Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Positive Effects of Typography: Calligraphy

As designers, we hear about and see a lot of hand written type, but do we ever focus on how the letters are made and how it can actually help our brains?

Chinese calligraphy is an ancient art that can be traced back to 4000 BCE. The word calligraphy in Chinese literally means, "the method of writing." This implies that there is a force behind each character that is written. There are rules to follow when writing proper calligraphy, they are: The characters must be written right, they must be legible, concise (no flourishes or ligatures), fit their context, and finally they must be aesthetically pleasing. People generally learn calligraphy by copying stroke for stroke from a master's work.
As we all know there is something very soothing about using a brush, and copying from a master takes most of the mental energy out of the writing, allowing your brain to focus only on the strokes and movement of the brush.
Calligraphy is proven to aid in cognition and stress relief. Because of all these positive effects, something called calligraphy therapy has come into existence. I looked at two studies talking about the effects of calligraphy on groups of people. The first was studying "Cognitive effects of calligraphy therapy for older people." They did the test on older people (65+ years) in Hong Kong with mild cognitive impairment. The individuals either had calligraphy therapy or they did not, and they examined the effects over two months. After, the individuals took a test that tested cognition. The results were that "The calligraphy group was found to have a prominent increase in CMMSE global score, and scores in the cognitive areas of orientation, attention, and calculation after two months, whereas their counterparts in the control group experienced a decline in CMMSE score."
This is amazing because not only did calligraphy therapy upkeep their cognition, it improved upon it.

The other test was called "Calligraphy and meditation for stress reduction." They tested 30 graduate students and staff members of a university in Taiwan who said they were stressed. The results were that people who practiced calligraphy had a decrease in heart rate and an increase in skin temperature. The conclusion that the studiers came to is that calligraphy is "is a particularly promising new approach to reducing stress.

Another more specific study of the effects of calligraphy on the brain came to the conclusion that, "The many clinical studies and control trials that we have conducted can now have greater pool of theoretical, empirical, and clinical trials foundations to testify the successes of our professional applications over the years of this system of behavioral therapy, particularly in the areas of cognitive maintenance, cognitive treatment, and cognitive rehabilitation and, generally as well, in such other areas of health promotion and disease intervention as psychosomatic disorders, emotions, psychiatric conditions, and behavioral problems." Basically saying, that  calligraphy therapy can treat a wide array of mental and physical problems.

Another type of calligraphy that is more challenging (in appearance) is Arabic calligraphy. There is a woman who is starting an Arabic calligraphy therapy program for children refugees that write and speak Arabic. She pitched the idea to a company called Watanili in Turkey, and the supplies are cheap and easy to transport to refugee areas. This will help the children take their mind off their situation, improve their writing and artistic skills, and most importantly help their confidence and mood.
This is a video of Arabic calligraphy. (In my opinion the more beautiful calligraphy)

Calligraphy therapy should be more widespread because its something easy to get started with (that almost everyone can have access to), and much cheaper than certain drugs and programs that have the same effect on the brain and mood. It also can help heal people globally.

Here is a video of how calligraphy can be a full body experience.
Here is a demonstration of different kinds of calligraphy, quick cursive style, and the slower, methodical kind.

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