According to the World Health Organisation, strokes affect more than 15 million people worldwide every year and cause a third of disabilities globally.
When someone suffers from a stroke, several side effects can occur including visual impairment, speech impairment and partial or complete paralysis of the body.
Kristina Hellgren is a Swedish woman who suffered from a stroke in 2013 that affected many of her cognitive abilities and left her with partial paralysis. On her road to recovery Hellgren had to relearn how to speak, read and eventually write on her own.
“It’s taken years of practice...when half of your body becomes paralysed, so does half of your brain,” says Hellgren.
Her story caught the eye of graphic designers Sherwin Teo and Conrad Haddaway of 72andSunny Singapore. On a trip to Sweden with his girlfriend Sara, Haddaway noticed his girlfriend’s dad wearing a T-shirt with Hellgren’s writing on it, which read “Ge aldrig Upp”, meaning never give up in Swedish.
“I was like 'Fuck. That’s cool.'...They told me the story of her stroke over dinner. It was really scary to hear something like that can just completely blindside you and flip your life upside down,” says Haddaway.
“It hit me super hard and from there, it just felt like something had to be done. So I started thinking about it, spoke to Sara and Kristina, dropped Sherwin a message and we got on it,” he added.
The team set out to create a font out of Hellgren’s handwriting as a message to other stroke survivors that not all hope is lost, and that progress is possible. The type is also a way to raise awareness about the illness.
While both Haddaway and Teo are graphic designers, neither of them had much experience in creating typefaces. However, they recognised that the project itself was unconventional, and therefore the type wasn’t meant to be perfect.
After asking around in the industry they managed to figure out the best ways in which to create and complete the typeface. As the designers are based in Singapore they communicated with Hellgren over Skype.
“She’d write down the characters in English and Swedish, scan them, and email them. Then we worked on what we had,” says Haddaway.
“This is one of those things that felt true to the whole “medium-is-the-message” thing. It was interesting to us to look at typography as the creative expression itself, and not just a way to supplement other designs,” added the designers.
For Hellgren, this project meant everything, because giving up on making progress was never going to be an option for her.
“It was quite a challenging, but fun experience. It was interesting to see how it works when you create a typeface, and the result was really powerful,” says Hellgren.
Hellgren hopes that the type manages to help people continue to fight to take back what they’ve lost, and not be ashamed of their struggles and to never give up.
The type developed by the team with Hellgren’s handwriting is called Kristina.Bold. The typeface is a continuous work-in-progress. As Hellgren makes progress with her writing, so too will the type develop and change.
“We all want to see Kristina get her ability 100% back, so we’d love to make this a progressive thing and revisit it next year!” say the designers.