In the middle of January I was hired as a graphic designer for a company that specializes in awards – trophies, medallions, plaques, certificates, diplomas… you name it. A majority of the printed material is done digitally. I hit the keyboard shortcut “Command+P” on my Mac and all of a sudden the belly of a large droid-like machine beside my desk grumbles and spits out a piece of paper covered in a humanistic letterform typeface that congratulations someone on their achievement. Sometimes certificates I print have large gaps of space on them. Why? To my surprise we have four calligraphers on staff that fill in these gaps with hand-written calligraphic personalization – a craft that I thought was long dead. One of the calligraphers informs me that there used to be a staff on 25 of them in the company. Since the mid-90s, that number has decreased rapidly with the evolution of digital typography. While in college, we briefly studied humanistic letterforms and calligraphy in my typography classes, but it was quickly brushed aside in order to learn how to set type digitally.
Last night I went to a seminar titled “Ultimate Web Graphics”. The audience learned about web fonts and how to set type properly for web browsers and retina displays. We were informed of anti-aliasing, pixel grids, and how type changes once its loaded onto a browser. This immediately got me thinking of my coworkers and how their livelihood is threatened by the ever-growing number of graphic designers – threatened by the field I have such a passion for.
In a society where time is money and anything that will speed up production becomes valuable, is the swift extinction of handwritten typography inevitable? There is a human element behind producing and holding a handwritten document or manuscript. To feel the weight of a pen and to play with the properties of the ink – that will never be achieved with digital printing.