Calligraphy is handwritten lettering, often decorative, usually produced with a pen or a brush. It is important to note the distinction, especially in this age of almost unlimited font choice, that calligraphy isn’t a handwritten style of font, it is actually hand produced, letter by letter. This means that although an expert can make it look close to perfect, it never has the remote and machined quality of a font. Calligraphy is artistic and human. Accordingly, when used in brand design, calligraphy has the effect of delivering associated traits, think: romantic, creative, personal, handmade and authentic for an idea of what can be achieved.


Back before the dawn of time (ie, before we started using computers), everyone wrote by hand. It was a necessary skill, drilled into almost everyone, regardless of background, in school. In addition, to this all brand design was necessarily hand-drawn, so using calligraphy in brand design wasn’t innovative, not when brands as well known as Ford, Coca-Cola and Disney relied on beautiful hand-drawn cursive to good effect. It was simply a means to an end, a re-creation of the homey, hand drawn signs that are as old as writing.


Long story short – most of us stopped handwriting and drawing things by hand and, “like an unused muscle, the ability atrophied”.


Most newly produced branding relies on typefaces and a clean, minimalistic style that is a world away from being hand drawn, so brands who do choose to use calligraphy in their branding have the instant benefit of standing out from the crowd with their choice. As the intro to Outside the Box: Hand-Drawn Packaging from Around the World has it, “What we make by hand is beautiful by virtue of its irregularity and integrity and soul.”


It isn’t going to work for every brand. Those organisations looking to portray, for example, drier and more clinical traits should probably look elsewhere. Calligraphy, and hand-drawn work in general, needs a matching brand to truly take off, but when the product delivers on the branding, calligraphy can be the perfect complement.