using graphology on typography

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v.madill's picture
Joined: 10 Feb 2008 - 7:18pm
using graphology on typography

I've been looking at Graphology (handwriting analysis) and seeing how it relates/compares to type and typography. I've made some very interesting observations, such as where the "i"'s dot is placed and what that says about a person.

As designers we are always trying to pick the best suited typeface for a project and I'm exploring aspects that could possibly make a typeface feel the way it does.

As my project has progresses I've noted that handwriting and typefaces are both essentially generated by the hand, by a person.

In order to take my project further, I've decided to look at typographers in comparison to their handwriting and their type designs.

In order to do this I need to get my hands on handwriting specimens. I suppose I'm asking where I might find some, or if typographers could provide me with a scan (preferably on a white, unruled sheet with the edges of the page showing). This is a self directed senior grad project and I am really excited about the possible outcomes.

Should you have any ideas, comments or suggestions on the project I'm curious to hear what people think (this is obviously a brief outline, but one should get the main idea.)

Florian Hardwig's picture
Joined: 18 Feb 2007 - 6:41am

Hi Valerie,

where the “i”’s dot is placed and what that says about a person

So, what does it tell us?
John Butler once provided a good definiton of graphology, IMO.

v.madill's picture
Joined: 10 Feb 2008 - 7:18pm

John Butler definitely knows where he stands regarding graphology;
he also brings up a good point regarding the legitimacy of the study.

My project focuses more on interesting observations, not on proving
behaviors and personality types using graphology. It's a playful project.

ah, the "i" dot.
First of all I should note the references I've looked at make it clear that you
have to consider the whole along with various examples in order to analyze
an individual's handwriting. That being said I'm looking at typefaces...

The i dots supposedly says quite a bit depending on: where it is placed,
the shape, pressure and consistency.

Having the dot very close to the stem indicates attention to detail and facts;
whereas, the higher it floats, the more imaginative a person may be. When
the dot is missing there is a degree of carelessness. When the dot is to the
left: procrastination. To the right: impatient, eager to move on. Dots that are
drawn in a circle, or any other drawn shape, show immaturity, and a desire
for attention. Light sweep: enthusiasm. Jab-sweep: irritable. Vertical line:
critical mind.

I could go on, the explanations are all much more complicated than this,
but I'm trying to keep it brief and am sure you get the idea.

Tiffany Wardle's picture
Joined: 13 Jul 2001 - 11:00am

Not dotting the i means carelessness? Oh dear. I guess I need to start dotting my i again.

Florian Hardwig's picture
Joined: 18 Feb 2007 - 6:41am

Undotted ‘i’s could simply mean that you once had learned to write following an all-letters-joined cursive model, where the completing act of dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ‘t’s is done in the very end – and therefore often gets omitted.
It also could mean that you once decided that you want to do without tittles, ‘just because it looks nicer’ or whatever.
Or that you had delved into Carolingian manuscripts and discovered that the old guys didn’t have a need for that early diacritic, so why should you? … etc pp
Nothing to do with character traits.

Concerning type design:
Have a look at these threads to see what aspects type designers have in mind when it comes to the placement or size of ‘i’ dots, diacritics/umlauts; the length of descenders or the length of the ‘f’ drop.
Nothing to do with their personal handwriting nor their imagination/maturity.

Rafe Copeland's picture
Joined: 20 Jan 2008 - 8:59pm

While I'm sure that graphology is able to draw some accurate conclusions about a person, the point is that it is trying to categorise people based on what should be their most fluid and raw method of expression. Writing and the ability to communicate with an element of complexity is at the very core of what makes us human, and to try and compute that by examining letterforms and the direction of someone's writing almost trivialises it.

Such analysis by the world around us of our personalities has led to a behavioural block common to nearly everyone who lives in society whereby we screen many of our inner thoughts and desires so as not to be judged by people. Handwriting analysis and graphology can only at some point, as it becomes more widespread (which I'm sure it will as company executives become more and more rabidly greedy for numbers and scientific evaluation which support the path of most capital gain with minimum risk), cause similar aesthetic blocks to form in our handwriting. Would anyone write with their true, natural handwriting if they knew that it would immediately become open to analysis? Indeed not, most would modify their handwriting to make it more reserved, or to mirror the qualities that society holds to be more valuable. After some time (though perhaps this is mere hyperbole), we will live in a world where everyone writes in near-perfect Courier.

Graphology is like trying to scientifically evaluate emotion, or even creativity. A camera does not understand creativity when it takes a photo of an artwork. And graphology as an entity does not understand the element of creativity or beautifully raw and basic expression that exists within a person's handwriting. It is merely like a digital camera's CCD trying to break every element of the image into smaller parts which fail to entirely reproduce the whole image. What is the point of that? Not to mention that the metaphorical resolution of a graphology study is far inferior to that of a camera.

It perverts the very nature of handwriting.

Though I would still be very interested to read your findings, however opposed to the propagation of graphology I may be (and no offense intended at all).


Don McCahill's picture
Joined: 30 Mar 2006 - 7:55pm

> Not dotting the i means carelessness? Oh dear. I guess I need to start dotting my i again.

Oh, Miss T., go all the way. Make it a little heart, like a 12-year-old would.


Nick Shinn's picture
Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am

Typefaces have physical qualities, but these only represent human qualities in the way that they are used.

For instance, ubiquitous default faces such as Helvetica come to represent conformity.

But what to make of blackletter fonts, which can represent Christmas, Church and Venerable Authority (newspaper nameplates) on the one hand, and Nazis, Metalheads and Gangstas on the other? Multiple personality disorder?