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Emily Jing Sum Chan’s Orna is a contemporary revival of Art Nouveau and Blackletter Calligraphy

In a collision of worlds, New York-based designer and typographer Emily Jing Sum Chan has crafted a new typeface Orna; a conjugation of historical Art Nouveau and Blackletter calligraphy influences, with a future-facing contemporary character. “Fusing these two loves was an opportunity that I could not let myself miss out on!” Chan tells us, explaining that “I didn’t think I would get to a full flushed typeface when I started sketching by hand, but as I kept going and going, I kept loving more and more how the typeface came out.”

The labours of her love take the form of a beautifully-ornate but condensed Latin serif, with subtle, characterful features such as star-shaped tittles and organic, fluid curvatures tying up the space of the letterforms. The ornamental forms are intelligently and playfully contrasted with the striking dynamism of Orna’s varying strokes which cement a contemporary tone to the typeface.

In discussing her process, Chan explains how she found the development of Orna very intuitive, driven directly by her instincts and beginning her work with pencil on paper. “There’s no exact ‘rule’ that I follow,” Chan recalls, “if there is any time that something looks off, or just simply does not look right, I always make changes, edit and adjust all necessary elements, and type anatomy,” finding herself unsettled until she feels whatever letterform she was crafting fully represents the vision she had in mind. A vision that has been successfully realised, both acting as a reference to typography and artistic history as well as significantly contributing to the contemporary typographic scene. 

Both a personal and commercial license for Orna is available to purchase directly through Chan (@lil.emili), who has more exciting developments in the works, telling us that “I plan to create more weights and an italics version sometime next year,” to support Orna’s existing comprehensive upper and lowercase Latin, as well as it’s “punctuation, symbols and two easter egg emojis!”

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