Joy in type form: British Standard Type designs a custom typeface for Yinka Ilori

In its creation of the artist’s new display typeface: Yinka Sans, The type foundry have distilled Ilori’s technicoloured practice into bespoke bubbly letterforms.

18 June 2024

In a unique collaboration with the artist and designer Yinka Ilori, British Standard Type (BST) has created a display typeface in two cuts: Yinka Sans Ultra and Yinka Sans Shadow. Much like his bold, provocative and playful visuals, these rounded new letterforms are designed to symbolise “inclusivity and joy – a visual homage to Yinka’s passion for embracing diversity and spreading positivity”, shares Matthew Fenton, creative director of BST.

Known for a distinctive use of typography in his work, Yinka approached BST with the idea to formalise this aspect of his practice in a colourful alphabet of custom letterforms. Yinka had previously been using “a non-custom typeface in his artworks but wanted something uniquely his own that could be applied more broadly across his multidisciplinary practice”, explains Matthew. The typeface itself was designed to serve various applications, but most importantly, to look and feel like it fitted right into Yinka’s unique visual world. Yinka says: “I’ve always been drawn to how fonts have the ability to inject meaning and personality into text [...] I was also drawn to BST’s ability to oscillate from rigid sans-serifs to more expressive, playful, and bubbly types”.


British Standard Type X Yinka Ilori: Yinka Sans (Copyright © British Standard Type, 2024)

In the collaboration with Yinka, the BST team deep-dived into the artist’s diverse influences as part of their design research, taking inspiration from what shapes Yinka’s work to shape their letterforms: everything from “musical culture, architectural motifs, Nigerian folk vernaculars and contemporary popular culture”. Through this all-embracing visual catalogue, the team “landed on something very special and unique, that is true to my identity and visual code”, shares Yinka, shaping the creation of a typeface that “narrates a story of diversity, unapologetic unorthodoxy, and bold expression of joy”, add Matthew and the BST team.

Each crafted with care, the typefaces’ two cuts: Sans Ultra and Sans Shadow have a detailed anatomy of outer and inner shapes that contrast rounded apertures and curved edges with squared-off sides. Designed to provide “wide possibilities for typographic expression”, the decision to create a typeface in two cuts was influenced by “Yinka’s previous use of shadow effects in his work”, says Matthew. As “these effects have been a powerful visual language for Yinka, contributing to the warmth, playfulness, and bold impact of his messages”, the type foundry saw this as an opportunity to expand on the artist’s existing visual techniques, designing a shadowed variant of the dynamic typeface, for “an enhanced visual distinction” in Yinka’s work.

With the creation of an array of stylistic sets, British Standard Type believes that Yinka Sans “offers a versatile toolkit for Yinka’s multifaceted practice that is always seeking to push the boundaries of creativity”. A testament to type design as a tool for individual expression and a vessel for storytelling, the playful custom type is representative of Yinka’s creative mission “to infuse the overlooked with beauty and joy”, says BST. Yinka concludes: “In all of my work, whether it’s a print, structure, or object, I have always used bright colours, different shapes, and angles to evoke positive emotions such as joy, optimism, and playfulness, as well as to tell stories and to bring people and communities together. These are all facets that are important to me in my creative approach, and that I feel this typeface embodies, so I’m so excited for people to start engaging with it!”

GalleryBritish Standard Type X Yinka Ilori: Yinka Sans (Copyright © British Standard Type, 2024)

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British Standard Type X Yinka Ilori: Yinka Sans (Copyright © British Standard Type, 2024)

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About the Author

Ellis Tree

Ellis Tree (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a junior writer in April 2024 after graduating from Kingston School of Art with a degree in Graphic Design. Across her research, writing and visual work she has a particular interest in printmaking, self-publishing and expanded approaches to photography.

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