Cindy Thomason is a mom. She is a wife, a sister, and a granddaughter. And she’s the font designer responsible for bringing to life the handwriting of one of the most iconic characters in American literature: Jay Gatsby.
“I started out making fonts as a remembrance for some relatives, and as a living legacy for others,” Cindy says of her career as a font designer. What began as a project to preserve the unique styles and memories encapsulated in the handwriting of loved ones became a passion translated into success. She began selling her fonts at MyFonts: an online marketplace where anyone with a font can put their unique designs up for sale, and a place where anyone looking for a new font can browse through the world’s largest font library.
In an attempt to create a unique way for her children to remember her grandfather, Cindy created the font “Grandhappy,” a replica of his handwriting, with just a $100 font design software package. She could have never guessed that Warner Bros. would stumble upon her font on MyFonts and find it to be exactly what they had envisioned as Jay Gatsby’s handwriting for their production of the Great Gatsby movie that came out earlier this summer.
Cindy: “I would never have made the Grandhappy font if I hadn’t had a good relationship with my grandfather. I wanted to honor his memory. My first thought in making this font was not to make it for sale, but rather as a legacy for my children. Only after I realized how different his cursive was from all other fonts that I had seen did I consider making it available for sale. My goal was to make it as close to his actual handwriting as possible, so that it would be most closely “him” and not “me.” His handwriting was created in a day far from today’s world, and I wanted that to come across. It was a world where men were taught to be gentlemen, to work hard, and to be honorable in all their doings. He truly represented all of those things to me. In all my memories of him, never once did he hurt me nor disappoint me in any of his actions of words. Not only that, but he truly was one of the happiest, most encouraging people I’ve ever met, and easily earned his nickname of Grandhappy.”
Originally a means to preserve precious memories of beloved family members, font design quickly became a tool that Cindy now uses to touch readers in a unique way and bring new life to words written in her fonts.
Cindy: “I started out making fonts as a remembrance for some relatives, and as a living legacy for others. In addition to my grandfather’s fonts, I have also made fonts of my mother’s, sister’s, late grandmother’s and husband’s handwriting. And of course, I have my own cursive.
When I began font making, the first hurdle was to decide how I could and would connect the letters, and if to what degree I wanted this to happen in any given font. After that, there were thoughts of what proportions I wanted each font, and what feeling I wanted the completed font to evoke from the reader.”
The ways that letters are shaped and displayed can invoke just as much meaning as they words that they make up. A person’s handwriting is an extension of their personality; each loop and stroke bringing to life a different level of intention and meaning. A font can do the same thing: it brings a tone and personality to any piece of writing. In combining handwriting and font, Cindy has preserved the legacy of her family while allowing their personas to be taken on by other works, and even other characters such as Jay Gatsby.
Cindy intends to continue preserving the quietly intimate details of the personalities of her family members as she looks forward to beginning work on her daughters’ penmanship.
Cindy: “I have already made a font from one daughter's handwriting, but she isn’t ready to accept this font as the one that will represent her in later years; she is asking that I redesign her font in a few years, when she’s more confident that her handwriting style is stable. My other daughter feels the same way and isn’t ready to get started on her font yet. Both of my daughters are in their early 20’s, so there is still time. They really love that they’ll have their own fonts, and are both thrilled with my success.”
Cindy Thomason’s font “Grandhappy” keeps not only the spirit of her grandfather alive, but that of an entire era. It embodies the qualities that were deeply ingrained in the man she so deeply cared for by the times in which he lived. Just as words themselves preserve the memories of a time period, her font will help to commemorate a golden age in American history and all that it meant to live in that world and all of the beauty that it left behind.