Basque lettering is something that catches the eye of any type-sensitive visitor to the Basque Country. It is everywhere. Why has that style become so ubiquitous in this region? Where did those peculiar — sometimes eccentric — letterforms come from? Is there a link between them and the ancient language, Basque, that is spoken in this area? What is their use today? These and other questions will be answered by Juan Luis Blanco, a Basque type designer and the author of Harri, a typographic project that has the Basque lettering style as its starting point and main inspiration.
We will see the original inscriptional sources these letters are drawn from as well as how and why they evolved the way they did. An exploration of the historical, social, and political context in which this phenomenon flourished will help us understand it. Finally, we will analyze past and present uses and trends, and see how they informed the design of Harri.
Juan Luis Blanco is a graphic designer, type designer and calligrapher based in Zumaia (Spain). He has worked as a freelancer graphic designer from 1997, and in 2013, he attained an MA in Typeface Design at the University of Reading where he developed Amaikha, a multi-script font family comprising Latin, Greek, Cyrillic, Arabic and Tifinagh. Currently he combines calligraphy & typography classes with typographic projects, either custom or retail, that focus on the Basque lettering style as well as multiscript typefaces involving Latin, Arabic, and Tifinagh alphabets. The multiscript typeface Qandus, a collective project with Kristyan Sarkis and Laura Meseguer, was awarded a TDC Certificate of Typographic Excellence in 2017. He loves designing typefaces and maintains a healthy balance by rock-climbing.