Martin Luther King Handwriting Font
Creating a font based on Martin Luther King’s handwriting.
Martin Luther King Handwriting Font
Creating a font based on Martin Luther King’s handwriting.
Nice to meet you! My name is Harald Geisler. I am a typographer specialised in handwriting fonts. Here on Kickstarter I created fonts based on Albert Einstein's and Sigmund Freud's handwriting. Now, with approval of the King Estate in Atlanta, I would like to continue the series and create a font based on Martin Luther King jr.'s handwriting.
What does Dr. King's handwriting look like?
The civil rights activist and minister's speeches and actions resonated around the world and continue to inspire generations today. We all know what his voice sounds like, but as a typographer I became curious: how did he prepare his speeches and organised his thoughts in writing, and what does Dr. King's handwriting look like?
On your computer or smartphone fonts are the “software” that make text (letters, punctuation, numbers, etc.) appear on your screen:
Everywhere you work with text, you can use the font. Here is an example of how to use handwriting fonts to create a paper:
Support this campaign and you can soon use Martin Luther King's handwriting with your projects: college papers — surprise your teacher with a paper about Martin Luther King in his handwriting, student assignments — surprise your students with a test "handwritten" by Dr. King, holiday-cards, invitations, hand-outs, a personal recipe book, tattoos, cover art for your new album, email-art, titles for a video project, online-art or a cover for your book…
Here you see the current state of the Martin Luther King font prototype:
The font will work with your computer (PC, Mac, Linux) and phone or tablet (Android, iPhone, iPad). First time you install a font? Have a look at this Helpful Font Guide - PDF on how to use and install fonts →here.
What will the Martin Luther King font be based on?
My aim with these handwriting projects is to open a door to the content of an author through the aesthetic of handwriting and the general interest for typography and fonts, and with that to create awareness for the cultural activity of writing and to imagine a creative vision for the future of writing in the 21st and 22nd century.
As a typographer I search for meaningful ways to relate to writing. The available styles of typefaces are often copies or versions of another with little variation. I believe that writing today needs new ways to relate and adequately express oneself. I hope that the Martin Luther King font will become a meaningful addition to your writing.
Practically creating a handwriting font requires samples of every (lower- and uppercase) letter of the alphabet. I select a variety of manuscripts that are representative of the author's hand and are interesting and relevant to give an insight to the author's body of work and time. Like this here:
The cards you see above are Dr. King's study notes about Hegel's philosophy while he studied at Boston University, they can be found in the King Library and Archives in Atlanta or the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University. While creating the font I will share with you background information about the manuscripts used in the creation, why they are important and where to find them.
To complete this art project, 27,059€ are needed (find budget details below). The way Kickstarter works is that you can pledge for this project. In return for your peldge and to encourage you to support this project, I am offering you rewards. For example other handwriting fonts that I created here on Kickstarter or a poster, in return for your pledge. You can also make a donation if you just want to support this project, this can be done by pledging and choosing "no reward" or by simply pledging a bit more than your chosen reward tier. Donations are great, because I do not have to pay taxes on them.
Either way: If this project does not reach its funding goal until the end of the campaign (25. October 2019), I will not be able to complete the Martin Luther King font and all pledges will automatically be transferred back to the backers.
My wish is that this project gets into the hands of as many interested people as possible. I do not want to exclude anyone for financial reasons, that is why I keep the entry reward as low as possible at 1 Euro. If you wish to support this project with more I have created some very interesting rewards below.
The "Personal Typography Coach" reward is very dear to me, because it is about more than sharing the font, it is about enabling you to use the font in the way you want to.
Think of it as booking a session with your personal typography coach. There is something you like to do with the font, but you don’t know yet how to do it. Harald will help you personally! May it be a leaflet, school paper, holiday card, instagram series or tattoo — First I will listen to what you are aiming to do and we talk about your project through a 30 minute Skype, phone or email conversation. From there I’ll create a step-by-step tutorial based on your skill level (novices are welcome), software and device you use. I will improve the guide based on your feedback and share the tutorial with all backers.
All projects are welcome: you’re working on a paper about Dr. King, a student assignment, you like to use the font in your Newsletter or email, create hand-outs, holiday-cards, a recipe book or album cover. This may be a general question like: how do I get the font on a t-shirt? or about fine tuning the drop shadow on the cover art for you latest album…
— All questions are welcome.
50/100/150/200€ @work commercial licence • Receive the Martin Luther King Font(50€) and additional Fonts(100/150/200€) to use at work in a commercial context (e.g. Design Studio, Advertising Agency, Newspaper, etc.) on PC, Mac, Linux, iPhone and iPad.
€800 Presentation + Q&A // €1,500 Workshop with Harald Geisler • These rewards are for individuals, groups or universities and schools interested in typography, font making, crowdfunding, handwriting and everything that relates to this project or typography in general. A presentation will be with Q&A session about the project. The workshop will take either two or four days. Schedule, topic and details to be discussed. I will travel everywhere, but additionally you will have to cover traveling costs (flight, train and hotel) from Frankfurt, Germany.
Your contribution will make the Martin Luther King font better and will go directly to everybody who receives the font. Your generous support will allow me to add one additional alphabet to the font — which makes its appearance more complex and one alphabet closer to the original.
I can not thank you with a physically equivalent reward but you will be credited accordingly and feel free to pick from all the rewards above.
You have a question about the rewards — simply reach out to me through Kickstarter or my website. I am happy to help you.
Below you will find additional information to answer common questions about the project. If you have a question that is not answered below, feel free to contact me through Kickstarter or reach out in the comment-section of the project, I am happy to hear from you.
- The ABC of how a "handwriting"-font is made.
- How can a font look like beautiful handwriting?
- Improvising the @ sign
- Inspiration - (History of the project)
- Timeline - When will the font be ready?
- Budgeting • How will the funding be used?
- Kickstarter References
- Technicalities: Font specifications
I created multiple handwriting projects, for example the Sigmund Freud Typeface, based on Freud's handwriting, the Albert Einstein Font and Martin Luther Font. With each project I refine my process and everything I learn benefits the next project. Let me walk you through the basic steps of my process:
A. Understanding Movement — Every writer has their own way of moving on paper, which can be described with characteristic angles. For example the angle at which one letter connects to the next — not all letters connect at the same angle, but there is an average. In the picture below the blue guides show the average "connecting"-angle of Dr. King's handwriting:
B. Recreating Movement — For each letter I recreate the movement path that was used to draw the letter on paper. This movement-path uses the characteristic angles (i.e. connecting, ascending and descending angle) to describe the movement and is stored as a vector in the design software:
C. Adding contrast to the letter — The movement-path is then modified to render the ink flow of the used writing tool. In this case a pen that creates thick down strokes and a slightly thinner upstroke. This digital form is then stored in the Font file, which is a rather technical process. If you wish to read more about it, I have written an in-depth article →here.
The example above already shows characteristics of Dr. King's handwriting. Analysing how a writer makes the bow of an “l” or the slope of a “g” also affects ones own handwriting and has surprising side-effects. During past projects I found myself suddenly writing my grocery lists with Einsteinian (or Freudian) loops and hoops.
Handwriting has a vivid character because one never writes the same letter twice. When I type the word 'look' in a regular font, the two 'o' look the same.
In the preparation of creating a handwriting font I look at all kind of documents, and mark certain letters that I find are typical for the writers' hand. In the example below you see a selection of lowercase "d" — notice how they are similar but also different in the beginning, middle and ending of a word:
Capturing one version of each letter in the beginning, middle and end of a word is not enough: I create multiple versions of each letter that are stored in the font-file. The font is then programmed to exchange the different versions as you type. This way each word will appear different, depending on its position on the page. The more letter-sets I draw into the font, the closer it gets to handwriting. I call this method polyalphabetic substitution.
The most complex font I made so far is the Albert Einstein Font. It holds five versions of each letter (Set 1-5) and different weights. Here you see comparisons of the font with original samples of Einstein writing "Allgemeine Relativitätstheorie" (German for "General Theory of Relativity"):
I mentioned that "everything I learn benefits the next project". One aspect I was not able to fully address in Freud nor the Einstein font, but is already implemented in the current state of the Mart Luther King font prototype. In handwriting a lowercase letter can look different in the beginning, middle or end of a word, which means this font should reflect that with additional lowercase letterforms (a in the beginning of a word, a in the middle, a at the end, b in the beginning, b… vs. just a, b, c, … ).
This may sound like a small detail, but accordingly the Martin Luther King font will have triple the amount of lowercase - letters to be drawn per variation… a lot more work! But I am convinced the result will be worth the effort. The plan for the font is to add 3 variations per Letter (lower-case, uppercase, initial and final case too!). This is the minimum to bring the appearance of the font on the margin to handwriting. The more funding the campaign gets, the more variations per letter I can add to the final font — making the final result better for all backers!
For me it is important to not scan the image of letters, nor simply to trace them with an automated software. By focusing on movement and creating in this analog-digital way, I become familiar with the hand of a writer by re-writing characteristic letters. Learning the movement that a writer made to create a letter is essential to creating its digital counterpart.
Become familiar, study, reproduce and learn the original movement is essential when it comes to creating signs that were uncommon at Dr. King's time. For example one will hardly find an @ sign nor the letter combination www in his notes. After digitising all available letters, I use the collected knowledge about a writers movement to create a profund improvisation; for example the @-sign can be seen as the movement of a lowercase "a" connected with the bow of a parenthesis.
This is an excerpt of my creation process, →here you can find an in-depth article about my process written in 2014.
Kickstarter campaigns have Stretch-goals, so that backers get animated to support the campaign further than its funding goal. This project is very dear to me and it is important for me to make it happen as I lay it out in this description. However this project is calculated on shoestring budget, in which many days and weeks that I already put in this project are not accounted. From past campaigns I know that the benefit of a higher funding is not that easy to calculate. For example in the rewards I say that if one person pledges 8500€ I will add one more alphabet to the font. This means that I would have 8500€ to spend solely on working on the font, with little to none production of a physical good, handling, packaging by hand or shipping involved. The same amount coming from 100 or 1000 backers would involve additional accounting, shipping, handling, etc., which can easily add up to a huge amount of time and certainly production money.
With that in mind I ask myself: what would be a "good"stretch-goal for this project? What makes the font better for all backers? Answer: the more variations are stored in the font the closer it comes to actual handwriting. For each additional 15.000€ I can add an additional alphabet in a comfortable and safe way — and I am offering something that I can fulfil.
First I keep my fingers crossed, that the campaign reaches its goal — and then for every additional 15.000€ I will add one more alphabet to the font, making it better for all backers of this project.
2014 in the context of the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's visit to East Berlin (1964), I came upon a radio recording of a speech he gave in Marienkirche. I took a note of the introduction because of what he says about his name:
"I come to you not altogether as a stranger, for the name that I happen to have, is a name familiar to you, so familiar to Germany and so familiar to the world. And I am happy that my parents decided to name me after the great reformer."
What influence is it on a person to grow up with a name linked to history? Is it a burden or is it an inspiration to carry a name? For Martin Luther King jr, I imagine this connection must have been a source of inspiration.
With the handwriting fonts project I am proposing a similar situation: What does it mean to write your thoughts and ideas with the "hand" of Dr. King, Luther, Einstein or Freud? Is the author lurking over your shoulder as you write or are you dictating, is the font a disguise or mask to hide behind, is it a role to switch into and to see and act as if you were, is it a challenging discussion on paper or an uplifting empowering writing together? I hope that these projects enrich your daily reading and writing experience and serve as a source of inspiration and a playful encounter with history.
Back in 2014 listening to the radio feature, I wrote Martin Luther King (1929-1968) on a board in my studio. A friend saw it and suggested then that I should create a Martin Luther (1483-1546) font first. I launched a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2017, the 500th aniversary of the reformation. In the Luther project description you can read that I had planned to create the Dr. King font in 2018 commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination. But Luther's half a millennia old handwriting occupied me longer than expected. After the campaign succeeded scholars from different fields (Historians, Palaeographers, Latin scholars) contributed freely to the documentation, expanding the work beyond what I had planned. These contributions gave the project new angles to the subject, which I value very much. I am curious to see how this project about Dr. King's handwriting will develop and invite you to contribute and join this journey.
21 days after the campaign ends all Backers of the campaign will receive access to the current state of the font AND digital rewards. The final font will be available to all backers in February 2020. Before that all backers will receive updated versions of the font as I am working on it. You will be able to give feedback to the font as I am developing it, which will make the final font better. Physical rewards like Posters will be send out by February 2020. For details please see timeline below.
If you like to see my other typography Kickstarter projects have a look at this list:
- Sigmund Freud Typeface • a letter to your shrink 2013 — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/201030759/sigmund-freud-typeface-a-letter-to-your-shrink
- Albert Einstein Font 2015 — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1822548650/albert-einstein-font
- Martin Luther Font 2017 — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2108133360/martin-luther-handwriting-font-here-i-write
- Kickstarter Gold: Pen Pals—Einstein & Freud 2017 — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2108133360/kickstarter-gold-pen-palseinstein-and-freud-handwr
- Typographic Postcards #14-26 2015 — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2108133360/typographic-postcards
- Typographic Postcard #27 2016 — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2108133360/typographic-postcards-and-sticker-27-i-was-here
- Typographic Postcard #28 "WISH YOU WERE HERE" 2018 — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2108133360/typographic-postcard-28-wish-you-were-here
- Typographic Postcard #29 "OFFLINE" 2019 — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2108133360/offline
Typographic Wall Calendar Series:
- Typographic Wall Calendar 2011 — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/107717342/2011-typographic-wall-calendar
- Typographic Wall Calendar 2012 — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/107717342/2012-typographic-wall-calendar
- Typographic Wall Calendar 2013 — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/107717342/2013-typographic-wall-calendar
- Typographic Wall Calendar 2014 — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/107717342/2014-typographic-wall-calendar
- Typographic Wall Calendar 2016 — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2108133360/2016-typographic-wall-calendar
Cancel / Save / OK:
- Cancel / Save Notepad 2017 — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2108133360/cancel-save-notepad
- Cancel / OK Sticky Notes 2018 — https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2108133360/cancel-ok-sticky-notes
These typographic projects would not be possible without a platform like Kickstarter and Backers like you.
❤ Thank you.
Technicalities: Font specifications
The Martin Luther King font will be delivered in OpenType format with PostScript outlines. This format is a standard and widely supported by all common operating systems like PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android etc.
- Terminal forms(special letter-variations at the end of a word)
- Initial forms(specifically lowercase letters that are different in the beginning of a word)
- Stylistic Sets (so you can pick which h you like better)
- …and much more!
Language support • Every language has specific needs, for example in German two dots are placed over vowels (ä,ö,ü) to indicate a modification. Here is a list of the languages the font will support: Afrikaans, Albanian, Asu, Basque, Bemba, Bena, Bosnian, Catalan, Chiga, Congo Swahili, Cornish, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Embu, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Faroese, Filipino, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Gusii, Hawaiian, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Kabuverdianu, Kalaallisut, Kalenjin, Kamba, Kikuyu, Kinyarwanda, Lithuanian, Luo, Luyia, Machame, Makhuwa-Meetto, Makonde, Malagasy, Malay, Maltese, Manx, Meru, Morisyen, North Ndebele, Norwegian Bokmål, Norwegian Nynorsk, Nyankole, Oromo, Polish, Portuguese, Romansh, Rombo, Rundi, Rwa, Samburu, Sango, Sangu, Sena, Shambala, Shona, Slovak, Slovenian, Soga, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Swiss German, Taita, Teso, Turkish, Vunjo, Zulu.
All fonts are licensed for private (non-commercial) and educational (in the context of your work as a teacher in a school or university) use.
Commercial use: If you are planning to use the font commercially, for example in your design work or in any context that you could describe with "at work" or involves you doing something that you receive money for… please pledge for the commercial license. Thank you. You can read my End User License Agreement here: https://haraldgeisler.com/eula
EULA • What is an EULA?
EULA means End User License Agreement. Since a font is design and software we need to agree on many things for example what are my responsibilities and what can you expect from this software. You can read the EULA for all my fonts right here.
LICENSE GRANTED BY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTIES MANAGEMENT, ATLANTA, GEORGIA, AS EXCLUSIVE LICENSOR OF THE KING ESTATE
Further resources on Dr. Martin Luther King:
[ --- list to be extended --- ]
Risks and challenges
Every artistic project bears risks. Every project is new and brings up unforeseeable risks and challenges both technically and artistically. I have published three comparable projects (Albert Einstein font, Sigmund Freud Typeface - a letter to your shrink, Martin Luther Font) and seven logistically comparable projects (Typographic Postcards I + II, Typographic Wall Calendar 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016) which involved design, production, packaging and shipping of printed goods, so I know about the artistic, logistical and technical pitfalls to avoid. The research and preparation that I already made for this project assures me that I will complete this project within the projected timeframe.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (60 days)