MA Studies > Editorial design > Editorial design alumnus > Marije Holwerda

Marije Holwerda

I’m very interested in the topic handwriting for my research project. I’m fascinated by handwriting, because every handwriting is unique and also because nowadays handwriting is used that much in comparison with the past.
Currently, people are spending more and more time behind computers. Especially, young children who more often and earlier learned to work with computers on school, while in the past children learned to write with a fountain pen. Children were learned to write very neat and perfectly together between the lines. I think the computers and other divices will have impact on handwritten typography. On primary schools is also less attention for handwriting. Therefore, I think that the handwriting typography will change and not only for children because we also spend more time behind computers and other devices. Moreover, short messages are going more and more by text messages, social media and emails, while in the past people wrote notes for each other. For instance, some years ago a note was left behind when somebody went to the supermarket, while nowadays these kinds of messages are going by text message or mail.
The digitalization of texts has not only changed the way we are writing, but also the content has changed over time. For instance, there are differences between typing an email and writing a letter. If we are writing a letter, then we are using a common structure with an introduction, a core and an end statement, while writing an email is more direct. Most of the time, emails are shorter and more to the point. Moreover, receiving an email is not special anymore, while a handwritten letter or a postcard takes more effort and therefore more special for the receiver. The handwriting gives the messages some kind of personal identity. There are many books, which describe the characteristics of persons for different kinds of handwriting. This is different in digital texts, because there are only fixed set fonts that can be chosen. Writers are using emoticons to express feelings in an e-mail or text message.

Writing with the hand is more than only communicating according to Gwendolyn Bounds (article in The Wall Street Journal). Research showed that handwriting is important for the development of the brain, the cognition which children helps to refine motoric skills and helps to express their thoughts. Furthermore, handwriting develops hand in hand with people. According to the workgroup Children’s handwriting in the Netherlands, there are some properties that have an influence on writing. For instance, people need to have normal eyes, brain functions, and a certain sense of spatial forms and spatial orientation. If one or more of these properties are insufficiently present, then this can have a negative impact on handwriting.

Psychologist Virginia Berninger from the university of Washington stated that also in the brain handwriting is different from typing. The handwriting of a letter consists of some subsequent pieces to make one letter, while users select a whole letter on a keyboard. Records of the brain showed that subsequent finger movements activate larger areas, which have a relation with thinking, language, memory as temporary storage and processing of information. Recent research from Virginia Berninger shows that children in group four and six handwrite more and faster in comparison with typing on a keyboard. As a result of this, children were able to express more thoughts with handwriting.

Besides the influence of digitalization on handwriting, I’m also curious about the possibilities of handwriting within the digital media. Currently, standard fonts on a computer replace handwriting. Moreover, the distance between lines and letters are also most of the time default by composing an email or making a Word document. Of course, there are some handwritten fonts, though these fonts shows not a lot of variations and the different letter are looking the same. Though, by a real handwriting is every letter unique and there is a lot of variation in the way we are writing. If I’m reviewing my own handwriting, then I see a lot of difference.
On the Internet, it’s possible to digitalize your own handwriting, so that you can use it on your computer. There are multiple website who can deliver this service and an example is At this website you can upload your handwriting by filling in every letter separate on a template, which you can download. After filling in the template, you can upload your handwriting and afterwards you can download your own handwriting font that you can use. Though, this service doesn’t give a lot of variation, because every letter is separated and there is only one variation per letter.

We start with learning a quite basic and neat handwriting. As we grow up, we are going to write differently and create our own handwriting, which will also change and develop over time. Though, our handwriting is not only changing over time, but when I’m looking at myself, than I write a letter different in comparison with a postcard. So, the way of writing depends on the situation. For instance, when I’m writing a note for myself, then the way of writing is different not that important, because nobody will see it or has to read it. I noticed that some people are embarrassed of their own handwriting, because it’s sloppy or not readable. Therefore, a lot of people prefer to write on a computer, because it’s universal and you don’t see any mistakes or a bad handwriting. For these people, there is a foundation with the name Write Pedagogical Assistance. The foundation helps people with interference in there writing movement. There aim is to let people write with a smooth movement that has to be an effect on their handwriting.

I have made the following two main questions to answer during my research project:
- To what extent has new media influence on our handwriting?
- To what extent can we use handwriting within the digital media?
Other interesting topics to address are the importance of the handwriting for us as persons.
To research these questions I would like to compare handwritings of persons from their childhood until their current
state. This should result in a clear view of the development and variation of a person’s handwriting through the years. Moreover, I also want to investigate the differences between handwriting across generations. For instance, the handwriting of young generation can be compared with older generation. My first impression after collecting some materials is that older generation are writing more cursive. Maybe, there is a relationship in the way we are writing over the years and a reason for these kinds of observations.