Why This Designer Writes Text Messages By Hand And Sends Them As Images

It’s an ingenious and beautiful way to put a little more personality and effort into our generic digital communications.

When was the last time you wrote in cursive, other than a hastily scrawled signature on a receipt? For most of us, it’s not an everyday occurrence. But a couple of months ago, designer Cristina Vanko decided to change that: After discovering one of her dad’s old fountain pens and beginning to practice a little calligraphy, she spent a week writing every text message on her phone by hand.


Even though the experiment’s officially over–and Vanko admits it takes quite a bit more time to neatly pen and photograph a message than to type it out–she still pulls out the fountain pen for special occasions like a birthday. “When I can’t physically be there for someone, it puts my mind at ease to think that I sent them a little something that’s more personable and is still a part of me,” she says.

She’s also inspired others to get a little more creative in their responses. “My friend who works at Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum has sent me a few messages on her typewriter,” Vanko says. “The conversations in which we’re both taking part are the most interesting since it almost looks like we’re passing notes.”

The experiment helped change how she thinks about texting and communication in general. “With social media, I feel like users are sometimes tricked into thinking about the strength of relationships with connections based upon likes, favorites, and retweets. In reality, it’s easy to forget how effortless it is to click like or favorite a post. While texting is still somewhat informal, I’ve really come to learn the value of time and appreciate the effort people make to become more human to stay in touch–whether it’s a phone call to hear a voice, a video chat or hang out to see a face, or a physical piece of snail mail to have a little piece of their written expression.”

Vanko, unsurprisingly, is a fan of cursive writing, and actually focused her senior thesis on why it’s important that people still learn how to use it. “There are so many benefits lost when you replace the hand with the key,” she says, listing everything from hand-eye coordination to the ability for kids to recognize letter forms. “During handwriting, both sides of the brain are in sync and make connections that stimulate language, learning, and fluency in a more effective way.”

She’s happy she discovered the fountain pen. “Other than texting, yes, I’m still dabbling in calligraphy and have added to my nib collection to explore some new stroke widths,” she says. “I definitely plan to keep using calligraphy. And I use cursive a lot–for me, the flow of ideas come a lot easier in cursive.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.