I have just finished reading Simon Garfield’s excellent book Just My Type. It’s a highly accessible book on fonts with a fantastic mix of humor, history, technical details and pop culture. Unlike many of the books I’ve read on typography, this one doesn’t require you to be a designer or font geek.

There’s commentary on how particular fonts are associated with countries: for example Helvetica and Univers for Switzerland, blackletter type for Germany, and Franklin Gothic and Gotham for the US.

I wondered what the equivalent font would be for New Zealand: something instantly recognisable by locals as connected to their culture.

Objectspace had an exhibition of New Zealand type design since 1870 in 2009 and produced a fantastic free PDF booklet.

New Zealand’s most famous painter Colin McCahon used text in many of his works, in a distinctive style:

Some of his writing was digitized by Luke Wood into a typeface (refer the PDF booklet above) and was never intended for sale or release but ended up being used widely – including Charlie’s Juice and a logo for well-known New Zealander Peta Mathias:

For me, the McCahon typeface would be the most iconic New Zealand font to date. I asked on Twitter and was pointed to New Zealand type designer Jack Yan’s beautiful typeface D├ęcennie:

Notably, the design is based on New Zealand wood type, which was used widely by European settlers during the nineteenth century. Jack says that he believes it is perhaps one of the few that specifically uses New Zealand heritage.

For more details on New Zealand font designers, see this page.

If you have another font which you think is New Zealand’s most iconic font, please let me know!

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