Kickstarting: Sigmund Freud’s Handwriting As A Scrawling Typeface

Just don’t write a letter to your mother with it.

Harald Geisler is a bit obsessed with handwriting. He spent two and a half months re-creating Albert Einstein’s penmanship. Then he created a romantic script just for lovers. Now, thanks to a well-funded Kickstarter campaign, he’s taking on one of the most radical thinkers of the last century.


Harald Geisler is digitizing Sigmund Freud’s handwriting. And to do so, he must digitize part of Sigmund Freud himself.

“When I look at written or printed type, I prefer to think of a moving pen rather than any form that is created,” Geisler tells Co.Design. “Handwriting can be like reading a trail. One must understand how something is created rather than being focused on outcome–understanding the process is very essential to reproducing the results.”

So while Geisler recently visited the Sigmund Freud museum in Vienna to study some of Freud’s original letters, he wasn’t searching so much for a single alphabet to gleen from the famous psychoanalyst but all the tiny strokes of the pen that could explain how the characters were affected based upon their positioning.

For instance, a fountain pen’s upstroke resembles a hairline, while the downstroke is quite thick. On top of that, a letter at the end of a word is always drawn differently than when sandwiched in between two letters. “A ‘t’ followed by an ‘h’ is drawn differently than a ‘t’ followed by an ‘i’,” Geisler explains. So though he is developing a sort of average of the alphabet that Freud might draw, most of the process centers around the modifications in a letter when it starts a sentence, ends a sentence, or is connected to specific letters–to really deconstruct and reconstruct the way Freud’s hand moved with a pen.

Geisler expects to end up with somewhere around 300 of these alternative ligatures and glyphs, each of which will take roughly an hour to complete. That’s roughly two months of work that Geisler could automate with simpler logic–if you’ve never tried this fantastic tool to create your own, handwritten font, I urge you to spend a rainy afternoon doing so–but the results wouldn’t be nearly as authentic. Because Geisler’s goal for Freud’s typeface is quite high: To be so natural that it could serve as the second page of a two-page letter and no one could notice the shift.

That is, until the reader looks a bit closer, and they see 70+ years of modern science weighing in on turn-of-the-century pop psychology.


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.