FF Uberhand

A casual handwriting typeface family by Jens Kutilek.
In work since 2008, released in 2017.
Available on: FontShop | MyFonts | Adobe Typekit

Evolution

FF Uberhand has a long pedigree and exists in different evolutionary stages:

FF Uberhand

With 13 styles in two optical sizes, FF Uberhand is the largest family of casual handwriting fonts available today.

The lively FF Uberhand Text family has two weights, Regular and Bold, with spacing and color tuned for longer text settings on paper or screen. The 11 versatile weights from Hairline to Black of the headline family, called simply FF Uberhand, have tighter spacing and a less irregular character, as would occur naturally when you write letters at a larger size. It can also work well for text if you increase the tracking a little.

For a complete overview of all the features, have a look at the FF Uberhand User Manual.

The Regular weight of the FF Uberhand Text family also contains a large number of icons, dingbats and symbols. A selection of user interface icons is available separately as FF Uberhand UI Icons.

From humble beginnings in 2008, the family kept growing and growing. Of the eight years I worked on and off on FF Uberhand, the beginning included a long period of experimentation about how to handle an undertaking of this scale effectively. Writing all the necessary glyphs with a suitable writing tool would probably have been most authentic, but it wasn’t feasible because scanning and tracing, complete with correction rounds, would have taken too long. For the Regular Text weight alone, over 800 glyphs had to be drawn, as there are three variants of each letter, and even four variants of the most common lowercase letters for a more convincing look.

After a number of failed experiments it became clear that the best and most effective method was writing on a pen tablet directly in the font editor, in order to establish the proportions of the glyphs quickly and in relation to other glyphs. Then I would move these rough shapes into the background layer and redraw them completely so I could get the clean contours, the exact look and details I imagined, like necessary optical corrections and thinning of stroke joins.


Left: The tablet sketch; right: the finished outline

The two text weights were drawn independently, while the headline styles were interpolated. Irregular shapes like these found in FF Uberhand don’t lend themselves well to interpolation, so meticulous manual corrections and cleanup were required in nearly all weights and glyphs.

The result is a lively, but very precisely drawn typeface. While most other handwriting fonts fall apart as soon as you zoom in close, FF Uberhand stays clean at every zoom level.

The writing style echoes my learning to write in Western Germany in the 1980s. But FF Uberhand contains a large number of stylistic alternates to switch characteristic letters to other writing traditions. Some of the fonts contain 19 stylistic sets, nearly maxing out the OpenType specification which allows for a maximum of 20 sets. Among them are classical forms of capitals (for when you just need that casual Roman inscription), letter variants for Dutch, English, German, Polish, Scandinavian, and Turkish languages, alternates unrelated to any particular language of D G, J, b, k, q, u; an automatic standalone I with serifs as used in comic book lettering, and a bookish alternate set of oldstyle figures in the Text styles.


Some of FF Uberhand’s stylistic sets

You can read in even more detail about FF Uberhand in this Quora answer.

FF Uberhand UI

An outtake of FF Uberhand Text Regular which contains 78 user interface icons. Licenses for desktop and web fonts, as well as app-embedding are available from FontShop and MyFonts.

Comic Jens Free

The ugly but free version

Jannis Hand

Jannis Hand is a proprietary version of FF Uberhand, with a more regularized appearance for use in textbooks and other educational materials. It was commissioned by a textbook publishing company and is not available for public licensing.