"...but I Can't Read Cursive"

Updated: Nov 9

A Hand Lettering Dilemma

“...but I can’t read cursive” I was co-leading a youth group when I heard those words for the first time. It was an unexpected response from a middle school girl when asked to read the writing on a t-shirt. This shirt was a plain blue with a message written in beautiful hand lettering.

Is Cursive is Dead

Apparently, left out of the loop I did not realize that cursive writing was no longer taught in schools. The few students who had already learned cursive were told by their instructors to abandon it at the high school door. It was left for dead when Common Core Standards Initiatives took hold.

Is Cursive a Useless Relic?

Steve Jobs dropped most of his college classes, but a Calligraphy class taught by a Trappist Monk held his attention. What Mr. Jobs learned in this class played an important part in the design of the Apple computer. Cursive must have some kind of function, not just teaching fine motor skills or speeding up writing, but perhaps secretly teaching the mind, too.

Can you read this?

The Problem

When millenials do not read cursive it offers up questions about marketing to this non-cursive society. Such as... is beautiful handmade script now unreadable and obsolete, what is the market demographic for hand lettered designs, and will the messages people proudly proclaim on their T-shirts, coffee cups, posters, etc. be largely ignored because no one will be able to read them. Also, will part of the message be lost if designers are forced to abandon script for an easier to read nondescript design? These are legitimate concerns when potential customers may not be able to read what is designed. Our clients and collaborators need to know this information when using hand lettering as part of their design.

Can you read me now?

As always, there are solutions to every design problem.

for example, the use of color, size, punctuation marks, design elements, custom non-cursive fonts, gestalt principles, etc.. Of course, you can always test a design by asking your local youth group or millennial family members to critique the readability of your design. That is, If you want a brutally honest critique (not for the faint of heart).

Your target market may not be able to read this message

BTW the message that could not be read on the T-shirt was Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.