By Nazrene Hanif
You’d think, working in digital media, that a paperless environment would be the norm. Having worked at online fashion companies in the past, I suppose one might imagine my life revolves around young creative types with laptops – iPads if they are really on-point – sitting together in brightly coloured pods (like the kind you picture dominating Google headquarters) talking ideas and style over coffee, or better yet, a Matcha green tea. Sure, I sit and write this very feature at my office computer, while a second screen – my mobile – is on Instagram. It’s for inspiration, I say. I am searching the hashtag ‘#handwritten’...
The truth is, nothing focuses my mind better than putting ideas to paper. The process is more tangible: the very movement of the pen, the rise and fall of the script, the freedom of striking through, stetting or translating words, sentences, even whole paragraphs. Of course, you can do that when you type. But it is so formal to put words on a screen, so final to hit delete, and the sound of fingers tapping across the keyboard is nothing compared to that of the scratch and squeak of a pen.
I work for a website but I am in love with the handwritten word. And I am not alone. The weekly production meeting for MatchesFashion.com starts with a printing of online magazine schedules, flat plans, and a lot of people making notes - by hand, in a notebook. In fact, the notebook has become the device du jour in the office: mine is a pocket-sized Moleskine, my editor’s a rather enviable, monogrammed-leather Smythson.
We may live in an age where approximately a third of the population hasn’t written by hand for at least six months, but it is also an era where sales of paper notebooks continue to rise. Moleskine, for example, has seen a growth of 20% since 2014. Paper is far from dead. Which takes me back to that hashtag.
I work with a lot of graphic designers who possess an obsession with type. Yes, this has more to do with the aesthetic of Gill Sans and Helvetica, but ask them to add a touch of personality to a double-page spread, and most will seek out the ink and dip pen to handwrite words more thoughtfully and artistically than a simple text box or computer program would allow.
When curator Hans Ulrich Obrist of London’s Serpentine Gallery asked creatives, from Marina Abramovic to Kanye West, to handwrite messages for his Instagram account (@hansulrichobrist), what emerged was a movement: the art of handwriting rediscovered via social media. ‘Something we have to ask,’ says Obrist, ‘is how can handwriting play a role in the digital age – maybe not with ink, but with digital devices.
Writing by hand has also been shown to improve idea composition and expression, as well as enhancing memory and our ability to process information. My screen time may increase as digital technology evolves, but jotting notes, expressing myself, and penning ideas and matters of the heart will, for me, always be better done on paper.
(Nazrene Hanif is a London-based writer/editor and Au Courant guest contributor who still resorts to recording notes in a journal, by hand.)