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Brian Willson

Brian Willson says his career as a type designer was an accident. “I never planned any of it. I just like to play — which is how I made my first handwriting font years ago. I basically did it just to see if I could.” People liked the font, and that encouraged him to make more. Brian found himself drawn to historical materials. “The source documents fascinated me, and I decided to mess around with antique handwriting, which sort of lets you read the minds of the long-deceased people wrote that way. Soon, there won’t be many people left who will be able to write in cursive. So now I feel sort of like, in a way, I’m salvaging something.”

It’s his compulsion to fiddle, goof off, and play that compels him to make. “I had an earlier, deadline-driven career in journalism, which had its own rewards — but now I’m not in such a hurry all the time.”

Texas forever

His first historical penmanship typeface is Texas Hero, but Brian doesn’t remember where he got the idea. “I needed it for some design project — or just wanted it, for some reason. But nothing like it existed, so I figured I’d just make it myself. I’m grateful that I had access to source material via my mom, a historical librarian. Most of my fonts simulate some sort of alphabet found in real life.”

“Soon, there won’t be many people left who

can write in cursive. So I feel like, in a way,

I’m salvaging something.”

Emily Austin Perry was a famous Texas pioneer and the sister of Stephen F. Austin. (Yes, that Austin.) Designing a typeface based on Emily’s handwriting is Brian’s most memorable project to date. “Mainly because of how the content of her letters, from the first half of the 19th century, gave you a perfect picture of who she was. It’s as if you can somehow still divine her facial expressions from her words.” Another favorite was a simulation of John Quincy Adams’ penmanship. “What a guy he was. Did you know he kept a daily diary for around 70 years?”

His work requires long hours in front of a computer screen, which he balances out by spending much of his free time outside — “a fanatical three-season cycling routine,” taking his dog on a daily hike, or indulging his obsession with birding.

So what’s next? A lot, including a font “modeled after the script of Abigail Adams, John Quincy’s mother, and another based on some old botanical art prints I have.”

Products by Brian Willson

Abigail Adams
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Abigail Adams
$39.00 USD
American Scribe
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American Scribe
$39.00 USD
Antiquarian
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Antiquarian
$39.00 USD
Antiquarian Scribe
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Antiquarian Scribe
$39.00 USD
Attic Antique
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Attic Antique
From $29.00 USD
Bonsai
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Bonsai
From $29.00 USD
Broadsheet
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Broadsheet
From $29.00 USD
Castine
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Castine
From $29.00 USD
Douglass Pen
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Douglass Pen
$39.00 USD
Emily Austin
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Emily Austin
$39.00 USD
Houston Pen
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Houston Pen
$39.00 USD
Lamar Pen
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Lamar Pen
$39.00 USD
Old Man Eloquent
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Old Man Eloquent
From $29.00 USD
Schooner Script
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Schooner Script
$39.00 USD
Terra Ignota
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Terra Ignota
$39.00 USD
Texas Hero
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Texas Hero
$39.00 USD