Friday, 23 March 2012

Book Review | The Handwritten Letter Project by Craig Oldham

Ma Bicyclette: Book Review | The Handwritten Letter Project by Craig Oldham

The Handwritten Letter Project was a project set up by Craig Oldham in 2007 after he had a conversation about how personal a handwritten letter can be. Oldham couldn't help but question why it was that the majority of letters we come in to contact with are those concerning outstanding debt and the price of some service or other. What was once a necessary form of communication seems to be fading fast and with it we're loosing the emotion, personality and individuality of handwritten letters. We're all so reliant on sending emails and IM's these days, which is fine, these methods certainly have their positives. However, I have to agree with Wally Olins when he says "you can't invite someone to a wedding or announce the birth of a child over e-mail, it just isn't the same". For this reason alone I'd like to think handwritten letters won't become a thing of the past and we'll forever be putting pen to paper as a unique form of communication.
After some consideration of the matter, Oldham decided he would ask other designers around the world what their views on handwritten letters were. He asked them to write back to him on their personal stationery. The response he received was phenomenal. He got replies from the likes of Pentagram, Wally Olins, Stefan Sagmeister, The Chase, Interbrand, Ken Garland and Bob Gill. Each response was so individual, and not only because of the difference in opinion or the personal stationery they'd each written on, but the uniqueness of handwriting and illustration on every letter was simply beautiful. In 2011, Oldham decided to put the letters in a small exhibition in the KK Outlet, London. He then decided to publish the letters in a book, all proceeds the book made were to go to charity. The book is now on it's second edition and is selling on, in selected Selfridges stores and in Manchester's Magma.

I managed to get my hands on a copy of the book today, and you may gasp at the price, but in my opinion it was £24 well spent. I feel like I've purchased a little bit of design history. This isn't a book you read from cover to cover and then throw back on the shelf. It's a book you pick up once a week and select just a handful of letters to read, or re-read. It's one of those books you realise no matter how many times you go through it, you'll have always missed something out, guaranteed.
I love Oldham's solution to a simple but very real problem. In fact, I love a lot of his work for this reason. Craig Oldham is a fantastic thinker and writer and I urge you to take 5 minutes out of your day to read anything on his website. This guy is a born problem solver. It makes me happy to see that he cares enough about lovely things like handwritten letters to put in 4 years work just to make people question their opinion.

Ma Bicyclette: Book Review | The Handwritten Letter Project by Craig OldhamMa Bicyclette: Book Review | The Handwritten Letter Project by Craig Oldham


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