irk me because they don’t have the variations of natural handwriting.1 But it’s really interesting, for people interested in marginalia and letters and other things touched by the hand, to be able to put things in iconic handwriting fonts. For example, P22’s Vincent.2 The kind of signifying work done by simply putting words in this typeface is something I’d really like to explore. It’s obvious that a person is so much their handwriting that we allow handwriting to serve as evidence in court, so it points back to the artist in this case, but it’s almost something like a person’s voice in a way. Like when you go to a museum and they have those dramatic readings in that person’s “voice” and it’s really engaging even though you know it’s fake.3 I wonder what kind of ethical considerations should be evaluated when using an artist’s handwriting on words they themselves didn’t write. These are the messy questions of graphic design.

I can’t find a picture of it except mine on Instagram, but Andy Warhol made a beautiful letraset of his mother’s handwriting. There’s something sort of commemorative about reproducing someone’s handwriting as well. It’s like giving someone the opportunity for further authorship, or expressing that certain sentiments could not be more perfectly said except in the handwriting of that person.

Or it’s just a cool graphic trick and I’m just thinking too hard about it as usual. Either way, it’s a cool thing I saw and wanted to share.

Bowie’s handwriting
  1. I’ve always kind of wanted one of my handwriting, but am basically too lazy to do it. It’s very easy if you ever want to give it a try.
  2. The letters of Vincent Van Gogh are incredible. Go read some.
  3. Side story: whenever my writing sounds stupid to me and I’m thinking about trashing a project, I try to “test it out” in someone else’s voice in my head to make sure I don’t think it’s stupid just because it sounds like me, if that makes sense. So, in my head, I read my books in Neil Gaiman’s voice.