Grilli Type releases GT America Intl, transforming it into a truly global typeface

“The project helped us reflect on how interconnected different writing systems are and how they are the result of long historic processes,” says co-founder Noël Leu.

22 May 2024

Back in 2016, we covered the release of Grilli Type’s GT America typeface, a project that had been ten years in the making and with which the founders hoped to establish “the ultimate sans serif workhorse typeface.” Bridging American Gothic and European Grotesque, GT America arrived in Latin and used 84 styles across six widths and seven weights. Over the following years, the Grilli Type team added three new scripts to the family, including Cyrillic, Greek and Vietnamese.

These additions aimed to make GT America a truly global typeface, moving away from Western-centric typographic traditions. “I always dreamed of extending its concept-driven design approach beyond just Latin-alphabet languages,” says Grilli Type’s co-founder Noël Leu. “Together with our team and the help of native-speaking consultants, we first designed extensions to support the Vietnamese language and then also the Greek and Cyrillic scripts, which are related to Latin in many of their shapes.”

But the Grilli Type team wasn’t done there; eight years on from the typeface’s initial launch, they have just announced the release of GT America Intl – the type foundry’s “most versatile typographic system to date.” This release introduces five new exciting scripts to the collection, and whereas the previous scripts were all closely related to Latin in form, these additions mark a significant departure from that point. The featured languages include Arabic, Devanagari, Hebrew, Korean, and Thai.


Grilli Type: GT America Intl (Copyright © Grilli Type, 2024)

Beyond cementing GT America’s position as a typeface for the world, this latest release also forms part of the foundry’s ongoing efforts to step outside of their comfort zone. Speaking from Tokyo, where he is in the middle of a “long term commitment to expand my own horizons beyond my Western-focused design background,” Noël says Grilli Type wants to see themselves as “part of a more global design community”. He adds: “the collaborative work on GT America Intl reflects that.”

However, when Noël refers to the work as being collaborative, he is referring to more than just the joint efforts of his team – for this newest instalment of scripts, Grilli Type actually worked with external designers and consultants all around the world to ensure that each one was up to scratch. Some of these collaborators were already known to Noël and fellow co-founder Thierry Blancpain, who had set their sights on working with them for this project, while others were interviewed for the role. Given the distinct differences between the Latin alphabet and these writing systems, it was crucial that the designers were native speakers, with a strong understanding of how the GT America approach could be applied to each script.

Thierry explains that this process was less like translation, and more like interpretation – “akin to translating a book from one language to another”, where the process is technically referred to as translation, but the end result forgoes the literal in favour of language that reads well. Similarly, here the aim was to end up with a “nuanced result that feels comfortable to a native reader,” as opposed to directly applying every rule from the original Latin script.


Grilli Type: GT America Intl (Copyright © Grilli Type, 2024)

Working with their international collaborators, the team at Grilli Type painstakingly developed each new script, ensuring that it felt usable while retaining enough of GT America’s personality. Challenges came in the form of differing layouts for the various writing systems, with Arabic and Hebrew being read from right to left, and Korean being read both horizontally and vertically, necessitating “a careful balancing of the shapes within an invisible rectangle.” Meanwhile, Devanagari has a dominant horizontal top line that ties each word together, and Thai comes in both a looped and loopless version. Each of these qualities required the team to think carefully about how to merge them with the unique characteristics of GT America.

Some examples of how Grilli Type tackled this include the inward curving of certain strokes in the Devanagari and Arabic scripts, facilitated by GT America’s origins in the American Gothic design model, which allows for more modulation than in European Grotesk design; and the use of inktraps in specific areas of the Korean script to “improve the optical balance”. Thierry comments: “This adjustment is not really used on Korean type design and [it was] a bit of a novelty that was translated from the original Latin design.”

Speaking on the process, Noël says “Our partners did a really amazing job to guide us through the history and unique challenges of the respective scripts. There’s such a rich history for each of these and of course also very unique issues in how to translate GT America’s concept into them.”

“We were very happy to break some new ground with all the scripts to offer a truly unique solution for the design space of GT America,” adds Thierry.

GalleryGrilli Type: GT America Intl (Copyright © Grilli Type, 2024)

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Grilli Type: GT America Intl (Copyright © Grilli Type, 2024)

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About the Author

Daniel Milroy Maher

Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.

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