I’ve always been inspired by lettering artist Jessica Hische, and designing a custom typeface for a movie has been a dream of mine. Her work on Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom" in 2012, where she created a custom typeface for titles, credits, posters, and marketing materials, left a lasting impression. In Anderson’s mid-career films, he often leaned on the font Futura, including my favorite "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.”
Although Futura is an acceptable font for this film — it was inspired by the life of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who also used Futura – I believe there’s room for something different.
By capturing the film’s playful, retro, handcrafted, and gentle essence, I aimed to create a custom typeface that not only embodies its unique identity but also adds a fresh and captivating dimension to the visual storytelling.
My research began with the typography popular in the 60s and 70s, the era of the film’s inspiration. I studied the relationships between the proportions and the negative space. After discovering the quirky characters of a bistro sign, I was able to pick and choose what worked and refine my concept into a workable typeface.
To achieve the hand-made quality of the film, I began drawing letterforms on tracing paper. I was able to quickly explore different styles that would benefit me later when creating multiple masters in my Glyphs file.
The charm of Aquanaut lies in its delightfully irregular letterforms. Each character embodies a sense of whimsy and adventure, reflecting the handcrafted nature of the font. Aquanaut’s serifs carry a unique character, reminiscent of the graceful waves of the ocean and the gentle curvature of sea creatures. These flowing serifs, combined with carefully balanced proportions, give the font a harmonious and inviting presence, inviting readers to embark on a typographic journey.
Aquanaut’s versatility is exemplified through its range of styles. The Regular style forms the heart of the typeface, showcasing its whimsical yet refined character. The Italic style introduces a sense of movement and expressiveness, evoking the ebb and flow of the ocean. The Display style amplifies Aquanaut’s unique features, demanding attention with its dramatic presence. Finally, the Black style makes a bold statement, exuding strength and confidence.
In conclusion, the journey of designing Aquanaut has been a fulfilling exploration of typography, creativity, and storytelling. Drawing inspiration from the masterful work of lettering artist Jessica Hische and the distinctive visual world crafted by Wes Anderson, Aquanaut captures the essence of adventure, quirkiness, and retro-futurism that define the film.
The 6-week type design programme that you’ve been waiting for starts on 6 June and ends 13 July 2023.