Kris Sowersby: Breathing new life into old typefaces

New Zealand typeface designer Kris Sowersby spends time developing new expressions of old analogue typefaces.
Posted 4 Nov 15 By Design Indaba Duration: 00:04:17 Graphic Design & Illustration Interviews / Video Interviews Comments

Kris Sowersby, a typeface designer from New Zealand, argues that there are no new genres of Latin alphabet typeface – instead, there are only new forms of personal expression. Working like a magpie, Sowersby says he picks the shapes and motifs that visually appeal to him and uses them to shape something original.

“The work is the inspiration. I don't just sit around waiting for the perfect lightbulb moment to happen. It doesn't happen. The work generates the work. The work is the inspiration,” says Sowersby. 

Sowersby is leading the way for New Zealand’s (relatively young) typeface industry. Based in Wellington, on New Zealand’s South Island, Sowersby founded the Klim Type Foundation in 2005, though he claims the company’s inception was during his undergraduate years at Wanganui School of Design.

In the years that Klim has been running, Sowersby has worked with several big names, including the Financial Times and Tourism New Zealand. After several frustrated attempts at creating a new typeface for Tourism New Zealand, Sowersby decided to stick with what they had – “a bad, digital 90s typeface” – and find a way to give it a breath of new life.

Working with artist Rangi Kipa, Sowersby developed the typeface Pure Pakāti, which used the existing font shapes but this time with the letters carved out of wood.

“As soon as Rangi carved it out of wood he breathed life and energy into them,” says Sowersby.