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Contemporary Valentines: Signature typefaces and Japanese stones

It would be a disservicing understatement to say we've been waiting all year to share this Valentine's Day gift suggestion. In earnest, this is one of our all time favorite gifts; one that puts metronomic boxes of foiled-wrapped chocolates and idiomatic rose bouquets to shame. So now, without further ado and with inarticulably abounding excitement, we invite you to discover the intimacy, expressivity, and unexpected romance of aesthetic text with the gift of signature digital handwriting.

Consider how frequently you communicate with your partner* via technology. Employing text messages, emails, shared documents, and instant chats, we spend a significant portion of our modern relationships conversing digitally. In the current information age, your typed text is your voice—your digital handwriting— and its visual weight dictates the tone of your messages as much as the content of your language. When we write to one another virtually, our voices are often depersonalized by the monotony of default typefaces. While Microsoft attempts to reassure us that its pre-set, Arial, is an accurate digital rendering of a shared contemporary voice, one with "more humanist tune with the mood of the last decades of the twentieth century" (1), it is impossible for a single font to appropriately represent all of the diverse voices buzzing within a platform's user population. So this Valentine's Day, move beyond the uninspired defaults and present your loved ones with a digital voice that fully conveys how you feel about them with signature typefaces.

*we use the singular designation for partner and significant other throughout this feature but know that we fully support you sharing this gift and your affections with any/all of your partners, playmates, galentines, palentines, or just with yourself as an act of self-love. Absolutely all love is celebrated here!

While it's easy to appreciate the inherent aestheticism of type designs, we believe a bit of background on our typeface gift pick is important to understand, with completeness, the unrivaled exceptionalism of typeface valentines.

Many years ago while in university, we were too preoccupied by our insatiable intellectual curiosities and newfound freedoms to settle into any meaningful meditations on sustainable romance. Our youth and passions felt limitless, our sheer existence was an unvarnished—albeit slightly performative—presentation of our ceaselessly colorful emotions, and we were entirely unencumbered by the pressures of finding eloquently romantic gifts. In the midst of this blissfully naive sensationalism, we one day found ourselves in the gentle company of the most venerated of collegiate wisemen: our Resident Advisor (RA). A senior with a self-assured suaveness that our bewildered freshmen personas could only dream of, our RA was in the midst of trekking through a deeply nuanced research jungle with the ultimate goal of producing a thesis in Japanese studies. During discussions about his thesis, we were introduced to a petrophilic Japanese tradition that solidified itself as our romantic gift-giving keystone and ultimately inspired our typeface valentines.

The custom, as relayed to us by said RA, involved the utilization of natural stones as mediums of emotional expression. One would identify, with fated spontaneity, a stone that embodied the way they felt about a person. After collecting the stone, the person then sent or otherwise shared it with their emotional muse, the object of their fondness. The exchange, likely a folkloric manifestation of gong shi or suiseki aestheticism, struck us as one of the most sincere and poetic forms of romantic communication. The indelibility of our youthful gift-giving cavalierness was shaken by an unassuming pebble in the palm and we were instantaneously and irrevocably entranced by the hypnotic ponderance of such a simple and profound gesture of love. If you're anything like us, you might be overcome by a sudden rush of inspiration to stroll along rocky shorelines and through mountainous paths with the hope of stumbling upon the stone that epitomizes the fervor of your ardency.

However, sending your loved ones a rock will likely be received devoid of your lustrously romantic intention. As one of our peers noted, "to those unfamiliar with the [Japanese] practice, a rock on Valentine's Day is roughly as heartwarming as coal on Christmas". So we turned to typefaces as our contemporary interpretation of this storied custom, one adapted to our increasingly digitalized romantic world.

In preparation for this Valentine's Day, rather than waiting for the perfect stone to reveal itself, scour the internet for the typefaces/fonts that epitomize your feelings for the special people in your life. Take a moment to thoughtfully listen to the full symphony of feelings you have for your partner and observe which emotional notes carry the melody of your relationship.

Does your partner leave you intoxicated with dauntless adventurism? Empowered with an emboldening sense of sultry confidence? Electrified with a spark of creativity and artistic inspiration? Enlivened with wondrously child-like playfulness? Or awe-struck with wholesome comfort and undying loyalty? Are your feelings smooth like a Sunday morning cup of coffee or as sharp as a deliciously quick wit? Do they paint you in a smoky glow of Hollywood glamour or transport you to the pristine serenity of private zen gardens?

Allow this melody to narrate your typeface search until you arrive at a style that epiphanically and euphorically moves you. Like true love, there shouldn't be a sense of ambivalence; we believe this is a 'you know it when you see it' pursuit. Fortunately, there is a seemingly endless pool of available designs to choose from and the optionality doesn't end with published font offerings! You can collaborate with type designers to create one of a kind, individualized typefaces unique to you and your partner.

Once you've discovered or designed your ideal font, offer it as a gift to your partner; establish the selected style as your signature, visual love language. Commit to exclusively use your chosen font in digital correspondences with your significant other. Commission a work of contemporary art inspired by and prominently featuring your graphic typeface or order stationary, designed using your font, for moments when you're inspired to put pen to paper. Use your typeface as digital handwriting to add an enhancing amorous visual to a digitally-penned love letter or transform a tediously mundane email into a quiet reminder of your adoration. Fonts hold unquestionable communicative weight yet remain an overlooked aspect of our virtualized relationships. The subtle act of changing a font can assign a private, coded tone of affection to an otherwise prosaic medium.

Apprehensive about expressing yourself and your relationship through typeface? Not to worry. Instead, set out to find a font that embodies the characteristics you love about your partner. Is your partner extroverted or introverted? Are they bold? Sleek? Whimsical? Effervescent? Charming, organized, imaginative, industrious, reserved, or refined? Let the traits you cherish guide you to a font that is an effortless and recognizable extension of your partner's personality; one that visually communicates the very best of who they are. Similar to a signature fragrance, a gifted type design may become your significant other's aesthetic digital signature. Bear in mind, how you see your beloved may not be how they wish to present to themselves to others. As such, we favor selecting a font that epitomizes your feelings and using that font yourself in correspondences with your partner.

We are admittedly hopeless romantics and each year we strive to pinpoint the most appropriate way to translate the complexity, and often monumentalism, of our amorous ardors into tangible Valentine's Day gifts. Unfortunately, when commercialism conspires with Cupid to bombard us with heaps of saccharine hearts, the individuality of our valentines can dissipate as quickly as a flutter of Cupid's wings. Amidst a dizzying sea of trivial trinkets and chocolate-covered treats, typefaces and fonts stand alone as personal, intimate, and accessibly expressive Valentine's Day offerings that are sure to leave your loved ones weak at the knees.

Below, we've included designs from some of our favorite type foundries to inspire you as you being you typeface escapades; simply click on a photos below to be redirected to the corresponding foundry page. Discover more Valentine-worthy gifts by browsing the Holiday Gift Guide or by shopping the collection of items available in our store.


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