Pràctica revives ancient Basque letterforms in their striking typographic identity for ZETAK
Through his ZETAK project, Pello Reparaz adopts traditional sounds from the Basque Country to generate explorative electronic music. Natives of the Basque Country, which straddles the border between France and Spain, speak a language unrelated to any other in Europe. However, less than 30% of modern-day Basques are genuinely familiar with it.
Barcelona and New York-based studio Pràctica’s identity for ZETAK revives ancient characters from the Basque alphabet through a custom typeface named ‘Arbizu’. The result of extensive research into Basque literature, signage and culture, each Arbizu letterform contains three alternatives that apply randomly to represent an unpredictable musicality and rhythm. Aside from a few characters, the Basque alphabet doesn’t have a lower case, so Arbizu exists purely as capital letters. Pràctica’s Anna Berbiela explains that it was “created as a display font, designed for big headings and concert posters”, so there was no need to explore additional weights or styles.
By pairing Arbizu with Helvetica in application, Pràctica has created a juxtaposition between traditional Basque imagery and perhaps the most global representation of modernism. Despite this, Berbiela tells us that they chose Helvetica for its chamaeleon-like nature, as they “didn’t want to give any relevance to which typeface it was”. The two pair together seamlessly, resulting in a strikingly bold identity that shines across posters, t-shirts and social media posts.
Alongside the core brand work, the studio also developed a large format type specimen for Arbizu. The limited-edition gold, pink, black and white publication offers a behind the scenes look at the extensive documentation of the Basque alphabet that’s fundamental to the typeface’s DNA.