Awista Montagne challenges you to decipher his labyrinthine typeface, inspired by an ancient Greek maze
Favouring expression over legibility, the Paris-based type designer discusses some of his influences from mythological mazes to butterfly wings.
- Elfie Thomas
- 23 March 2022
Awista Montagne starts every project with a “what if”. Or more specifically: “What if I can make a typeface based on…” Having come up with his newest set of inspirations, he then gets sketching, mixing scores of different styles and techniques and always working from hand to DTP. As a designer who’s not a fan of rules, he likes to make his own ones up: “I’m always looking for intriguing patterns and dynamics instead of readability.” So when he came to design his typeface Dedale he asked himself, “What if I made a typeface based on an ancient mythological maze?”.
Dedale Display is an experimental typeface inspired by King Minos’ labyrinth. Dreamed up by the famous sculptor, architect and inventor, Daedalus, of Greek Mythology, this devilishly complex maze was designed to house the great bull-headed monster, the minotaur. “Taking one’s time, and concentration are key to both solving the maze and deciphering this typeface”, advises Awista. Taking visual cues from representations of the labyrinth on old silver coins from Knossos (400BC), the typeface imitates the sneaky tricks and turns of the monster’s prison.
Finding visual expression for complex, creative ideas like these has been a way to deal with feelings of loneliness, the designer explains. Having started his training at 16 years old, studying graphic design at high school, he then studied another two years before suffering a mental breakdown. Taking a step back from studying he took a two-year break, allowing creativity to nurse him back to health. Struggling to decide whether he wanted to go freelance or not he enrolled in another year of studies at ECV in Paris, then finally “I had my answer”, he says.
He dropped out a final time and has now become a fully fledged graphic and type designer for musical artists, labels, fashion designers and more. Kickstarted by an inspiring calligraphy workshop he took all those years ago in high school, in the time since he began his training he’s become increasingly skilled at developing an innovative idea from sketch to fully-formed typeface. His two-year break also taught him a lot about how he likes to work. He avoids the rules and constraints that come with developing proper serif or sans serif typefaces: “ I’m not myself when I have to do this,” he explains. “I can’t be really expressive and experimental”.
One of his most recent experimentations is his in-progress typeface Tartare – an elegant, fluid creation based on the patterns found on butterfly wings. Gathering copious images of the insect, cropping and re-drawing them, this is the perfect project to keep Awista entertained. In his experiments, letters float in and out of legibility. If you look at each letter separately, they are easily readable. But if you let your eyes lose focus, the type merges into an intriguing set of patterns which powerfully evoke the natural patterns of butterfly wings. Equally, the letters feel reminiscent of the organic wave-like forms found in the art nouveau style, which is another major influence for the typeface, Awista tells us.
The type designer is unsure of what the future holds for his career, but, looking back to the teachers who inspired him in his early days, he aspires to share his knowledge as an educator one day. With bags of creativity already finding their way into his growing roster of typefaces, we hope to see Awista follow this dream.
Awista Montagne: Awista Montagne, Dedale Display 2 (Copyright © Awista Montagne, 2020)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.