From Cardboard to Confidence

Monotype & The Arrels Foundation turn homeless handwriting into beautiful design — and a helping hand.

To close out ADC and Monotype‘s Typography Month (which morphed into two months due to the tremendous response from all of you in the ADC community) we wanted to showcase a most interesting initiative that Monotype has been engaged in. It’s a perfect demonstration on how typography can make a difference in the world.

“Homeless & Hungry”

“Anything Helps, God Bless”

“Need Food — Please Help”

Scrawled upon pieces of old cardboard, messages such as these are unfortunately common throughout the world. These are the signs of the homeless, pleas for help that encourage passersby to spare some extra change to help them make it through another day.

In Barcelona, however, these signs served as the impetus for an organization to raise awareness and funds for the plight of the homeless. The Arrels Foundation is devoted to assisting the homeless population of Barcelona towards autonomy, offering them housing, meals, social attention and health care. Last summer, however, the organization teamed with local advertising agency The Cyranos McCann to transform the handwriting of the city’s homeless into useable fonts. They would then license the use of these fonts, with all proceeds supporting The Arrels Foundation’s various programs.

By the time Monotype’s Global Fonts Product Manager Bill Davis saw the project, Homelessfonts had already created fonts based on the handwriting of five of Barcelona’s homeless. “I was blown away by this initiative, and we recognized this as an opportunity to help,” said Bill. Bringing a wealth of licensing expertise and technical services to the table, Monotype helped to build out a more comprehensive and complete character set for each font.

Since the partnership between The Arrels Foundation and Monotype, Homelessfonts has developed two more fonts for its collection, with more to come. They have sold hundreds of licenses and raised thousands of dollars for the charity. Two of the homeless people behind the fonts are now employees of the organization, while a third has successfully left the streets to begin life anew. The fonts themselves have been used in real-world design projects, from wine bottles to food labels.

For those looking to support this worthwhile initiative, each of the seven fonts is available from Monotype at $49.00/ €49.00, with all proceeds going to the Arrels Foundation. The fonts may be licensed from MyFonts, or However if you’d like to take it a step further, volunteers are also needed to help process the remaining three fonts. Typographers can get in touch with The Arrels Foundation here.