Learn a few rare and unusual words and you can sound like a genius. Now, you can write like one too, thanks to a new font based on Albert Einstein’s handwriting. German typographer Harald Geisler and Harvard-educated physicist Elizabeth Waterhouse spent six months analysing the famous scientist’s penmanship from manuscripts in the Albert Einstein Archives. Then, the design duo traced the hallowed lettering onto a digital device using a pen stylus. Currently raising funds on Kickstarter, Geisler and Waterhouse plan to make their prototype font available to the public by next January. The pair spoke to Metro about the ingenious typeface, whose launch is honoring this year’s 100th anniversary of the theory of relativity.
Harald Geisler: Liz and I were sitting at a café in Frankfurt with a mutual friend brainstorming ideas for interesting projects. I had recently graduated from art school and Liz suggested making a handwriting font. Then we started throwing out names.
What’s so special about his writing style?
EW: Einstein`s handwriting is beautiful, with clearly paced letters and smooth curves. This sort of regularity was helpful for the design. I was also charmed by the fact that this innovative thinker, who changed the way we imagine space and time, had a clear “time-signature” to his writing. So it was also personal to me… But, perhaps that is because I find beauty in strange things. I used to photograph the equations written on physics blackboards during my BA at Harvard University. The professors were confused why I found that interesting.
EW: Fortunately there is an archive online. It has about 2,000 pages of his 80,000 manuscripts digitized.
Did the Einstein estate have any problem with you copying his penmanship?
HG: Working with Einstein’s handwriting did require official licensing. The Einstein Estate accepted our proposal for the font, perfectly coinciding with this year’s 100th anniversary of the General Theory of Relativity.
HG: I use a digital pen to trace the movement needed to create each letter. This movement line is then refined to create the form of ink on paper that Einstein used. These drawings are stored as a vector graphic and then put together in an OpenType PostScript format. This OpenType font is then programmed with an altering mechanism called “Polyalphabetic Substitution” that manages the exchange of letter variations.
Was it a difficult process?
HG: All the single steps are simple, but when they come together the complexity multiplies very quickly. We had to plan ahead very precisely. If we decided to change something, this could mean days or even weeks of corrections and additional work.
HG: Tracing out the prototype took about six months. We are now looking at a minimum of six more months to finish the job. Our Kickstarter campaign ends in early June so the final release to the public will be around January 2016.
Who do you think would use the font?
HG: I am trying really hard not to imagine who would – I want to be surprised! A couple of years ago, I made a font from Sigmund Freud’s handwriting. The outcome could not be foreseen. The typeface has been used as a logo for a fashion photographer in Massachusetts, and for a medieval cosplay club in Münster, Germany. But what touched me the most was a psychology student from Australia who contacted me personally. He wanted a sentence from Freud’s writing that was very important to him, to be written as a tattoo on his back. I referred him to the Freud archive in Vienna. When neither the people in Vienna nor the Freud Museum in London could provide a sample, I set the sentence “Wo es war, soll ich werden” [Where id was, there ego shall be. – Ed.] in the font myself.