This font keeps kids from copying handwriting habits from printed text.
If you’ve ever watched a young child learn how to write or try to guide him or her, the process can be both comical and mildly frustrating. By the time they are formally taught how to write, some children seem to internalize some very arbitrary notions of what letters should look like, and these habits can be hard to break. Furthermore, less and less time is being spent on handwriting education at all, leaving some students to their own devices – even dyslexic children, who don’t pick up on handwriting skills as naturally.
Though most schools are unable to do anything about the visual environment of handwriting learners, the Castledown Primary School in East Sussex, England took a more proactive approach. “I’ve been frustrated with the lack of clarity of letters in fonts since my beginnings as a teacher,” headmaster Neil Small told Wired. decided to permanently change the look of school mailings and signage, commissioning a font from the Colophon Foundry that both looks fun and creates healthy habits for life.
From the weeks the designers spent observing how students learn to write, the Castledown font spawned four versions of each letter in its family: regular, regular fun, cursive, and instructional. All cursive letters have subtle flicks where the pen leaves the page, and all the variations of the font subtly mark “points of tension” where the lines are thicker and pressure would be the heaviest. The cursive version also differs from our conventional ideas of cursive writing by using standard versions of s and z. “We felt the cursive version was a little bit outdated and forced,” said Anthony Sheret, one of the designers of the font. Each version has also been optimized for dyslexic children by adding additional weight to the bottom, which grounds them to the page, but this modification is more subtle than those seen in fonts like OpenDyslexic or Dyslexie.
The school has been using the font for over a year, but it just went up for sale at a page on the school’s website. The school uses the font in all its communications and hopes to also be using it for apps on its iPads soon as well. Unconvinced that handwriting will be important in the future? Apparently going through its motions can be a powerful memory aid; a recent study showed that students who type-wrote notes tended to transcribe verbatim, hurting exam performance.