Global Type: Around the world via 100 foundries showcasing the power of the letterform
Our second Insights Report presents an around-the-world trip via type design, featuring 100 emerging and more established independent foundries and designers.
Global Type was developed by It’s Nice That’s Creative Insights team, a new department that carries out research and analyses visual trends in the creative world. This team was behind The Lazy Report, published in January, and will be releasing downloadable reports throughout the year, so keep an eye out for more over the coming months.
Consider the many disciplines involved across the broad medium of visual communication and you could argue that type design sits at the heart. As a craft, it’s practical yet expressive, a voice calling out to audiences from the minds of designers across the globe. It’s the wordmark, letterform or script that so often defines our relationship and feelings towards visual culture, whether we’re working in the creative field or simply making our way through life.
With this in mind, we wanted to explore the immense and inspiring variety of independent typographers and foundries across each region of the globe. What first began as a sprawling spreadsheet of over 400 type designers has been refined into our latest Insights Report, Global Type: Around the World in 100 Foundries.
Part directory, part editorial exploration of the type-design scene, Global Type is divided into chapters based on regions of the world, presenting who we believe to be the most exciting emerging and established typographers from their respective regions. There are clusters of type designers, of course – particularly in Western Europe, where many typographers tend to head for educational opportunities – but hopefully new designers for you to unearth from Montevideo to Manchester to Melbourne.
It’s worth saying, however, that this is by no means a definitive list; nor is it an attempt to claim these as the 100 “best” foundries worldwide (we’re not sure such a ranking would even be possible). Instead, see this as a curated showcase of the designers and foundries who we believe are doing incredible work and who you ought to know about (and, ideally, commission tomorrow).
There are designers whose interest was piqued as teenagers on late-night graffiti runs in Spain, people who fell in love with the craft by spotting signage on bus rides to school in Cairo, and typographers in Beijing developing foundries as side projects in their evenings after work. Individuals who take their inspiration from their communities, the past scripts of their ancestors, technological developments, historical artefacts or simply the blooming of plants as nature eases into spring.
Together, these individuals – and their passion for crafting letterforms – create contrasting typographic scenes in all four corners of the globe. And so, to explore this further, nestled throughout Global Type’s biographies are a series of conversations focused on local type design within South America, Central and Eastern Europe, and South East Asia.
Yet despite type being so ubiquitous in everyday life, the flaws of this industry have also come to the fore during the making of this report, from inefficient licensing models to pirated fonts and the lack of variation available for non-Latin scripts, all explored across our conversations with type designers. In the initial stages of planning, it also became immediately obvious that it’s an industry that remains imbalanced in terms of gender representation, especially when zooming into those in leadership positions. To discuss the work that still needs to be done, Global Type also features the perspectives of three leading women in the field, Chantra Malee, Aasawari Kulkarni and Nadine Chahine, discussing the roadblocks they’ve experienced – and how they can be dismantled for future designers.
As we discovered in the making of this report, the practice of designing letters continues to hold immense power. As Margot Lévêque writes in her Foreword to Global Type, those who design type each have a unique perspective to share. As she puts it, “We must find it… and then design it.”
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) is the senior editor at Insights, a research-driven department with It's Nice That. Get in contact with her for potential Insights collaborations or to discuss Insights' fortnightly column, POV. Lucy has been a part of the team at It's Nice That since 2016, first joining as a staff writer after graduating from Chelsea College of Art with a degree in Graphic Design Communication.