a font of joy

When I was in junior high, a miraculous invention changed my life.  No, I’m not talking about instant messaging, though that came out around that time and also changed my life, in large part by making me a super fast typist, though I’d rather forget that my junior high band nerd self chose “ilovemysax” as my first unfortunate screen name.  No, I’m talking about SPARKLY GEL PENS!  I’m pretty sure Japan, land of all things adorable, which also gave us the required Tamagotchis (which were later banned from school), invented sparkly gel pens, and they found their way into my little junior high world sometime after that.  Pretty soon they were practically required for junior high coolness, and we took our notes in class using neon colors, sometimes alternating every bullet point with a different color.  Never mind that the fluorescent oranges and pinks were rather hard to read, we were SO COOL with our sparkly pens.  (If you doubt that a pen is enough to be cool in junior high, you haven’t been in junior high.)  I vividly remember sitting around a four-seater table with my 3 best friends in social studies class, our shared collection of gel pens stacked in a pile in the middle of the table for our shared use and note-beautification.

But it wasn’t just class notes we beautified with our snazzy gel-inked, translucent roller-ball pens.  There’s another crucial aspect of junior high life for which gel pens were crucial.  And that is the art of the note to your friends.  I became sort of a master at the highly embellished note, crafted somewhat surreptitiously during class, detailing OH SO MUCH serious junior high drama, referring to crushes with super secret code names, with my friends’ names at the top in highly embellished fonts I free-handed using print-outs I made of entire alphabets with Microsoft Word fonts from my home computer.  I even invented some of my own fonts.  And of course, I folded all the notes into intricate origami shapes for delivery, either slipped into lockers or passed hand to hand in the hallways.  Pretty soon every friend who was on a sports team or competitive squad of some sort got a good-luck note, complete with doodles and illustrations, their names usually in my SUPER COOL self-designed zebra-printed all-caps font, on competition days.  My notes actually became coveted items, and people would get their feelings hurt if game day came and I didn’t give them a good luck note.

Though we eventually moved on to high school, and gel pens and note-writing sort of dropped by the wayside, perhaps because we had actual schoolwork to be focusing on with our AP courseloads. Still those early note writing days led to a love of self-taught semi-calligraphy, and if you’re ever lucky enough to receive a birthday card from me, odds are your name will be written on the front with some sort of fancy font, most likely using a silver or gold gel pen, which are still popular pen choices, even if their novelty no longer makes them a school-supply must have.  I think they’re now most popular with scrapbookers, which, you should see the stuff I did for my wedding album.

You may be wondering what is up with this ode to fonts and gel pens, or perhaps what the deal is with the fancy drop caps I’m using in every paragraph of this post.  And here is where I have to confess that the drop caps are the entire point.  I stumbled across typographer Jessica Hiche’s Daily Drop Cap blog and was instantly transported back to my junior high font-inventing, note-embellishing days.  If only someone had told my junior high self that growing up to be a font-designer was a possibility, my life may have taken a different course! Who knew that all that in-class time wasting could turn out to be a marketable skill?

C heck out Hiche’s Daily Drop Caps for yourself, if you’re a font-nerd like me. I’m just going to be drooling over her typography work, and maybe breaking out those gel pens for some fun times. Anyone need a note?

One Reply to “a font of joy”

  1. OMG, I am total font/cool-pen nerd. Always have been. In school, as far back as late elementary, I was obsessed with “designing” my own handwriting. One day, I’d decide to write in vertical all-caps; the next day, right-slanting cursive. One day, I’d make my lower case a’s with the circle-and-stick model; next day I’d make them like the ones on this page. My teachers probably thought I was schizo. And I still get excited about fun pens to this day. There was one other girl like me in my class, but she was an artsy type, so it made sense that she was into design. I was a more traditional academic nerd, so I’m not sure where my obsession came from; maybe I inherited just that one piece of my dad’s art major genes. :)


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