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Grilli Type’s GT Maru is a typographic love letter to the Latin script found on Japanese signage

Playful, fun and unapologetically joyful; GT Maru from Swiss type foundry Grilli Type is a break from dystopian monotony, exploding (quite literally) with character, colour and charm in a prolific combination of contexts and intelligent examination of cultures. A result of Grilli Type Co-founder Thierry Blancpain’s continual trips to and from Japan, GT Maru acts as both a love letter and cultural investigation into his experience of Latin script on Japanese signage – exploring the maru (roundness) of the lettering, the harmony between the two contrasting scripts and the innate tactility to the painting of the signs or the engraving of the letterforms. 

Combining all these thoughts and interpretations into a single harmonious entity, GT Maru is a four-year labour of love; finding the middle ground between unadulterated charm and total Swiss functionality. Full to the brim with life, the typeface stands on its own – having uniquely found the sweet spot between character and performance through its construction and forethought.

With the typeface’s concept completely unaltered from GT Maru’s conception, Blancpain tells us “I was very interested in drawing a joyful rounded typeface that doesn’t feel childish,” explaining that “the compact vertical proportions and the flow of the strokes have been key elements since the very beginning,” despite the total change in character design from the start of the process. The result is Grilli Type’s largest release to date; with five weights, two full emoji sets in colour and monochrome, as well as monospaced and proportional subfamilies within them. 

“I’m really interested in finding a very specific concept and developing it for a long time,” Blancpain explains, “and then coming to a logical conclusion,” displaying this through the unique construction of GT Maru. Designed as a geometric rounded sans serif, GT Maru carries with it the expected functionality, whilst simultaneously exuding an unexpected, systematised characterful expression. 

“Rounded typefaces usually follow either a manual or mechanical logic: brush vs router machine,” Blancpain explains, noting “in contrast, GT Maru tries to walk a tightrope of being utilitarian yet friendly;” in doing so resting a fundamental “sense of flow” that is more often than not avoided in the production of geometric sans serifs. Discussing the continental contrasts between the cultures at hand – as well as the assumption of Swiss perfection – Blancpain tells us “personally, I’m not a fan of ascribing specific qualities to certain nationalities,” concluding, “that said I do feel that my approach as a type designer is informed in part by my formative visual experiences growing up in Switzerland.”

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