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I have always had a special relationship with hand lettering and how it relates to typography. Ever since my first graphic arts job in college, when I handled the paint and brush for the first time touching up signs in an old school hardware store, I have loved the craft and the human touch it brings to visual communications.

In the Pacific Northwest, I saw numerous examples of revival styles used by veteran sign writers, with their endless variations and bespoke design solutions lending personality to storefronts, restaurants, and advertisements much as they had done a century and more beforehand.

Whenever I am in between appointments or sitting in meetings, I sketch letters: classic Roman styles with little columns and lintels, blocky geometric styles with understated calligraphic rhythms, and my favorite: smartly-dressed midcentury advertising scripts.

Fully exploring the freewheeling nature of these scripts is the ultimate test for the lettering artist, and translating that lyricism and apparent ease into a repeatable cadence for tapping out lines in digital keyboard unicode land presents a monumental challenge. I cannot count the number of times a gorgeous typeface is appropriated to give a title or ad headline “historical feel,” and without regard for repetition, variation, and cadence, keyboard jockeys settle for a quick-fix, awkward robo-font treatment that doesn’t fool anybody. The desiccated remains of the gorgeous type style are left on the roadside of popular media, shriveled and despised as “kitsch.”

With these perils fully in view, I have begun my first intensive script typeface from both ends of the candle: freeform swash experimentation burns one wick. The other, much longer strand can only be consumed by parsing the enormous matrix of kerning pairs and contextual alternates.

It is a worthwhile exploration: OpenType has permitted some degree of spontaneous dalliance to trickle all the way down from the Olympian type founder to the throngs of helot graphics monkeys binging on redbull and doritos to make deadlines on organic chocolate-covered açai berry and vegan tofu-bacon package designs. I hope that this holds true as I delve into the depths to dredge up this monster.

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