Drawing inspiration from Indonesian decorative motifs, Pertiwi is a new ornamental typeface by Projek Agni

Designed to represent the duality of the Indonesian Archipelago and its relationship with mother earth and sea, Pertiwi is an ode to Indonesian past, present and future culture.

26 January 2021


In 2018, a group of design and branding artisans came together to form the creative initiative Projek Agni; Agni is derived from the Sanskrit word for fire, “god of fire”, will power and origin of civilisation. Born out of the group’s enjoyment of Indonesia in which they reside, Projek Agni exists to transform diverse cultural values into new and integrated creative assets. The group consists of creative directors Kresna Dwitomo and Bima Saprilla, type designers Wisnu Adhi Kusama and Hammam Hidayat, and writers Jasmine Ansori and UV Asriwedari. All of which grew up in different regions of the country from Sumatera, Riau, East Java and Banyuwangi.

Together, the collective combines their respective creative skills that range from graphic design, cultural research, brand strategy and type design. It’s the latter that we’re here to discuss today – a new typeface called Pertiwi to be precise, Pertiwi meaning “the vast one” in its Indo-Sanskrit definition. It’s the second typeface design by the group, the first being Anjani, named after the goddess of West Nusa Tenggara Barat. Pertiwi, on the other hand, was designed to represent the duality of the Indonesian Archipelago and its relationship with mother earth and sea. Aesthetically, it’s an ornamental typeface, light-regular in its weight with undulating thins and thicknesses which pay tribute to the aforementioned duality.

Embodying both masculine and feminine qualities, Pertiwi is a contemporary typeface bridging Indonesia’s history with a new modern era. As Kresna puts it, it’s a typeface “with freedom of judgement to appreciate cultural values beyond the borders of traditions in order to aspire fellow creatives.” Originally intended as a custom typeface for a band partnership, Pertiwi only became the brand typeface during July of last year when the group’s members realised it authentically resembled its overall intentions, and decided to use it as the house typeface.


Projek Agni: Pertiwi (Copyright © Projek Agni, 2020)

The typeface draws from several distinct Indonesian relics, particular its culturally rich decorative motifs seen across the South East Asian country’s traditional fabrics. These fabrics often pay homage to Indonesia’s tropical fauna, something Projek Agni were keen to communicate with the flowing letterforms. Throughout the majority of 2020, the typeface continued to undergo development with careful attention to the philosophical implications of the design as well as the technical. Finalised in October of last year, the overall process is one of collaboration and discussion, as the group calls it in Bahasa, “goting rayong.”

“Pertiwi was created with a vision to spark confidence in creativity, inspired by the diversity of our Indonesian roots that need to be embodied within our creative outlets,” says Kresna. Pointing out how, like most countries, Indonesia faces as many challenges as it does wonders, the typeface is Projek Agni’s way of celebrating their culture and home land for all its facets, even the restrictions, biases and turmoils. “It’s a love-hate kind of relationship,” the group adds on the matter, and with this duplicity in mind, Pertiwi expresses a spirit of value and purpose, transcending mentalities from the group’s ancestors while stretching ahead to generations to come.

“Our works are heavily influenced by the richness of historical values both socially and geographically mainly in Indonesia and South Asia,” adds Kresna. When it comes to the creative process however, Projek Agni likes to express these influences through a more experimental approach. They collect an archive of inspiring imagery which they then converge with “digital quirkiness” to produce unique results, as seen in Pertiwi which combines both past and present in its design. Within, hints to sacred artefacts and vernacular language make their way into the creative narratives, something the group are currently delving into further for a volume of Archipelago-based works titled Neo-Indonesiana. And similarly to Pertiwi, this project focuses on the intersection of past, present and future.

GalleryProjek Agni: Pertiwi (Copyright © Projek Agni, 2020)

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Projek Agni: Pertiwi (Copyright © Projek Agni, 2020)

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

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. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.


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