Bic maps out the world’s handwriting

From a very early age, sometimes even before school, we are told to practice, fine-tune and explore our handwriting styles – something that remains with us throughout childhood and beyond. We write and sign our most important documents using our hands, and more often than not, our handwriting is there, on record, long after we ourselves are gone.

Does handwriting differ from country to country?

Pen maker Bic certainly thinks so and has successfully mapped over 860,000 characters from 112 countries across the world. In the results, every single letter has been combined to create an average typeface alphabet that can be explored by age, gender, country and even by which hand wrote them.

Interestingly, and also perhaps amazingly, the results reveal a very infantile typeface:

Universal Typeface Experiment

Universal Typeface Experiment

To begin the experiment, the French manufacturer asked people from all over the world to submit their handwriting styles to the Universal Typeface Experiment site.

But what does your handwriting say about you?

According to the National Pen Company in the US, someone’s handwriting can give away over 5,000 personality traits.

This can be revealed by a number of factors including how spaced out each individual letter is, how a person signs their name, and even how a person connects an ‘s’ or an ‘o’.

From a research project conducted by the company, it was able to ascertain that a person with small handwriting tended to be shy, where as an extroverted person would tend to have much larger handwriting to suit their personality as well as much more.

Does handwriting or font matter to a business?

Coca Cola van

Coca Cola van

It of course, takes little energy to realise how much a font means to a particular brand. We only have to think about the likes of Coca Cola (Loki Cola), McDonalds (apparently Helvetica Neue LT Std), or Adidas (AdiNeue) to see the recognition and association that we have with the letters.

With this very fact in mind, we spoke to Gavin Race of BurstingBox, an artist and website designer in South Yorkshire, to see how important such designs are for a business:

How important is handwriting in your line of work?

It doesn’t matter so much in my line of work, as very little is handwritten. The only writing we really receive for a website is when a client may use their signature for a website.

For example, a signature on the website of a law firm needs to be impressive in order to show the integrity of not only the person who made it, but also the business on a whole.

How important is a new font to a business?

This is extremely important because a font represents the business, sometimes before people have even seen or visited the company in real life. For example, who has ever walked into an Amazon warehouse? But we can all recall their logo.

It is important to realise that at the same time however, quirky fonts are bad for a serious company, the font really does need to relate to what kind of business is being branded.

For example, if you take a look at HSBC, its font is possibly Serif or New Times Roman, and is almost elegant but manages to remain professional and corporate – this is exactly what you need for one of the world’s biggest banks.

Do you ever have to think about the nationality, or line of business when designing a font or brand for them?

I don’t particularly think about nationality, but you certainly do for the sector. I have recently branded a website for an Italian restaurant and this uses an array of elegant fonts to show a classy, exotic, yet easy-to-understand ideal.

Is it important that this branding is timeless? Is that something that you ever have to think about?

This is highly important.

Designs and trends change year on year, so it is a massive advantage to keep a font timeless. At the end of the day, you don’t want your client coming back in two years, complaining that they are now out of style.

Just look how much the Apple logo has changed throughout the past few decades, haha.


Anna has been a lover of stationery since the age of three, when she got her first red spotted pencil case. Lucky enough to work part time for The Pen Company, she is surrounded by stationery; the dream of many a collector!