Independent type foundry Sharp Type has designed a new typeface, Respira, a stencil blackletter font “inspired by lettering in Andalusian manuscripts”. Respira is a typeface full of historical context that Sharp Type’s designers have made contemporary. All proceeds generated from the typeface will go to the National Resources Defence Council, “an association that takes legal action against human and environment injustices around the world”. The typeface is released today in honour of Earth Day, on 22 April.
Designed by Sharp Type’s founder Lucas Sharp with Wei Huang, with poster designs by Erik Carter and Justin Sloane, Respira developed from “a particular style of Spanish blackletter often found in the illuminated manuscripts of Andalusia,” explains Sharp Type. “We first came across this unique style on display behind the breathtaking altar of the Santa Iglesia Catedral Metropolitana de la Encarnación in Granada, Spain.”
Originally used in the 11th Century through to the 16th and 17th, the modern use of the black lettering “is almost exclusively for display, leading the current models to be much decorative than their original text versions”. Sharp Type explains: “The more complex letters were strikingly beautiful, constructed ingeniously and inventively with skilful calligraphic strokes, but the foundational vertical strokes were simple and plain.”
The uppercase variations of the Respira typeface however “are not based on the Spanish model at all,” Sharp Type tells It’s Nice That. “The design is original, but bears a closer resemblance to English Textura than to the capitals of the Spanish Style.” In its research the type foundry suspected that “many Spanish monks had a similar preference for the minuscule over the majuscule, as we often found in archival manuscripts that illustrated uncials are commonly used in place of the standard capitals”.
“If we want to survive as a species, we must confront the complex problems of Climate change, ocean acidification, deforestation, and the toxification of our food system,” explains the foundry on it’s charitable font. “Given the current state of the world, a blackletter for Earth Day seems strangely fitting. The unprecedented fires, the dying of the reefs, the melting of the poles, the famines, the floods, the heat waves, and the hurricanes, all point to an obvious reality. Despite the tireless efforts of special interests groups whose business is based on our current angry system, more and more people are waking up to the reality of what they can see with their own eyes. The world is changing.”
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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.