Does handwriting differ based on age? On gender? Bic, makers of pens and other things, has a new experiment that provides an easy way to see the answers to those questions, by asking thousands of people in a whopping 81 countries.
On the Universal Typeface Experiment’s site, you can either contribute your own handwriting on an easy-to-use form designed for touch screens, or browse the results of everyone else’s contributions. If you want to contribute, you’re given a site to visit on your phone or tablet. You’re then asked to write each capital letter of the alphabet inside a box with your finger before answering a few basic demographic questions (your age, gender, country of origin, handedness, and which industry you work in).
Here’s where it gets cool: the project comes up with the average of each letter in width and height of each line to make a kind of overall average handwriting font. It also offers a separate average for each of those demographic questions, so you can compare handwriting among different countries or see how it changes with age. (If you’re curious what your handwriting says about you, well, we have a post for that, too.)
There are some intriguing findings. Handwriting tends to get messier with age. Note the extended arms of the curved line in a capital letter D, moving beyond the upright line on the left. Handwriting also appears to differ by country. Look the capital letter V. Why is it so narrow in Malta and Peru and wide in South Korea and the Netherlands? There are all sorts of odd little findings like that.
The project is ongoing; in August, Bic will release a downloadable font set of the average handwriting, so you can use it in any way you choose. Pilot, a competing pen-maker, did a similar project a few years back, but it only used your own handwriting rather than a worldwide average. Now, we imagine Bic is wishing, if only people would actually use pens to write more often.