freedom, fluidity, and diversity of forms. In the past, type makers
have tried to account for the variety in individual handwriting by
allowing for a certain amount of randomness in their designs. But this
approach is being challenged: In a case study
of their font Liza Pro, Underware posted an article to their site in
which they contend. “Being random alone does not guarantee a
script typeface to get a realistic handmade look. A sign painter can be
clever enough to optimize the look of your words, in every specific
situation. So should a typeface be. A typeface should not only always
look different, but should also always look good.”
Or at least most of them did. In the 1870s and ’80s, American typefounders such as MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan in Philadelphia and Bruce’s New York Type Foundry took advantage of electrotyping to issue numerous typefaces (such as Spencerian Script, Excelsior Script and Penman Script) based on pointed-pen handwriting. These faces were replete with alternate swash capitals and alternate finial letters and remain marvels of the founders’ art at its zenith. The letters were cast on angled bodies or with special kerning to insure smooth and invisible joins.
The notion of randomness as the ultimate means of faking writing with type has been challenged recently by House Industries and Underware. “But what is much more important than being random? Being clever,” the members of Underware write. For these designers, cleverness means using language, in addition to shape, as a means of determining which letters change in a given text. This sets their face Liza Pro and House’s Studio Lettering suite apart from Beowolf (1989) and the older random fonts of Letterror.