Need to add a personal touch to a design you’re working on? Then you’re probably looking at a variety of cursive fonts and trying to decide which one best tells your unique story. Or maybe you’re bored with the usual font choices and want to discover something new.
WHY CURSIVE FONTS?
Cursive fonts, also commonly referred to as handwritten or script fonts, are known for their ability to communicate emotion and add a human element to your storytelling. This is why so many big brands use handwritten fonts for their logos. So before choosing a font, be sure to know what story you’re trying to tell and what desired effect you’d like to produce in your audience.
Absolut Vodka nails sophistication with their use of Futura Extra Bold Condensed.
There are thousands of cursive fonts available and each conveys a different mood, from silly to sophisticated. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so choosing the right font is paramount to getting your story told correctly.
The Design School blog compares choosing the right font to picking an appropriate outfit to wear:
“Different occasions and situations call for different apparel. You wouldn’t wear a bathing suit to a job interview; you wouldn’t wear a suit and tie on the beach, either.”
THE ORIGINS OF CURSIVE HANDWRITING
Cursive handwriting first gained popularity because it allowed people to write quickly with their quills without spilling ink everywhere (quills were easy to break and also prone to spattering). The steel pens that evolved from the quill were sturdier, but still kind of messy, so having letters run together was a good way to keep things tidy. In fact, “cursive” as a term came from corsivo, an 18th-century Italian word that means “running.” Cursive was also handy in terms of getting the maximum amount of words onto a single sheet of paper.
Modern designers don’t worry much about spilling ink or conserving space on paper. But the rich history and tradition of cursive typography is very much alive in how people interpret fonts when they see them in design.
WHERE TO FIND FREE CURSIVE FONTS
Free fonts aren’t difficult to find online, but quality is always more important than quantity.
Creative Bloq curated a Top 20 list of their favorite free cursive fonts from a variety of different designers, which features some beautiful examples:
Boy Moch Tomi’s Variane Script Font is effortlessly classic.
James Edmonson’s Lavanderia has a subtly ornate quality without being unnecessarily flamboyant.
Fabien Despinoy’s Fabfelt Script feels timeless enough that it could have been hand-hammered into the side of your dad’s favorite toolbox.
If you need more inspiration, the Awwwards Best Free Fonts of 2015 has some cool script font options as well.
If money/budget is no object (ha!) and you’re interested in finding fonts with lots of contextual alternates, start with this great article by Media Militia that discusses different types of alternates, where to purchase them, and how to implement them in Illustrator.
FontSpring is a great option if you want to purchase fonts without the hassle of complex licensing issues. They charge no annual fee and you can use fonts on as many projects as you like. FontSpring also partners with font foundries like Exljbris, Mark Simonson Studio, Canada Type, and Shinntype so you’re actually supporting artists when you purchase from them.
IS HANDWRITING A “DYING ART”?
You’ve probably read some recent articles about whether or not cursive should still be taught in schools. Many educational systems have ditched it altogether in favor of “keyboard proficiency.” In the digital age, this would seem to make perfect sense. Psychology Today cited research that shows that “students wrote more words, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand.” In addition, they credited cursive writing with “helping train the brain to integrate visual and tactile information, and refine motor dexterity.” And lastly, they concluded that the cognitive function activated during reading was also activated during handwriting, but NOT when the students were typing.
Modern technology has made it easier than ever to create and produce content—no disrespect to the spattering quill—but our brains still respond to art that feels like it comes from an actual person. And no font feels more personal than cursive.