100 Billion Pens Later, BIC Develops a Universal Typeface

BIC, the maker of pens and enabler of oral fixations, recently launched the Universal Typeface Experiment.

The website prompts visitors to draw the letters of the English alphabet in order to develop a “collective handwriting.” Basic demographics (age, industry, handedness, etc) are also collected, with over 427,000 characters aggregated and catalogued so far.

There’s certainly a difference between my handwriting and how I scratch out a letter on my iPhone, so the results seem a bit dubious at best. But there is still the promise to reveal how demographics letter differently. And as the inspiring website intro screen suggests, while our handwriting might be personal, maybe “U” and “I” aren’t so different after all. If you’re really interested in handwriting, read Philip Hensher’s The Disappearing Ink.

handwriting

When I first visited, the most striking result I saw was that the “traffic” industry apparently made “X” as two outward-facing and disconnected curved lines, looking less like a letter and more like a parenthetical so long it had circumscribed the globe and returned to its starting point, i.e. )(. But now it’s averaged out and normalized. There is, however, no explanation as to whether traffic workers are smugglers, truck drivers, or bloggers.

So BIC’s experiment may not be revelatory. But it seems that isn’t the point. Unsurprisingly, it’s a marketing campaign to celebrate its new Cristal pen that doubles as a stylus. According to BIC, 100 billion Cristal pens have been produced. “In fact this is the best selling pen ever it can truly be called the universal pen. [SIC]” Hopefully they’ll be selling a version that doubles as a red pen.

ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER ADVERTISEMENT

About the Author

More Like This

Being Published in Asia Changed Everything About My Asian American Writer Experience

My book tour made me think about how publishers—and readers—react differently to writers who look like them

May 14 - Winnie M Li

What Does It Mean That Woody Allen Couldn’t Sell His Memoir?

Maybe the publishing industry is ready to consider something more than profit

May 9 - Carrie V. Mullins

New Literary Festivals Lead the Way by Celebrating Diversity

Two upcoming events ask: Who's still not being heard?

Apr 19 - Jennifer Baker