Handwriting is one of the most extraordinary human inventions, it involves the intelligence and memory of our body. Handwriting is a very broad term that goes from learning the rules that allow clear writing for content communication, to artistic expression in all its diversity. Writing is the visual form of thinking, and handwriting feels that I am deep in understanding this form.

There two things that work when you’re writing, there are two different aspects of writing. One aspect of writing is the eye. And the eye wants to look at an orderly set of marks on the page. The eye want pattern, the eye wants order, the eye wants relative perfection, the eye wants something that is reliable, that you can count on. The eye is a very conservative part of reading. On the other hand you have the hand. And the hand is the undecided aspect of writing. So the hand wants to write faster and faster. Writing changes because we are writing faster and faster all the time. And the hand wants to write expressively. So when you’re writing your signature you’re not thinking about getting every little letter perfect and you’re thinking about the way you write your signature. And that’s why it’s very hard to forge something signature. Because you can’t do it slowly you have to write it faster and expressively. That’s the radical hand work. 

A student’s alphabet design based on marks made in wet cement, The University of the Arts, Philadelphia

“So the whole history of writing can be looked at as an elegant little conflict between the conservative eye which wants everything perfect and rational and the radical hand which wants to write fast and write expressively. And it’s this constant battle that makes our environment at we look at when we look at lettering”. (Kris Holmes, calligrapher, designer, teacher, creator of Lucida, Isadora and many other typefaces.)

Mark after mark, page after page, hours go by in silence, but for the collective sound of graphite in contact with the paper’s surface and the occasional turning of a page. In the end, it is the eye that directs the action. You cannot mechanically measure organic forms or evenly letter spaced characters by measuring the distance between them. That counter-intuitively produces uneven optical spacing. Instead, the space must be felt; it must be seen.

It is important to understand letters as motion. Since the roman letters was originally written, the written letter is a memory of motion. A particularly thoughtful sequence, to simplify, to work and learn in a slower, contemplative way that allows us to feel and perceive, unhinged from any burden save for the deep knowledge of what is exactly before us.

When Inge Druckrey  expert, master in composition, drawing, handwriting, calligraphy, letterforms, who spent most of her life devoted to teaching others how to see, was asked “What do you see 50 years from now?” She responded, “I fear the loss of writing. It’s such an enjoyable experience and teaches you how to see.”

References:

  • Teaching to See,A film by Andrei Severny; produced by Edward Tufte.
  • https://designobserver.com/