The power of typography in conveying messages cannot be understated.
Inspired by the historic events of Paris May '68 and the vibrant folklore tradition of Brazilian "literatura de cordel," a new typeface has been crafted specifically for feminist activism wheat pasting posters. In the face of the divided social turmoil surrounding gender and women’s rights across the globe, Mandacaru emerges as a powerful and relevant tool in the ongoing struggle for social justice and equality.

The significance behind the name and inspiration

The Queen-of-the-night or Mandacaru flower is a type of cactus native to Brazil. It holds cultural significance in the country and is often associated with resilience, strength, and survival in harsh conditions. In times of drought in the semi-arid "hinterland" region of northeastern Brazil, known as the Sertão, the fruit of the Mandacaru cactus was used as food.

The briefing delves into visual research. Mandacaru draws inspiration from two distinct sources: the iconic Paris May '68 movement and the traditional Brazilian "literatura de cordel." The May '68 movement symbolized a transformative period in history, characterized by student protests, civil rights advocacy, and feminist activism. Meanwhile, literatura de cordel refers to popular pamphlets of poetry and storytelling in Brazil, often created and distributed by marginalized communities. Mandacaru typeface embodies the spirit of resistance and activism with bold letterforms that demand attention and engagement.

The design of Mandacaru resembles the roughness of woodcut aesthetics found in literatura de cordel pamphlets as well as Paris May '68 posters. This evokes the grassroots nature and fast-paced needs of these media forms, along with their inexpensive printing methods and deliberate imperfections. Through the intentional combination of sharp angles and curves, the Mandacaru typeface elicits emotional responses, conveying determination, strength, resilience, and vulnerability.

The Process

The visual research barely offered examples of lowercase letterforms and serif fonts as a reference. These communication pieces commonly rely on uppercase sans serif display fonts, characteristic of the ephemeral and short-lived nature of these media forms that aim for immediate impact.

In a sense, the development of this project had many challenges, beginning with the fact that I had never designed a typeface or worked with a calligraphy pen before. Additionally, being left-handed posed difficulties, resulting in trembling strokes and wobbly round shapes. I had a complete lack of control, leaving me with very few hand-drawn letter shapes to use as a foundation for the typeface development. Essentially, I had to navigate this unfamiliar terrain, much like a flower in the arid Sertão.

Fortunately, the instructors were incredibly kind and understanding of my frustration. They patiently encouraged me to push further, emphasizing the modular nature of letterforms. I was amazed by the amount of time they dedicated to each individual review. They reassured me that I could use parts of my apparently imperfect drawings as strengths for the typeface (I couldn't have done it without all of you). An interesting fact is that I received similar feedback from all guest critics. This is how Mandacaru came to be.

In its imperfection, Mandacaru is perhaps perfect. It is a resilient, humanistic, and "human" typeface that reminds me that the creative process is not linear and is not solely about the final result. It emphasizes the importance of collaboration and complete surrender to the creative journey.

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