Mauna Kea

This was my first type design project during my studies. Interesting and quite time consuming as I may not always do things the easiest way. The assignment was to create a new typeface and we had some 1,5 months to complete the task. I wanted to study something and use the information acquired somehow in this work: this time it was geographical interest towards the volcano of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

At the time I was quite interested in maps. I wanted my typeface to have something to do with maps and came up with an idea of combining a topographic map with type. There was never a “logical” reason to do so, but why not try it and see how it turns out?

As the “mountains” in Finnish Lapland are quite petty I got my inspiration from abroad. Of course you have to top everything else somehow so I studied the tallest mountains on earth. Picking Mount Everest seemed a bit boring and superfluous so I decided to concentrate on Mauna Kea: the tallest geographic formation on earh. Perfect.

I studied the topographic maps of Mauna Kea and picked one of them to trace. Of course I tried automatic tracing but the result was always really unsatisfactory so I ended up tracing the map by hand.

It was clear from the beginning that I would do a sans serif typeface and that the typeface would be for display use. I tested the topographic texture on existing fonts to see how the end product might look like and how bold the typeface should be.

I knew from the beginning that Mauna Kea was going to be a geometric  (geography, geometry...) typeface. After studying the existing sans serif shapes combined with topographic maps the feeling just grew. So, what is the logical and easy starting point for a geometric sans serif – the letter o in this case.

After o and c (a circle cut with a square) I tried out how the weight would approximately look on characters with stem, in this case l and p, and it seemed actually quite fine. I was eager to design the letter M because of typeface name: after all, it is the first character of the typeface in a way. As one can see, there's a lot of geometric shapes but combined with some pointy letter shapes, for example A, M, V and W, the alphabet has quite a nice contrast and harmony at the same time. Round with some edge.


Mauna Kea, gigantic example. Contoured version works quite nicely in large sizes.

Examples of the Mauna Kea typeface in different sizes. On the right hand corner there is a minor language comparison.