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BIC uses mobile crowdsourcing to create a universal typeface

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BIC celebrates its most popular writing instrument, the Cristal ballpoint, with the creation of an experimental digital hub designed to combine the world’s different styles of handwriting into a single typeface through user input via smartphone or tablet touchscreen.

Asking users to submit digital writing samples from handhelds, BIC’s new microsite will combine and convert text into a universal font which will be released to public in August. The campaign reflects the resilience of an activity associated with print – handwriting - in a world that is turning digital.

“The project is further proof that technology offers us more and better ways to connect brands and people,” Said Eric Schoeffler, chief creative officer, DDB Worldwide, Dusseldorf, Germany

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“As the producer of the biggest selling pen, BIC proves that analogue and digital can not only co-exist, but also enrich their co-existence. Without mobile technology, this experiment wouldn't be the same, as we give people the opportunity to contribute their handwriting in the most natural way via mobile connect.”

Pensive campaigning
On the digital platform , users can submit their handwriting using Mobile Connect technology. This allows them to write in an intuitive and natural way on their smartphone or tablet touchscreen, whilst displaying their contributions on their larger desktops.  


My contribution via mobile
 
An exploration section allows contributors to compare their handwriting to others through statistic differences segmented by age, gender, industry of employment and other characteristics.

To make all of this possible a unique algorithm was invented to merge all the input and aggregate the result: the Universal Typeface . Inaccuracies during input prevent perfect replication.

The goal of the project is to demonstrate how penmanship is both a unique and delicate medium throughout the globe.

Average written "T" in Turkey

Average written "T" in Spain

Dreamt up by DDB's agency in Dusseldorf and produced by creative digital production company MediaMonks, the experiment is the first time anyone has attempted to combine penmanship contributions and demographical data from all over the world into a single typeface or font.

The challenge of the campaign was to immortalize its users' handwriting from around the world in a digital font that could be shared by everyone – evolving continuously as new contributions are added.

Reception to the campaign has been significant. Nearly 8,000 people from 16 countries contributed to the experiment by the end of the day of its launch Friday, June 6.

The adoption of textspeak
Designing a new typeface used to be a long, involved process completed by trained professionals. The development of desktop computing opened up typeface design to everyone for the first time. With the growth in adoption of mobile devices, that process can now be collaborative in a manner that it could never be before.

The Universal Typeface campaign is a smart move for BIC to assert itself in an era where people are more likely to send an email than compose a letter. Makers of writing instruments, like Bic, are in constant competition with companies such as Apple and Samsung. The project attempts to push habits in the other direction, and is doing so by connecting with consumers through their favorite tech.

“It won´t change the way the world writes, but in times of ‘wtf’ and ‘lol’ it´s a nice reminder that we all hold something truly unique - our handwriting,” Mr. Schoeffler said.

“And the success of this project will prove that people love to create with brands when they get easy access via technology to great ideas based on human insights.

Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York

Michelle Saettler is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily, New York. Reach her at michelle@mobilemarketer.com.

 
Related content: Software and technology, mobile, mobile marketing, mobile commerce

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