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You are here: Home / Conferences / Hong Kong 2012 / Programme / 11–14 October – General programme

New Zealand Type on Display

When Sun 14 Oct 1425
Where Hotel Icon
Who Mary Faber

This paper is linked to the submission ‘Founding Founts: a colonial history of typographic use’, presenting two allied investigations into typefaces used in a country that, like many others, has been invisible in typographic history. It discusses how, even in the absence of type foundries, a local typographic identity can be formed through a country’s utilisation of typefaces. It then demonstrates the way research can inspire historicist type design that may signify a contemporary sense of place.

The projects researched two distinct periods of New Zealand typographic history.
The first from 1880 to 1900, sampled, identified, and tallied metal display faces found in popular print and ephemera. The results indicated that the two most commonly utilised by local printers were Copperplate and Glyptic. Both originated from the foundry of MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan in Philadelphia, and were designed by German born-and-trained Herman Ihlenburg. This discovery reinforces both the rise in importance of the American typographic industries at the time, and the internationalism of typographic and printing culture, even in the early development of an apparently isolated colony.  The results provided a springboard for the design of a new display typeface called Mainline, which hybridised the two typefaces, while giving them a local twist.

The second study was of the Modernist period from 1920 to 1940, and recorded and categorised display faces in the popular medium of New Zealand newspapers. The results indicated that typography was used as a vehicle to first introduce modernity into New Zealand, significantly before its appearance in the applied and fine arts. This investigation culminated in the design of a geometric Art Deco-inspired typeface family, Marino.

While this research sought to unearth and define a marginal country’s typographic past, the resulting typefaces seek a future for typographic design that can evolve from and reflect local particularities.

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