Calligraphy is a form of visual art that involves the beautiful writing of various letters and texts. It appeared many centuries ago and still exists. It is translated from Greek as “beautiful writing”.

The history of calligraphy

The art of beautiful writing is first mentioned in 4000 BC and comes from China. They treated calligraphy with the utmost seriousness and called it “the first art among arts”. Chinese culture is characterized by respect for the fine arts and attention to details. China is the motherland of paper, that’s why it is not surprising that calligraphy not only appeared in China but also was spread and was filled with meanings.

But it doesn’t mean the Celestial Empire has the monopoly on calligraphy. This kind of art appeared independently in almost all cultures in the course of civilization formation. Today we can speak about several branches of calligraphy development.

  1. East Asian. Chinese style of calligraphy belongs to it. Chinese hieroglyphs were imbued with deep philosophic meanings and the art was put on the same level with poetry and literature and considered to be the refined form of painting. From China the phenomenon of calligraphy spread to the neighboring countries: Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Mongolia and others.
  2. Arabic calligraphic art. It is connected with the inception of Islam in the Middle East. With the help of ornate letters, scholars and theologians copied the Muslim holy book, the Koran. Islam prohibits the image of people and animals but doesn’t regulate the writing peculiarities. That is why the Arabic script has become a common name.
  3. European calligraphy. It originated from Ancient Greek and Roman alphabets which laid the basis for the European writing. Intricate letter ornaments were used for decorating monuments, architectural constructions, laws and important manuscripts. The Byzantine branch of calligraphy deserves special attention: with the appearance and spread of Christianity the written performance of biblical texts became more and more varied and individual. The famous Gothic style survived for nearly 10 centuries, right up to the Renaissance.

Scholars who study ancient artifacts and writing also distinguish Persian, Indian, Jewish and Armenian calligraphy. The trends of the handwriting art in different epochs had different scales of development and were used more often for the design of religious texts.


Modern types of calligraphy

Over the past centuries, calligraphy has not only stayed up-to-date but has even become widespread in the world of digital technologies. Originally calligraphy referred to the hand-written art, i.e. was executed manually, letters and texts were put on parchment, fabric, silk with a brush or a feather. With the appearance of book printing calligraphy moved into the sphere of interest of engravers and painters and was used more and more often only on special occasions.

With the advent of advertising and digital environment calligraphy got the second breath. One can speak about two directions of ancient art development.

Hand calligraphy. A one-of-a-kind, expensive and unique product. It can be interior decorations, hand-made decoration of unique books covers, personalized presents. Often found in the design of the urban environment, art objects. Letters and symbols are applied to surfaces of different objects, canvas, fabric.

Digital image. Widened with the development of advertising and branding. Used as an element of corporate style, in book design, business cards, printed materials etc.

Where and for what purpose calligraphy is used today.

It has spread into many spheres of creative life and design.

  1. Art. A striking example of modern calligraphy is the artist Pokras Lampas.
  2. Branding. A designer uses calligraphy in lettering logos and elements of corporate style, packaging.
  3. Print design. Unique, specially designed fonts are often used as elements of invitations, postcards, posters, booklets.
  4. Tattoo industry. With the development of tattoo-art inscriptions, made with intricate letters, can be found anywhere in the world on the most unexpected parts of the body.
  5. Hobby. Calligraphy is popular as a hobby not only in Asia, where it originated, but also in the Western world. There are many reasons for it: from calming, meditative influence on nervous system to development of mental skills through fine motor technique, and also improvement of attention and concentration.

These are not all possible applications of calligraphy. Skillfully written letters are used in all spheres of design.

Calligraphy, lettering, typography – what are the differences?

Calligraphy and lettering should not be confused. Lettering has to do with design and is considered the art of drawing, not the writing of letters, as opposed to calligraphy. In lettering, a letter or word is an illustration of an object or message that the artist has encoded. This style of lettering can often be found in branding, graffiti or comic books, for example.

Another common element of modern text art is typography. Typography is a printed font that has a set of strict rules – parameters that determine the design of the entire text. That is, typography is a whole discipline in the field of design.

The notions of calligraphy, typography and lettering can be defined as follows: 

Calligraphy is the art of lettering; 

Lettering is the art of drawing letters; 

Typography is the art of using letters in layout and design.

Instruments of calligraphy

In the beginning the tools of calligraphy were brushes or pens. Flat brushes or round brushes are considered to be classical, and the ancient artist’s arsenal included even birds’ feathers and reed sticks. 

Now such artifacts are resorted to by lovers of reconstruction of the process. Everyone else has access to a wide arsenal of tools, consisting of felt-tip pens, markers, pencils, fountain pens, inks and ink.Modern designers more often draw with digital tools: graphics tablets, special programs. The most popular among professionals are Procreate (for iPad), Adobe Photoshop, SAI Paint Tool, Krita, and other drawing software. It gives users a wide range of drawing and processing tools, as well as access to ready-made font libraries.

Who and why should learn calligraphy in today’s world?

Anti-stress effect. Monotonous and mechanical work connected with fine motor skills of fingers has a beneficial effect on the nervous system. Moreover, the stimulation of the centers of positive emotions occurring in the process will allow feeling better.

Training of attention and memory. Creating intricate patterns requires good concentration and perseverance. This skill can be developed not only through immersion in the process of calligraphy, but also in other spheres that require maximum concentration. During moments of concentration, memory centers become active and their stimulation directly influences the improvement of working memory.

Development of imagination and creativity. You still often need a stylus and a hand to create unique inscriptions. The Procreate and Apple Pencil, for example, support different levels of pen pressure and allow you to write almost as well as you would by hand on paper. 

In addition to the well-rounded development that the process of calligraphy provides, learning to write beautifully is beneficial to anyone who deals with design and the need to think creatively.