Saturday, August 13, 2011

Handwriting Typography

Yesterday I had my first session of a handwriting to typography workshop at the San Francisco Center for the Book. The class is taught by calligrapher Georgianna Greenwood. The workshop is challenging and incredibly interesting and focuses on learning to be more consistent with your handwriting so that you can work it into your art. 

Handwriting sample for beginning of class

We had to bring a handwriting sample to class and I chose to rewrite my favorite part of Jane Eyre. It was determined that while my handwriting was the most legible, it was also the most inconsistent. Georgianna politely blamed my inconsistencies on exciting and emotional prose I chose to copy.

Work table with notebook, materials and tools

We began the day with a brief history of typography and fonts, which, in case you didn't know, used to be developed by hand. Then we tested out the materials we'd be using: 2 sizes of Micron pens, a thick Faber-Castell pen, and a Speedball pen with antique nib and India ink. I was surprised to find that the pen, nib and ink were easiest to use and they soon became my favorite.


More practice

We did a lot of practice, testing out various writing sizes and different tools. I needed the most practice because, like most people under 30, I was not taught handwriting in school. That being said, my handwriting is somewhat childish and I fell in love with it at larger sizes. I guess maybe because it's not a subtle way of writing and large things are not subtle.

Handwriting specimen

Our goal for the first day was to create a type specimen of our own handwriting. A type specimen is a sheet in one font showing every letter in both upper and lower case as well as lining numbers (the contemporary way to depict numbers), old style numbers (my favorite), and punctuation. My specimen isn't amazing but I think my writing came a long way in just 7 hours. I'm very excited for next Friday's session where we'll hand write a 2 page spread of a selection of prose of our choosing.


  1. Oh, if only I was in San Francisco! I have to find a class like this. I've been wanting to study calligraphy and/or typography and improve my penmanship, ever since I returned to writing handwritten letters to friends. I recently purchased a Japanese sumi ink stick and stone, to grind and make my own ink. I heard it's superior to the stuff in a bottle ... although I have some Italian ink I use with my quill pen that's really lovely, I have trouble finding inks thick enough for dip pens, as India ink is typically too watery ...

    Your print is looking nice, especially in the last handwriting specimen you posted. <3

  2. Thank you for the compliment on my print, and the suggestion about grinding ink. I'm always looking for an excuse to make something else by hand.

    It can be hard to find decent calligraphy classes. Earlier this year I found a place in NYC that offered a similar handwriting workshop, unfortunately I can't remember the name but I believe I found them via the Friends of Calligraphy website. Also, a lot of folks suggest just practicing making your handwriting and letter spacing more consistent is a great way to improve.