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Typeface Review

Mija

Reviewed by Patric King on January 25, 2012

The thing I love most about type design is that, no matter how bent out of shape its practitioners get about rules, there’s always one of them ready to completely sidestep convention and create a face that’s totally unexpected. Miguel Hernández did that beautifully just a few weeks ago with the release of his unconventional beauty, Mija.

Mija’s a weird little family of grotesques – kinda – which has no business doing as well as it does. It has a candid sweetness in its blobby forms inspired by handmade signage from Hernández’s home in Santiago, Chile. I immediately warmed up to the family because it’s so reminiscent of the lovely, imperfect signs in Spanish, Korean and Polish covering Chicago’s walls.

The past few years have seen an outpouring of “friendly” faces trying to fit into a vocabulary of the round, pillowy shapes inspired by web 2.0 visual devices. It leaves me a little cold because, frankly, such a widely codified vernacular opens the door for enormous corporations to disguise themselves as harmless little things. I don’t care how warm and fuzzy General Electric or Unilever make themselves appear, they’re still gargantuan monsters, and I don’t want to be their BFF on Twitter. Mija’s sweetness arises from its weirdness, and it’s a flavor of weird I’d be surprised to see used like anything else in this blobby web-2.0ish vernacular, even though it’s superficially related. There’s no disguising that these faces are totally imperfect – there’s a little bit of chaos to them I can’t see fitting well into any sort of corporate identity. Its imperfections combined with proportions perfect for reading make for a versatile experience in display and text applications.

The family pulls the best parts from handmade signage and combines them with elements of handwriting, but without resorting to a templated visual vocabulary to pull the forms together. There are a few commonalities between forms, like the tail of the ‘K’ and ‘R’, and the connections between bowls and stems of the ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘d’, ‘p’ and ‘q}, but for every commonality there’s a form that could have been repeated but just wasn’t. The curve of the ‘f’ could have easily been related to the bottom of the ‘g’, but it isn’t … and yet it fits. And that’s just delightful to look at.

Patric King designs and blathers on about design technology, education, and digital publishing from Chicago, Illinois.

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Typographica is a review of typefaces and type books, with occasional commentary on fonts and typographic design. Edited by Stephen Coles and designed by Chris Hamamoto. Founded in 2002 by Joshua Lurie-Terrell. Relaunched in 2009 by Coles and Hamamoto.

Set in Bureau Grot by Font Bureau, Nocturno Display by Nikola Djurek, Fern (unreleased) by David Jonathan Ross, and JAF Bernini Sans by Tim Ahrens.

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