In an increasingly digital age, there are some things that will always be written by hand. Postcards. The grocery list on the fridge. And, until homelessness is eliminated – panhandling signs. One foundation in Barcelona, Spain, had the idea to connect the handwritten signs of people experiencing homelessness to the technology used by business and publishers. The Arrels Foundation worked with graphic design team to take the handwriting of several individuals experiencing homelessness and turn their letters into fonts. Now, the fonts are available for purchase at homelessfonts.org.
The group hopes to see big brands use the fonts for their products, generating income for the foundation and the individual artists. Their website introduces the “writer” of the font and explains the terms of licensing the fonts. Contributor Loriane’s font is already in use, purchased by a company called Valonga and used as a wine label.
Photo Credit: homelessfonts.org
This is an important innovation for several reasons. Not only is it an exciting opportunity for someone to see their handwriting transferred into print, but the marketability of a person’s writing allows companies to support homeless individuals in a mutually beneficial way. I believe there is a crucial need for aid and fair distribution of basic needs, but that is not what this is. This is not charity. This is allowing people experiencing homelessness to profit from their own product and for a business to make a purchase with a social impact.
The fonts can be licensed by an individual for around $26 USD, or commercially for just under $400 USD. This might cost more than Times New Roman or Arial, but graphics are increasingly important for marketing and branding. In April, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office spent £80,000 (roughly $136,000) on a type change that the Daily Mail called “almost identical.”
Image Credit: Daily Mail
This is not to say that the Arrels Foundation and its clients are simply cashing in on lavish wasteful spending. In a time when pen-and ink writing has all but disappeared, type is both the face and the handwriting of a company. Design is important, and this concept allows individuals of many socioeconomic backgrounds to contribute to the way we’ll read and see the future.