Typeface Review


Reviewed by Luisa Baeta on October 18, 2018

Atahualpa is full of surprises.

At first glance, I found myself fascinated by individual letters: the y! The other y! The k, the a, the g, the B! The alternate italic Q! The swelling of the ascenders near the serifs on darker weights! The razor-thin point of contact between shoulder and stem!

The logic of a typeface is usually dictated by a writing tool, but here the tool is not immediately evident. Some terminals look like they’ve been written with a brush; others seem carved by a knife. What comes through is a collection of cohesively drawn shapes, where each letterform is playful and inventive while sharing a similar spirit. The reverse stress is such a strong feature that it grants this freedom. Alejandro Lo Celso also managed, somehow, to keep the warmth of pencil sketches in the finished digitized form.

As I glossed over the letters in large sizes, I was skeptical about whether this strategy would work in text. And then, surprise! It does. The proportions are comfortable, the thick horizontal lines guide the eye forward, the texture and rhythm are pleasant, and there is even something old-fashioned about it in text sizes — yet another surprise. Atahualpa conceals an aftertaste of nostalgia within its fresh and inventive letterforms.

Now this part gets really subjective: I listened to Atahualpa Yupanqui while studying the typeface. After a while, the shapes and sounds started to match perfectly in my head. The letterforms are daring and sweet and strange and beautiful. They carry a warmth, an echo of the human hand behind the shapes, like the scratching sound of fingertips grazing the strings of an acoustic guitar between chord changes.

But let’s try to return to objectivity, insofar as that’s possible. The type family offers features for a wide spectrum of typesetting needs: small caps, several sets of figures and currency, a well-considered range of weights that look distinct, alternates, swashes, ligatures, extensive language coverage, and so on. The names of the weights are in Spanish, which adds to the charm — morena! ❤️ Oops, I said I would stick to being objective. Oh, well. Maybe I can no longer be objective. Maybe I’m in love. Atahualpa is an absolute delight.

Luisa Baeta spends her time on typography, graphic design, writing, lettering, branding, pancake-eating, talking, type consulting, teaching, and walking around in New York.

Post a Comment

Comments at Typographica are moderated and copyedited, just like newspaper “Letters to the Editor”. Abusive or off-topic comments are not published. We appreciate compliments, but don’t publish them unless they add to the dialog. Thank you!