Diaspora is a new display font expressing Italian immigration to Scotland between 1880 and 1920
Apolline de Luca and Alessandro Prepi Sot delve into the history of Italian-Scottish identity to inform the design of new display font Diaspora.
- Jyni Ong
- 8 July 2020
Prior to designing Diaspora, Apolline de Luca and Alessandro Prepi Sot had little experience in type design. They knew only the rudimentary when it came to the complicated art form, and were mainly self taught, but that didn’t stop them creating Diaspora during their master’s degree in communication design at The Glasgow School of Art. It was there, during this time in Scotland, that Apolline and Alessandro delved into the history of Italian immigration between 1880 and 1920. This research would go into inform the display font that is Diaspora, an expression of two cultures crafted through the design of letterforms.
Before meeting at The Glasgow School of Art, Alessandro studied in San Marino Republic, completing a series of design internships including one at a photography collective with a focus on independent publishing. As for Apolline, the French graphic designer studied in Bordeaux before venturing to London where she worked on a number of internships included a stint at art book publishers, Koenig Books. When it came to the design of Diaspora however, the two designers unearthed a fascination in this historic Scots-Italian heritage.
The dual identity soon became a “recognisable, fully fledged persona encompassing characteristics of both cultures,” explains Apolline. And, with this in mind, the display font aims to capture the hybrid identity. With seven alternates for the letters A, E, M, N, T, U, V and W, the display font nods to the iconic aspects of both Scotland’s and Italy’s typographic histories. Alessandro explains: “While having their own characteristics, Diaspora’s letters are designed on a single basis structure, helping to create a harmonious set.”
Each user can express their own version of the font by making use of the alternative letters as and when they wish. It’s a nod to the integration that came with the Italian immigration to Scotland, not to mention the resulting peace that came to exist in the dual communities, reflected across Diaspora’s design. Once they started researching the history, Apolline goes on, “What struck us was how beautiful and harmonious this immigration was, unlike what’s happening today in the world where hatred towards different foreigners is too visible. Italian immigration to Scotland is a beautiful example of a great cultural integration as the two communities coexisted, adopting each others’ traditions.”
Telling this story through type design – “too much of an interesting challenging not to face” – the creative process kicked off with a deep dive into the typography of the period. Comparing and contrasting the type of the era in both Scotland and Italy, the pair looked into a myriad of sources from newspapers, gravestones and shop fronts to inform the design. They discerned a shift in typographic styles in this period (1880-1920) the height of Italian immigration, they noticed new characteristics which came with the influx of new cultures in both regions.
“The period in which Diaspora is rooted is also known for being a period in which designers wanted to create new shapes and go against prevalent Victorian styles,” adds Alessandro. The type designers of the day – notably Scotland’s Miller & Richard or Italy’s Nebiolo and Pierallini Turchi & Co – experimented more freely with the letterform given the increase in technological advancements. As a result, typefaces such as De Vinne or La Scozia came out of this period; the latter was used for a newspaper created for Italians living in Scotland, as well as a government census documenting Italians living in the UK.
In turn, Diaspora not only explores the migration of letters through its characteristics, it also translates the idea of immigration through its structure. Ultimately, it represents the movement of Italians to Scotland and their plight in adapting to a new culture which they later fused with. The Classic and Gaelic letters gracefully coexistent through the display font while the alternate letters add extra personality, a nod to the arrival of Italians and the enrichment of society. Integrating a sense of curvy Gaelic-style lettering to the classical alphabet, eventually, Apolline and Alessandro found a half Scottish and half Italian balance for Diaspora.
The display font is available on request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, Apolline and Alessandro had so much fun designing this first font, they’ve now established a type foundry GoodEggs Type Foundry and have just designed their second font together, GoodEggs Grotesk.
GalleryGoodEggs Type Foundry: Diaspora
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.