BIC's Universal Typeface Experiment Puts Thousands of People's Handwriting Together to Create One Font

You have probably come in contact with a BIC Cristal ballpoint pen at some point within the last 48 hours — they’re tied to most convenient store counters, they colonize in desk drawers, and, (if you’re like me) there’s definitely one bleeding through your favorite bag right now. It was actually because of the writing instrument’s all-encompassing nature that BIC decided to try a little experiment: crowdsourcing the world in order to create a universal handwriting — or, if you will, a universal font (and the graphic designs nerds go wild).

According to the Smithsonian Magazine, BIC celebrated the release of the Cristal Stylus — a touchscreen friendly update on an old classic — by launching a project called the Universal Typeface Experiment. In an effort to “unify the world’s handwriting,” the project’s website accepts handwriting samples from submitters across the globe in an effort to create a universal typeface. You can explore different samples via gender, age, country, handedness (right or left handed), and even industry. So far, over 800,000 characters have been submitted from 112 countries.

Since the site is constantly accepting submissions, the samples are constantly evolving thanks the the magic that is "algorithms." However, the company will actually reveal one finalized “universal” font on August first (so you have until then to submit).

The only problem with the campaign? The results are, well, not that great. In fact, they remind me a little of those handwriting borders from my kindergarden classroom (the green ones with the dotted line going through the letters). Maybe it’s just my love of a good sans-serif font (design nerds, unite!), but these characters don’t look like something I’d want to print on my business card or website. My design preferences aside, the project does offer a fascinating look into how handwriting differs (at least as far as the Latin alphabet goes) from country to country and person to person in several capacities. I am a bit curious to see where BIC goes with this come August.

You can submit your handwriting samples to!

Images: The Universal Typeface