Morten Halvorsen creates typefaces from his Parkinson’s-suffering mother’s handwriting

He plans to create a new version each year to chart the changes, whilst helping others to do the same.

14 February 2020

“I know my mum’s handwriting like the back of my hand. I grew up reading her handwriting on notes, letters, birthday cards, and anything else a parent might give to their kids,” says Morten Halvorsen, creator of Write With Parkinson’s. This is, of course, alongside the other reason that children usually learn their mother’s handwriting too: “I was mostly a good kid, but I probably tried to mimic it as well to get out of things at school, please don’t tell my old teacher – or my mother!”

This knowledge Morten has of his mother’s handwriting gained a poignancy after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a symptom of which is a change in handwriting.

This motivated him to create a usable typeface based on it, immortalising the letters as they continue to change. “I spent about a week hand tracing every letter and turning it into a font,” he tells It’s Nice That. “The typeface is now fully usable if you are English or Norwegian speaking.”

Originally from Oslo, Morten is an art director currently working at Lyft in San Francisco. Prior to this, he built up an extremely strong CV, working for agencies like McCann New York, R/GA New York, 72andSunny LA and The Monkeys in Sydney.

As well as working day-to-day in the creative industry, Morten is also no stranger to finding creative solutions outside of work. He made a chat app called Polarize, which aimed to remove people from their confirmation bias bubble, “it puts people in chats with people they disagree with on any given topic,” he says. “A few years earlier, I created a song that was only available in one digital copy that you had to line up for, called One Copy Song. Obviously, this project is closer to my heart, but I always love creating things that flip things a little on their head.”


Morten Halvorsen: Write With Parkinson’s

This project may have helped to immortalise Morten’s mother’s handwriting, however, he hopes it can help people in similar situations, adding a printout template that allows other people to do the same thing. “I just thought that I can’t be the only person in the world who would want to do this for a loved one, so I thought I’d open it up and offer the service to others,” he explains. He has also enlisted some help along the way, to cope as the project scales up. “For it to gain traction, I knew it needed a proper website, so I called up my friends at CodeWave, a digital production company in Poland, who loved the idea and offered to help out.”

With so much work going into this fantastic project, collaborations have begun to roll in: “Something much larger is in the works with some wonderful people I’ve met at the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and my friends at CodeWave – but more on that later.”

Morten has also thought about how he can chart the impact of Parkinson’s, as it continuously changes motor skills such as handwriting. “I plan on releasing a new version every year,” he explains. “Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, and the font needs to reflect that. As I live 5000 miles away from my family, it also gives me an excuse to go home every year to capture her writing.”

He appreciates this is probably not going to be a typeface that will be bought across the world, but it is a passion project that he hopes can help to make a difference. “The market for people who want to buy a font with Parkinson’s Disease is obviously limited, but one of the earliest signs of Parkinson’s is a change in handwriting, so getting people to just talk about it is great by itself,” he says. “Lots of people have bought the font, which is fantastic, but the end goal is to drive awareness (and to make my mum proud).”

GalleryMorten Halvorsen: Write With Parkinson’s

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Morten Halvorsen: Write With Parkinson’s

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About the Author

Charlie Filmer-Court

Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.

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