When Hemisphere Design and Marketing developed the visual identity for Manchester’s smart ticketing system they decided that a type with a written look would best suit the tone of voice [fig 1].
Handwriting types have a long history, remember that long before books were printed, they were written. The invention of moveable printing type started the long road to formalising the letter shapes we know today. However, concurrent with the development of type there has always been a need to replicate the personal individuality that handwriting affords.
In Type Designs, A. F. Johnson says that “a script type is one cut in imitation of the current handwriting,” however, this has become muddy today where there is no formal or current handwriting style, instead the visual image is dictated by the fast turnaround of fashion and marketing. The first printing types were gothic in style and included hundreds of tied characters, called ligatures, made to match those used by the scribes. This was a conscious decision with the aim to prove that a printed book could reproduce the same high quality seen in a written manuscript. The first Roman type was made to replicate writing as was the first italic.
In 1557 Robert Granjon, working in Lyons, devised a type based on the French national hand. He chose the contemporary current script as a model, this type style became known as civilité, after the titles of the first two books printed using it [fig 2]. Other gothic scripts provided inspiration for script types; in England there was the secretary hand, the court hand, and the engrossing.
These styles were superseded during the 17th century by the more fluid Italian scripts, which Stanley Morison says are derived from the Italian hand known as Cancellaresca Bastarda [fig 3]. The rise of writing-masters and their copy-books, printed to educate those in improving their handwriting, did much to formalise styles [figs 4, 5].
The continental penmen were superior to those of England yet, due to the rapid expansion of English trade, the legible English hand quickly ousted European styles and the English copper-plate style became the accepted norm. Writing became one of the principal items in the school curriculum and over time we were all taught to write a certain way. Things have changed. Less importance is now placed on how a letter is constructed and more on developing an individual hand.
For type design we generally interpret the term script as joined up writing, and one that perhaps looks like an 18th century model embellished with flourishes and swashes [fig 5]. Yet many of us don’t write like this; we write informally, we sometimes join letters, and other times print them. The rhythm is often chaotic and lively [fig 6]. It was this that Hemisphere wanted to capture as the signature for Manchester’s smart ticketing system called ‘Get me there’.
Our work involved supplying Hemisphere with a huge document of letters, words, and sentences to write out several times [fig 7]. From this ‘homework’ we created an extended typeface where each letter has up to four variants together with ligatures, scribbles and cross outs. The many variant glyphs are programed to allow for a level of randomisation and occasionally join [figs 8, 9, 10].
Atkins, Kathryn A. Masters of the italic letter, Allen Lane the Penguin Press, 1988
Bickham, George. Selected pages from the universal penman, W. Heffer & Sons Ltd, 1943
Enschedé, Charles, and Carter, Harry. Typefoundries in the Netherlands, Stichting Museum Enschedé, 1978
Gourdie, Tom. Italic handwriting, The Studio, 1955
Heal, Ambrose. The English writing-masters and their copy-books 1570–1800, Cambridge University Press, 1931
Johnson, A. F. Type designs, their history and development, Grafton, 1959
Morison, Stanley. ‘On script types’, The Fleuron, number IV, 1925
Get me there is a single font with 367 glyphs