The High Noon Athletic Club that I run with has a tradition, or at least it did before the pandemic. To commemorate when one of our regulars moves away, we mark the event with a “last run,” complete with libations at a nearby creek and a membership certificate that was secretly passed around in the locker room for the rest of the group to affix their best wishes. One of our members recently completed her PhD and was headed off for a postdoc at MIT, but since noontime runs aren’t yet happening regularly, there was no way to collect signatures.
Rather than let another tradition fall prey to the pandemic, I came up with a solution that I’d like to share in case anyone else finds themselves in a similar situation. My approach had to meet a few requirements:
- People had to be able to write whatever message they wanted.
- The messages on the membership certificate had to look handwritten, but not as though they were all written by the same person with the same pen.
- It couldn’t require any time-consuming graphics work in cleaning up scanned or photographed messages.
To collect the messages, I set up a Google Form with a single short answer question and sent the link to the club mailing list. I encouraged people to keep their messages brief, though I wasn’t surprised when a few got wordy.
Many people don’t realize that Google Forms can save responses to a Google Sheet, making it easy to work with the data after the fact. That got me the data I needed, in a form that made it easy to copy and paste.
The linchpin for the project was Font Meme’s Text Graphic Generator for Handwriting Fonts. It let me enter some text, choose from a wide variety of handwriting fonts, and pick a color, after which it turned my text into a PNG graphic. Once I was satisfied, it was easy to Control-click the graphic and choose Copy Image.
Next, I opened our membership certificate in Affinity Publisher. (I’m converting all my projects from Adobe InDesign and Adobe Illustrator to Affinity Publisher and Affinity Designer because they each cost about the same as a single month of Adobe’s Creative Cloud). I pasted the message in, resized it to fit in an empty area, and angled it so it looked more like someone was trying to fit it into a particular spot. Then I repeated the process with all the other messages, choosing a different font for each. I had to insert returns into a few of them to make them more vertical than horizontal, and for some, I changed the color from black to blue to simulate people writing with different pens. It took a little work to resize and arrange them all in a realistic fashion, but the end result came out great and was significantly cleaner (and less sweat-stained) than our usual efforts.
This little project is far from being a cure for cancer, but it was a good feeling to be able to leverage various tools to do something nice for a departing friend. I hope others find it helpful as well.