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Fresh Faced

Galvanize Poster for CCA7, Bruce Cayonne

We’ve been busy rolling out our new identity over the past two weeks. Typified by less colour, more structure - are we getting old, as our 15 years might imply? Hardly. But we are evolving in what we do, and it makes sense to broaden the appeal of the visual language we use as we begin a new chapter in our story.

One of the more notable aspects of this new identity is the typography. It is in fact a ‘new’ face, dubbed Woodbrook Sans, in homage to its origins and our return to this beloved district in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

There aren’t many indigenous typefaces from the English-speaking Caribbean; barely any in fact. There is a kind of vernacular around handwritten signs, some of which have been recently digitised such as the Fete Signs project by the talented duo of Kriston Chen and our own Agyei Archer. Contemporary typography doesn’t so much originate here; looking for a typeface that is ‘authentically Caribbean’ really means looking elsewhere.

(This is interesting, in that we can talk about Caribbean Fashion, Caribbean Architecture, Caribbean Food, Caribbean Literature, or any of a wide range of creative expression that either originates or has been adapted to the region, but not typography. Definitely an opportunity there for any budding type designers!)

What we do have are legacy faces; echoes of systems and powers that have long departed, quietly reminding us of the past. The shared history of the English-speaking Caribbean means that there are similarities in style across the region. One can in particular find a loose group of typefaces that seems to speak of empire, of order, of plain protestant authority. These are not decorative faces - drawn by engineers or draftsmen, they are no-nonsense and functional.

Bus Stop, Barbados

Port of Spain, Trinidad

Downtown Kingston, Jamaica

What’s great about these faces is that they have involuntarily adapted to their environment, and you can see this particularly in signage. The lettering is battered by the tropical elements, rebuilt, redrawn and painted over and over again in an attempt to maintain the original. Much like a game of Chinese Whispers, with this comes a slow change in each iteration.

Woodbrook Sans draws from this. As you can see, we reference this style of lettering found on mainly civic buildings in the area. We’ve digitised it, inconsistencies and weathering included, and built out a full typeface. It’s also been slightly adapted to make the face more legible, while retaining the authenticity of the original. 

We aren’t quite finished as yet - the lowercase letters are having to be created from scratch - but when we are we will make it available for download.

What do you think? How could we make this even better? Let us know.