Global bespoke type
At the beginning of 2023 we got the commission for the design of a bespoke typeface for Glovo. They needed to cover Latin, Arabic, Armenian, Cyrillic and Georgian. The family has 4 weights and italics except from the Arabic which does not have italics. 8 styles bespoke typeface with 5 scripts. One of the biggest projects we have worked on so far. Moreover, his project gave us the opportunity to learn and work in two new scripts, Armenian and Georgian.
At the technical level they had some restriction given that they wanted to keep the metrics of the new typeface similar to those of the previous typeface they were using. This made us design in a very particular way the new typeface which is very different aesthetically compared to the old type family. Also the vetical metrics were very important given the use of the typeface in platforms which use a set bounding box, as well as wanting to make a smooth transition between the old and the new typeface. We ensured this transition was easy by working really closely together with the Glovo engineering team, they were really nice, they understood the limitation of the different platforms, and gave us the information and support needed to achieve this goal.
At the design level the brand identity coherence was one important issue. Another crucial issue for them was to add a new level of distinctiveness as an asset to their brand. The concepts brought to the table were, humanness, friendly and contemporary. The typeface had to add personality in big and small sizes as well as being highly legible and readable in small sizes as in the app the fonts are set at very small sizes.
Overall it was great to work with the Glovo team!
We proceed as we usually do, showing a few different options from which the client choose the way they felt suited better their brief and fulfilled their expectations for the project.
The chosen option is conceptually open and friendly, while looking sharp, elegant, and contemporary. It takes on the idea of serious but fun. Generally, this typeface has a young professional feel to it which suits very well the Glovo brand and perception.
The typeface has been implemented very successfully.
Our approach to multiscript type design is to analyse the typeface and look for the most important characteristics to apply into the new script without pushing features from previous writing systems into the rest of the scripts. This and matching the colour, texture and size are the key factors for a successful multiscript match.
In this case the first script we designed was the Latin, which is typically the case. In Cyrillic we find some terminals which are different from the Latin, we looked for the most similar existing shapes so those influence the new ones. They are not identical, they just have a clear relationship keeping harmony between both witting systems.
Because the Cyrillic tends to be wider and has much bigger internal white space it looks optically bigger than the Latin so we draw the x-height of the Cyrillic slightly smaller than that of the Latin in order to make them appear equal when compared.
We were asked to add specific glyphs for Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Montenegrin languages. And we also added linguistic alternates for Bulgarian and Serbian in order to be as respectful as possible with local cultural preferences.
Glovo Sans also covers Arabic, which opened two major challenges in term of design. The first one was the proportions, as Arabic tends to go way higher and lower than the Latin ones because of the proportions of some letters, mainly to fit all the vowel marks needed. To solve this problem we designed the Alef, the higher letter in the Arabic alphabet and the one which defines its vertical proportions, to match the ascenders of the Latin. By doing this match we created a sense of proportions which gives the Arabic a perfect balance in size and colour when compared with the rest of the writing systems covered by the typeface family.
The other big challenge was to integrate the Sans Serif monoliniar style which at first sight seems to be a bit too simplified and mechanical to work well in Arabic, which is very calligraphic and fluid. However, we found the balance to make the design mechanical without spoiling the natural flow of the Arabic. Although the design is monolinear, we kept certain modulation in a very subtle way, just enough to keep a good level of legibility. The treatment of the stroke construction of the letters is mechanical where it can be, and it is soft and curvy in those strokes that need to be more flexible. Most importantly, we maintain a good relation in proportions between the letters which is a key point to having a successful Arabic typeface.
We designed also Armenian and Georgian, for which we had less previous experience so we brought in Gor jihanian and Ana Sanikidze to help us with their consultancy. In 2018 we went to Yerevan, Armenia, to carry out a workshop on multi script lettering. Being there we did a lot of research on Armenian, for us it is very insightful to be in the place where a script is used because you see it on site, how it is used and how people relate to it as well as immerse yourself in the culture surrounding the writing system. This gives you a very close view point and helps a lot understanding other scripts.
The Armenian has some very similar shapes to Latin and others completely different. For the second group we did the same as with the other scripts conforming this multiscript typeface family. We approach the new shapes as if we were designing Latin in the sense that we think about it as if the Latin has those shapes, how we would design them? How we would expand our set of features in our type system in order to incorporate these new shapes?
Armenian has slightly different proportions to those of the Latin, it needs longer ascenders and descenders which helps readability, and the openness of the lowercase shapes give an overall appearance of Armenian being larger than Latin, so we compensated this by reducing slightly the x-height as well as making it a bit narrower.
Regarding the Georgian, it was quite challenging as it is a very different writing system in terms of shapes than the Latin, luckily by the time we started drawing it we already had 3 other scripts from were to gain inspiration. We studied the script, its origins, calligraphy, and practiced handwriting in order to understand the shapes as well as the cultural background of the script. There are limited research resources though, thankfully we had great help and learnt a lot with our consultant Ana Sanikidze.
Georgian is much more round than Latin, and has more internal white as well so we had to make the x- height smaller and it also has longer ascenders than the Latin in order to increase readability and legibility.
Generally we really enjoyed this project and the fact that it gave us the possibility to work on 5 different writing systems. Overall we are very satisfied of how it looks and its performance, in the Glovo app and its website.