At the bottom of the Declaration of Independence, beneath the tidy name of Elbridge Gerry, the father of gerrymandering, sits the wobbly signature of Stephen Hopkins. The 69-year-old suffered from what was then called palsy, an illness that caused tremors in his hands. Holding the quill in his right hand, he supported it with his left. As he painstakingly signed the document, he said, “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.”
These days, Hopkins would likely be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the nervous system that causes tremors, usually starting in the hands. Shaky handwriting is one of the first signs of the illness. Eight years ago, Morten Halvorsen’s mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. An associate creative director and art director at ridesharing service Lyft, Halvorsen created Shake, a downloadable typeface based on his mother’s now-unsteady penmanship, as a way to allow her to continue to write letters in her own handwriting.
Because Parkinson’s is a progressive illness, the condition worsens over time. Tremors grow in intensity and spread throughout the body. To document his mother’s condition, Halvorsen plans to release an updated version of the typeface each year based on her current handwriting.
He also created a template so other people with the disease can make typefaces of their own handwriting. Visitors can download that on the Shake site and use it to document their loved ones' letters. Halvorsen will create a custom typeface for a fee, which will be donated toward research for finding a cure.Halvorsen says that as of now, he's looking into the American Parkinson’s Disease Association and the Michael J. Fox Foundation as beneficiaries.