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How Does Your Penmanship Compare with BIC’s Universal Typeface?

BIC, more famous for making ballpoint pens than computer fonts, is developing a “universal typeface” created by averaging the penmanship of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. 

What’s the Latest?

BIC, more famous for making ballpoint pens than computer fonts, is developing a “universal typeface.” A new website launched by the company allows visitors to contribute to the project by providing examples of how they form the 26 letters of the alphabet. The universal typeface is then created based on the averages of all the cumulative writing samples. So far, about 32,000 people around the world have contributed nearly 830,000 characters to the site. Results are searchable by gender, age, handedness, country, and employment.

What’s the Big Idea?

Aside from the fact that this is a very cool idea, the universal typeface also offers a fascinating glimpse into the differences in the ways different people write. Whether there’s a socio- or psychological conclusion to be made, I’ll leave to others. For now, it’s just neat to see that Austrians tend to place a tail on the notch of the capital ‘G’ while Brazilians tend not to (though the varying ways to draw a ‘G’ may contribute to the averages being a little wonky). Today’s World Cup match between Belgium and Argentina is a battle between skinny- and fat-drawn S’s.

Of course, the experiment is not without flaws. Despite its insistence on amalgamating penmanship, website visitors draw the letters either through touchscreen or via their mouse — obviously not processes conducive to the sort of results we’d hope for. The demographic details are also provided by the site’s visitors meaning it’s less than scientific (unless an inordinate amount of Antarcticans have contributed). Still, I suggest visiting the site and getting lost in the always fascinating (to me at least) minutia of language.

Contribute to the Universal Typeface project here.

Read more at WIRED

Photo credit: Arman Zhenikeyev / Shutterstock


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