The circumstances of my typeface Fare and how it came to be are very special to my story. Being of a Pacific Islander background, studying in France, as well as having worked in a studio specializing in environmental graphic design and exhibitions, I felt that creating a typeface for a cultural institution in French Polynesia would be a perfect intersection of my interests. Therefore, designing a typeface for the National Museum of French Polynesia felt very fitting. I named the typeface "Fare," which means "home" in Tahitian — the concept of home was very crucial to the parts of this typeface coming together.
Initially, my research focused on hand-painted signs across the island. However, the lack of direct access to the city made it difficult, so I shifted my focus to key cultural monuments and architecture. During a critique, it was suggested that I broaden my research to include not only buildings but also artifacts such as tools and carvings, as well as locally produced art like textiles and tattoos. After expanding my research, I created abstract drawings to better understand where I could find letterforms and counter forms within these objects.
During my explorations, I encountered a dilemma — is it appropriate to appropriate traditional artifacts for the sake of a Latin-based one? A long weekend of thinking and researching and discussing led me back to focusing solely on the architecture. To me this removed the need to do years worth of ethnographical research to support my design decisions — years I would gladly partake in, but just didn't have. One of the main reasons I chose the Musée de Tahiti was that it had recently opened a new wing designed by an all-Parisian team from a Eurocentric firm and that the museum's rebranding appeared overly colonized and Eurocentric, which to me doesn't align with the museum and its artifacts. Any attempt at recognizing the culture through the type would be better than their current solution.
As the brief returned to the museum itself, I realized how this Parisian architecture firm approached the dichotomy of the colonized and the colonizer. The all-mirrored facade symbolized their presence, acknowledging that they were invited to be there, but they didn't want to disrupt the beauty of the islands and the existing museum. The stabilized wooden forms lining the outside offered an inward perspective, suggesting a desire to be recognized even though they wanted to remain invisible. From this, I found my inspiration to reduce the typeface to an extension of the museum rather than representing the entirety of French Polynesia, which would require the efforts of a team of ethnographers and typographers over a longer timeframe.
Thus, the prompt became creating something invisible, seemingly mundane at first glance but with enough visual interest to draw people in. I aimed for a typeface that felt natural yet modern, playful yet sophisticated, and most importantly, reflected the duality that the museum embodies in both its architecture and its history.
The result is a light to regular text face intended for print and signage, with language support for French, English, Tahitian, and other Oceanic languages. The proportions mostly follow the Roman style but are slightly squat to represent the low, wide architecture of the building. The serifs are slightly chunkier than usual, drawing inspiration from the sturdy design of traditional museums. Additionally, the serifs are cupped at the ends to reference the wood adornments found on the exterior of the new wing and to provide a more rugged, human feel to a clean-cut typeface. Diagonal cuts are also incorporated to echo the wood carvings and sharpeners found inside the museum.
During the process, I realized the need for a bold-variant. As we explored further, we discovered that the more weight we added, the more the typeface's characteristics emerged. Consequently, we developed a semibold and bold version, accompanied by an italic style for occasions such as translations or references. As suggested by others, we were encouraged to explore the design space once again, leading us to duplicate and reimagine the font as a sans-serif typeface while maintaining the same proportions and cupped stem endings.
At this point, I also wanted to challenge myself, as I had never created a typeface beyond a single variable axis. Thus, the Roman version of the typeface became variable not only in weight but also in transitioning from a serif to a semi serif to a sans. The initial shape of the serif worked well in transforming the font, and we pursued and actualized this concept.
Fare represents a lifetime of understanding identity, boiled down into a six-week intensive and a typeface family with 20 different fonts. In the future, I would love to revisit this topic and truly understand what it takes to create a typeface that represents a truly diverse and complex history and culture.
The 6-week type design programme that you’ve been waiting for starts on 4 June and ends 12 July 2024.